I'm the King of the Castle

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I'm the King of the Castle
ImTheKingOfTheCastle.jpg
First edition (UK)
Author Susan Hill
Original title I'm the King of the Castle
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series None
Genre Novel
Publisher Hamish Hamilton (UK)
Viking (US)
Publication date
3 Sep 1970
Published in English
3 Sep 1970
Pages 252
ISBN 0-241-01910-9

I’m the King of the Castle is a novel written by Susan Hill, originally published in 1970.[1] The French film Je suis le seigneur du château of 1989 and directed by Régis Wargnier is loosely based on the novel.

Plot summary[edit]

The book is set in a large house called Warings near the village of Derne. It was once a grand countryside mansion, but has since fallen into despair and decay. Joseph Hooper has inherited the house, and lives with his 10-year-old son Edmund Hooper. They have a cold, formal relationship which lacks any compassion. Joseph compares it to his relationship with his own Father, which had been very similar. Joseph announces that a housekeeper will be moving in, who will also bring her son who is of a similar age to Edmund. Mrs. Helena Kingshaw, and her son Charles Kingshaw arrive at Warings. The young boy, Edmund Hooper, becomes defensive of his house, and instantly takes a dislike to Kingshaw. He mocks his social class and his father, and in the ensuing fight Kingshaw punches Hooper. Kingshaw then attempts to escape Warings, but is attacked by a vicious crow. The crow is thought to symbolise Hooper, who is very protective of his territory.

Animal symbolism is used throughout the novel. Hooper proceeds to taunt and bully Kingshaw, who is the weak victim in their relationship. They venture to Hang Wood together, where Hooper's weaknesses become apparent during a thunderstorm and Kingshaw seems to retrieve some kind of power. However, it is apparent that Kingshaw does not have the capacity to be cruel. During their time in Hang Wood they become lost, and are forced to stay the night in a little clearing with a river and pool. During this time Hooper nearly dies as he falls and hits his head on a rock, which leaves him unconscious and bleeding, though he eventually regains consciousness. This pattern of cruelty continues throughout the book within the isolated setting of Warings. Both parents seem oblivious to their fights, and fail to understand their children's behaviour.

The family decide to take a trip to Leydell Castle. Here, Kingshaw further exploits Hooper's fears as they climb the ancient monument. Hooper falls accidentally, and is badly injured. Even though Kingshaw had tried to save him, Hooper accuses Kingshaw of pushing him and is believed by the adults. Kingshaw is convinced that he has killed Hooper. As Hooper recovers, it appears that Kingshaw is becoming more independent, and he meets a local boy by the name of Fielding. Fielding appears confident and well-rounded, and takes Kingshaw to his farm where he witnesses the birth of a calf. This is in stark contrast to Warings, which is filled with death and morbidity, for example glass cabinets filled with moths are used to symbolise the decay of the Hooper dynasty. Fielding offers Kingshaw hope away from the manipulative clutches of Hooper. However, once Hooper returns to health, the regime of taunting resumes. Hooper's cruelty climaxes, and Kingshaw is devastated when he discovers that Helena and Joseph have agreed to marry, and that Hooper and Kingshaw will attend school together. The novel ends with Kingshaw committing suicide by drowning himself in the familiar stream in Hang Wood and Mrs. Kingshaw comforting Hooper who is described as feeling triumphant.

Themes[edit]

Power is a main theme in I'm the King of the Castle. The whole novel revolves around the desire and need for power, shown from the beginning as Mr Hooper waits for his own father to die so he can become the 'master' of Warings. But Edmund's father is an ineffectual man, ' a dull man, a man who got by ' and his need for power is diluted by his lack of strength. The theme stays constant throughout the book as we see Edmund Hooper exerting a cruel and inexorable power over Kingshaw. There is a moment later in the book when Hooper's power is weakened and Kingshaw has the upper hand. Hooper is fearful of thunderstorms and Kingshaw briefly takes control. But this reversal is transient, and once the storm is over, Hooper coldly takes over again.

Evil is another theme throughout the book as Hooper torments Kingshaw. Animals feature throughout Hill's novel, and are often used to symbolise various aspects of the boys' relationship. This also links in with the sense of dynasty in the Hooper household, an upper-class countryside mansion that has fallen into decay. Isolation is another key theme of the novel. The boys lack a healthy relationship with their parents, who are oblivious to their fighting and hatred of one another. The entire book seems to question the innocence of childhood, and demonstrate how young children have the capacity to commit truly cruel acts. Nature is another theme in this book. Hill has made quite a few references to the specific flowers and trees in the 'garden' at Warings. The trees include Yew trees which are very dark and dingy and usually appear in a graveyard. Also the mention of Rhodendendrons as well, these flowers are dark and heavy and seem like a burden. Love can be considered another theme, however it's not about how much love the parents have, it's more the lack of love that everyone has. The parents do not know their own children and just seem to dust them under the carpet. They try halfheartedly to get the two boys to get along but they do not know what each boy is capable of and they have no idea what each of the two boys wants.

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]