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Sunday, June 26, 2011



1 The importance of preserving the family unit

          This is the central message in the novel. The family institution is a solemn entity. It is created when two adults decide to tie the knot through their marriage vows. Hence, parents are mainly responsible in keeping the family unit intact through love and understanding because divorce and separation can only lead to ugly consequences as clearly shown in the novel.

          The family institution should also provide security to children. However, when it is broken, children feel helpless and they feel they are victims of the situation. The novel reveals how the five children cope with difficult times when their parents’ marriage fails.  Claudia and Pixie for example, have to undergo emotionally painful and tumultuous moments to get used to their parent’s divorce.  The ugly effects of divorce and separations are also shown in the way Claudia and Pixie resist their step parents and siblings. The quarrels, the screaming, the sibling rivalry demonstrate that the harmony that is central in their families has long gone. Children suffer most from broken homes and they need a lot of time to adapt to their new situation. This is true in the case of Pixie, who needs a great deal of time to adjust to her step mother and step sisters, Sophie and Hetty.

          The family institution must be preserved at all cost to avoid unnecessary sufferings on the part of the children. Parents must protect their children from the effects of divorce as much as possible. If a divorce is unavoidable, parents need to ensure that every care is taken to make life as normal as possible for their children.

2  Acceptance and tolerance

          Learning to accept and tolerate new members in the family is important when a divorce happens.  The novel shows how children learn to  accept their ‘new’ family members and make the best of their new circumstances. Although this sounds a big task for them, they all end up accepting  their new life at the end of their stories. Despite their being young, they realize how  important it is to learn to share belongings and love with their step siblings.  For example, Pixie has to learn to share her bedroom with her step sister Hetty. She has to tolerate her privacy being taken away causing her to devise ways to get rid of Hetty from her bedroom. She considers her bedroom is her territory and Hetty’s presence an intrusion. However, she manages to get her room back after a heated argument with her step mother. In the end Pixie learns to tolerate her step sisters and accepts their differences.
          Acceptance and tolerance can also be seen in Claudia’s story. She learns to accept the presence of her step mother when her father’s marriage to her real mother fails. The green pyjamas her step mother gave her and the dinner hosted by her step mother one night play a role  in bringing them closer. Despite her earlier resentment towards her step mother, Claudia makes a big decision that it is not fair for her to hate her step mother. In doing so she also shows her maturity despite her young age. In Pixie’s story, she is shown to accept the fact that her new stepmother is having as much trouble "adjusting" as she is. It is amazing how these young characters show a lot of strength despite the distinct problems they face in their families. They learn to accept things around them gradually because they do not have a choice. Furthermore that life has to go on.

3  Responsibility

          This is another theme that is evident in the novel. Responsibility is shown in different ways in the novel.

          Marriage entails responsibility. It is about building a family and raising children that are part and parcel of a marriage partnership. This will include providing shelter, clothing, education and love. Therefore if a marriage is broken, children would be directly affected. Parents therefore must accept that they still have a responsibility to ensure that the divorce does not cost their children more than it already has. One of the ways this is shown in the novel is by the turns or visits the children have with their new families. Their parents although divorced, insist that their children take turns to visit them. Pixie for instance goes to her step family’s house ‘a few days in a month’ while Ralph has a more hectic and complicated schedule. He has to divide the weekdays to be at his divorced parents’ house. It is a pity that he has to shuffle his time between his parents but he pretty much accepts his situation without complaints.

          The step parents also try their best to be responsible towards their step children. Stella tries to make Claudia feel comfortable every time she is with them. Colin’s mother shows a different kind of responsibility though. She moves to a different place to protect her son from her ‘rough-house’ husband. Although Colin misses his father very much, his mother has made the right decision for their safety. Another example is Robbo’s step father who sends Callie, his sister to school every morning and works over time to pay for repairs for the house.

          It is fair to say that no one would wish for a divorce but when it happens, parents have to carry out their responsibilities well. They have to be sensitive to the needs of their children since children have a natural attachment to their parents. Sometimes children are simply attached to their surroundings, and moving into new surroundings can cause an understandable negative reaction. Colin for instance has trouble learning ‘being half asleep in school’.

4  Children have opinions too
          This theme is portrayed through the five main characters in the novel. Since all the main characters come from broken homes, we learn that they too want their opinions to be heard and acknowledged. Very often than not, there is a communication breakdown between the children and parents who undergo divorce. For example, Colin does not have a say at all when her mother decides to move to another place to stay safe from his father. Colin has to start all over in a new school and make new friends. His opinion is never sought. In another example, Pixie shows that she wants to be heard. Her strong opinions about the adults around her are revealed when she quarrels with Lucy, her step mother. She expresses her frustrations and anger through her words.

          The writer provides the opportunity for the  children to voice out their opinions frankly and honestly through the stories they tell.  Through each of the main characters, we realize that children too have opinions and that their opinions must also be sought. Pixie would like to have a say about her room arrangement and Colin, although quiet, often wonders why his mother makes decisions independently.

          Through the main characters’ words and actions, we can also see a certain level of maturity in the children’s thinking. They are not without opinions. But how many parents actually sought for their opinions. Divorce is always an adults’ story and too often children are just trapped in between. The novel in a way is a tribute to the children’s spirit. They make us see the depth of their feelings and opinions through their unique stories. Too often children’s feelings are unnoticed, ignored and or not taken seriously resulting in failure in building relationships in broken homes.

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