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Careful, He Might Hear You

Careful, he might hear you is much more than the sad story of a little boy with a strange name, although the story does contain elements of pathos. It is a milange of emotions slowly heating until boiling point is reached. The author, Sumner Locke Elliott, dwells on a number of themes which appear throughout the novel. The story follows the constrained life of a young boy named PS. Constrained because of the constant reminder that he is living in the shadow of his deceased mother, Sinden. The mere calling of his name, PS, reminds him that he is a “post script” of his mother’s “ridiculous life”.

Elliot delves into the innocent musings and ruminations of this child. He conveys PS’s feelings and understanding with sparkling clarity. This alone displays how an innocent child is affected by the battle that rages over him, a battle that he has no control over. PS was settled in life until Vanessa entered and shattered it into disharmony. The arrival and presence of PS’s invidious aunt creates a lot of stress for the small boy. He must endure changes in his home, school, and lifestyle. All of this was done against the will of PS, who strongly resented the proposition of these changes.

This incident displays the lack of importance the opinion of a child holds in society. PS disliked Vanessa, but his opinion was held irreverent. This was made apparent by his experiences of acute nostalgia. Lila, his pseudo-mother, was mawkishly protective of PS. Instead of revealing PS to the face of reality, she shrouded the real world and prolonged the fantasised world he lived in. This was done through such things as referring to PS’s mother as the “Dear One”, and her grave labelled as “Dear One’s Little Garden”. “‘Haven’t we made Dear One’s Garden look neat and pretty for her? ‘” (p31)

Without doubt this would create incorrect perceptions within the young mind, perceptions which would further complicate his position if the situation was not explained clearly to him. PS also dislikes the manner most adults treat him with. “and saw that she was giving him that sorry, sad look they all did and which he hated” (p 43) PS’s parents must realise that he has matured to the point that he can understand and comprehend the truth. The reason for this entropy in PS’s life is the arrival of Vanessa. The reason as to why Vanessa would want guardianship of PS remains clouded in mystery.

Vanessa is a very complex character, and understanding her motives are very difficult. “Do you finally see now how important it was for me to come back to that child? ” (p 55) Perhaps she wanted a link to Logan, her ex-boyfriend. Maybe she wishes to take PS from Lila to make her upset. The persona of Vanessa illustrates the impact childhood experiences can have on the psyche later in life. The entire conflict between the two sisters, Vanessa and Lila, is founded on the basis of family rivalry. Neither of the two have discussed their problems with each other, which has severely accentuated their dislikes.

Childhood conflict has contributed to very serious effects in the future. Lila replaced the roses Vanessa bought to place on her father’s coffin with her own. This hurt Vanessa, but she never discussed her feelings with Lila. Events like this contributed to the resentment the two sisters have for each other. The relationship between Vanessa and Lila exemplifies the problems that the lack of communication can cause. Their relationship is typical of one between sisters. There is one determining factor that has led to their malevolent feelings towards each other, this being the lack of communication.

Tragically this resentment was one which was never solved, it was one which would be carried to the grave. Through this example Elliott is saying that we should resolve a conflict while we have the chance, we should not procrastinate. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. ” PS’s demeanour towards Vanessa at the end of the novel contrasted drastically to his polite attitude upon first meeting the aunt. Elliott is expressing the story of the balance of power that exists against PS, and that this power can be broken through perseverance and a will to live your life how you want to be.

Careful, he might hear you describes how the rich and the powerful acquire whatever they wish, while the poor and the destitute attain nothing. This holds true in the majority of today’s contemporary societies. Vanessa wanted the guardianship of PS, and she attained it. Lila also desired this guardianship, but her money and power amounted to relatively nothing. Vanessa could afford the best lawyer available, while Lila could only afford the skills of a mediocre lawyer. This would certainly impress the judge’s decision, and thus the power of money can be deemed as unjust and unfair.

Careful, he might hear you might be advocating the epic decision between wealth and love. PS was to choose between the two. Vanessa would represent the financial security factor. Lila would provide the love needed for a mother and son relationship. Ultimately the judge made this decision for PS, because he was deemed too young. The judge chose wealth. Careful, he might hear you discusses the themes of identity and loneliness. Vanessa was portrayed as a lonely character throughout the novel, an impression which was confirmed in the latter stages. Vanessa might have felt lonely because of her self-perceived alienation of the rest of the family.

She was different from the beginning, meant for aristocratic life while her siblings disparaged her. The only person that could understand Vanessa was her father, someone with whom she shared a strong bond with. Her father passed away when Vanessa was a child, leaving her alone and exposed to life. Vanessa then proceeded in making a mask of herself, someone which she could hide behind when she could not endure the realities of life. Cognisance of this mask came when PS decided to ignore her. Perhaps her attempt at gaining guardianship to PS was a last clinging hope to find someone so that she would not be alone.

When this failed there was no hope left, only desolation and a determination to become herself. PS is also affected by Vanessa’s self-realisation. No longer did Bill, PS, want to be a post-scrip to his dead mother’s life. By demanding that he be called by his proper given name, PS created his own identity, and discarded the burden of his mother. Maybe by carrying the name PS, Bill was constantly reminded of his late mother, and perhaps felt some responsibility towards her death. PS abided by Vanessa’s advice, maybe because he felt partly responsible for Vanessa’s death. The importance of identity is revealed through this chain of events.

Careful, he might hear you is based on Elliott’s own life when he was a child. His mother died when Elliott was young, and he found himself amidst a raging war being fought amongst his aunts for the custodianship. This battle was not resolved until Elliott had turned ten. Much like his own life story, Careful, he might hear you reflects upon the morals, emotions, and musings rising as a result of this battle. Elliott had learnt first-hand what it was like to be trapped in the middle of such a war. The consequent thoughts and emotions generated by this wrath are relived and portrayed through the character of PS.

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