Paddy Clarke

Mischievous

Paddy cannot resist being a "messer". He is often prone to violence and bullying.

Even though he describes events in the past tense, he still seems excited and thrilled by his "naughty" behaviour.

This is because of Doyle’s use of narrative devices such as long sentences and stream of consciousness.

The opening paragraph of the novel contains the sentence “We were coming down our road.” The inclusive pronouns “we” and “our” show that Paddy is a part of a group.

The next sentence immediately introduces the mischievous nature of the boys in that group as “Kevin stopped at a gate and bashed it with his stick.” We find out that the gate belongs to a woman in their street.

Therefore our first impression of the narrator - Paddy - is of a troublemaker who annoys his neighbours.

A page later we discover that Paddy and his friends are on their way home from a building site where they have stolen “a load of six-inch nails and a few bits of plank” as well as “pushing bricks into a trench full of wet cement”.

This low level vandalism and tormenting of older residents in the street continue throughout the novel, along with stories of shoplifting and other mischief.

It is all done with a childish innocence typical of boys this age. Therefore most of the tales create humour - but we can still sympathise with the victims of Paddy’s pranks.

Reckless

Paddy is a ten year old boy who - like many boys his age - is reckless and full of energy.

He comes from a close supportive family, but is part of a gang of boys who are mischievous and rarely consider the consequences of their actions.

For example, when we see him shoplifting he is promptly caught by his mother, which results in a beating from his father.

Early in the novel we hear that Paddy and his gang “were always lighting fires”. Aside from his hyperbolic statement that his mother “killed me” when she found out, there were significant risks to people and property from such activities.

Paddy also shows little care for consequences when he and his friends ignite lighter fluid in poor Sinbad’s mouth. The simile “It went like a dragon” shows how quickly his lips are set on fire.

The many comedic scenes of mischief throughout the novel show a dangerous recklessness that the boys are often lucky to survive unscathed.

Intelligent

Despite his often troublesome nature Paddy is an intelligent boy, literate and deeply fond of historical heroes.

He is the victim of an uninspiring education as we see from his interactions with Mr Hennessey. Paddy seems to learn more at home or by himself.

When he is learning something constructive he stays out of trouble.

We see his love of facts in the way he peppers his narration with little pieces of information - whether they are relevant to what he is saying or not.

His reading on saints and history often informs the games he makes up with his friends, and he discusses these things quite knowledgeably with his father.

He finds the news “boring but sometimes I watched it properly, all of it”. He discusses what is happening in America and Israel, showing his interest in global affairs.

Tellingly, when Paddy applies himself to his work - as an excuse to stay up so that his parents won’t argue - he quickly becomes top of the class.

It is poignant that this is the reason he does so well in school - but it also shows the reader that he is a very able boy when he puts his mind to it.

Maturing

As the narrative develops, we are made aware of how sensitively Paddy feels his parents’ marriage problems.

Doyle reminds us of the importance of adults in children’s lives. Children study every move made by their elders.

Paddy sees adults fighting wars on TV and fighting each other in real life. He often describes his parents’ movements and actions in minute detail.

There is a deep sadness in Paddy’s sense of helplessness over his parents’ separation, "I couldn’t stop it from starting".

He gradually becomes aware that his childhood is over and he is entering early adulthood. He begins to see that his abuse of Sinbad is cruel and sometimes disturbing.

Paddy imagines running away and taking his brother with him. He pictures himself as the hero, "carrying my little brother on my back when he was too tired".

Perhaps Paddy senses that he has a responsibility for his family, and that his loyalty to them can make him the young man he craves to be.

After Mr Clarke hits his wife, Paddy becomes even more protective and caring towards her, "I waited, listened; she was safe downstairs.”

Poignantly, by the conclusion of the novel Paddy’s father has left and Paddy really is “the man of the house now”.

When the other boys tease him - just as he has teased children in the past - he “didn’t listen to them. They were only kids.”

This suggests that Paddy may not be much older in years than when the novel started, but that circumstances have made him grow up and leave childish things behind.