• Sensitive.
  • Does not understand sarcasm.
  • Terrified of being left alone.
  • A child in a man’s body.
  • Not very self-aware.
  • Loyal to his mother.
  • Kind.
  • Hero-worships Ellie.

Marcus is one of the two main characters in About a Boy. Although he does not narrate in the first person, we see events from his point of view through an unseen narrator. As the novel opens, we see that he has recently moved to London with Fiona, his mother, after she split up with Marcus’ father, Clive. Clive has stayed in Cambridge. Marcus and Fiona moved at the beginning of the summer holidays so that Marcus could get used to living in London before starting school. Marcus is a sensitive boy and he is nervous about going to a new school because he knows that he is different from other children. His mother asks him if he minds her having boyfriends, and Marcus replies that he does not mind. He thinks that his life has changed enormously since his parents split up, and that on the whole he prefers this new life because a lot more happens.

Marcus does not have a normal sense of humour and is unable to understand when somebody is being sarcastic. As the novel progresses he learns to recognise when somebody is being sarcastic or trying to be funny, and he responds in a way that he thinks is appropriate, because this will make him seem less of an outsider.

Marcus is terrified of being left alone if his mother dies. After her attempted suicide, he devotes a lot of thought to finding ways of bringing more people into their circle of friends, so that if she does die, he will not be alone.

Marcus often seems like a grown man in a child’s body, because he feels the pressures of life far more than most 12-year-olds. He dresses in an old-fashioned way and listens to the music which his mother likes. He does not know about the latest music or fashion, and this makes him seem different from other children.

Marcus does not have very good self-awareness. He turns up on Will’s doorstep every afternoon, not considering that Will may not always want to see him. One day he even stands with his finger pressing the buzzer for over half an hour, until Will finally lets him in.

Marcus is very loyal to his mother. Even after he has worked out that she is part of his problem in not being accepted by other children, he still tries to protect her.

Marcus is kind. Everything he does is with the intention of helping. He often agrees to do something which he knows he will not enjoy, simply to make life easier for other people.

Marcus hero-worships Ellie. He initially thinks that he wants her to be his girlfriend until he realises that she is too different from him and would be hard to manage.


How is Marcus like this?

Marcus feels worried about his mother from the start of the novel.


His mum was sad, he knew that – she cried a lot now, more than she did before they moved to London… If it wasn’t boyfriends, though, he didn’t know what it could be, apart from something bad.

… he was worried that the trouble in the soaps would remind his mum of the trouble she had in her own life. So they watched a nature programme…


Marcus is too young to understand about depression. He tries to work out why his mother is so sad all the time, but cannot think of an obvious reason. He worries about her all the time.

Marcus finds himself censoring the programmes they watch, which is something that you would expect a parent to do for their child rather than the other way around.

Does not understand sarcasm

How is Marcus like this?

Will often uses sarcasm but it is lost on Marcus.


You don’t have to make yourself invisible. You just have to go in disguise.

What, with a moustache and stuff?

Yeah, right, with a moustache. Nobody would notice a twelve-year-old boy with a moustache, would they?

Marcus looked at him.You’re joking. Everyone would notice. I’d be the only one in the whole school.


Marcus takes everything literally and this makes him appear weird to the other schoolchildren. Will keeps having to remind himself not to use sarcasm on Marcus as he always ends up having to explain what he means.

Terrified of being left alone

How is Marcus like this?

Marcus is frightened when he sees Fiona after her suicide attempt.


But this was the scariest thing he’d ever seen, by a million miles, and he knew the moment he walked in that it was something he’d have to think about for ever.

… and then there’d be four of them, and four was twice as good as two.

… the other choice meant he’d have to be his own mother, and how could you be your own mother when you were only twelve?

Every time he thought about this, it came back to the same problem: there were only two of them…

What he felt, all the time, every single day, was a horrible fear.


Marcus is traumatised by Fiona’s attempt to kill herself, and is afraid that if it happens again he will have to cope with it on his own.

Marcus plots to bring Will and Fiona together so that they can all live in the same house, and thinks that his problem of being left alone if Fiona dies will be solved.

Marcus feels a sense of urgency because he knows he is too young to look after himself and he is always afraid that Fiona will try to kill herself again.

None of the adults in Marcus’ life seem to realise just how badly he has been affected by his mother’s attempted suicide.

A child in a man’s body

How is Marcus like this?

Will tries to help Marcus to fit in with other children.


Marcus needed help to be a kid, not an adult.


It is ironic that Marcus needs to learn how to be a child, since he is one. He has so many worries that he has no time to play or have fun. His mother does not really have a sense of humour and this has rubbed off on Marcus. He has the values of a person of Fiona’s age, not his own.