Ian McEwan is a British author born on June 21st, 1948. His work is a reflection of Postmodernism in literature. McEwan focuses on time, history, knowledge and the inner world of individuals like he did in “The Daydreamer”. He tried to make a child, later to be a grown man, better and also he wanted to show everyday life to individuals who are isolated out of it because they didn’t fit in with society standards.
This work, even though it’s meant for kids, doesn’t underestimate its reader and expects understanding and acceptance of his interesting idea which will most likely lead to building children’s minds and characters. The book is divided into seven stories which are mutually linked. Every story contains narrator Peter’s childhood adventure which he recalls as a grown man. His narrating has two perspectives which complement each other and they are the child’s and the grown man’s perspective.
In “The Daydreamer” the author tries to shows us the inner world of an individual that is at first empty but it’s actually fuller that the inner world of people with socially accepted virtues and characteristics. The book can be perceived as a metaphor for all sorts of conflicts – political, religious, social… People forget to accept others as they are and they try to put them into their own standards. Such people lack imagination, freedom and peace and the rare people who enjoy those three things get rejected because other people’s subconscious doesn’t allow them to get close. This problem creates a big difference between people and the ones rejected are the “different” and children. McEwan is trying to diminish the difference and make people realize they should accept everyone.
Despite writing mostly novels for adults with obscure themes, McEwan found his place as a children’s writer. This work also has a dark atmosphere to it, intelligent ideas and a witty humor as a legacy from his previous works which makes the work even more interesting. Many adults and kids grew up with this book in their hands and it still reminds many of their childhood experiences. Every child should immerse himself into the magic of this book and make it an unforgettable part of their growth.
Genre: book of stories
Theme: getting to know a small piece of an unaccepted and misunderstood individual’s world.
Time: 21st century, but the book could be characterized as timeless
In the beginning we meet Peter Fortune, a 10 year old who spends most of his time in his own private world made up entirely in his mind than in the outer world. He has always been quiet, peaceful, disciplined, and respective of rules but he had one flaw: he was too quiet. He didn’t like to communicate with anyone around him.
During a math test he writes out the first number which leads him into the world of big numbers, numbers of atoms… After failing the test he ends up in the group of underachieving students but he was bored there. His father Thomas once even fell off of his chair because of Peter’s imagination. His seven years old sister Kate once got left in the school bus just because Peter envisioned them running away from a pack of wolves.
Peter was an ordinary boy and everyone saw it but in the wrong way: they saw his dissimilarity as a flaw but that unusual boy decide to write down the adventures he lived through in his mind.
Peter shared his room with Kate for as long as he could remember. He almost never had a problem with that. He loved, after waking up from a nightmare, seeing Kate close. He also loved playing with her but that doesn’t mean they didn’t argue and their arguments would always be won by Kate. With time they set some boundaries in the room. It was divided into his and Kate’s part. The fights about the room’s border got more often until Peter ended up bleeding. Kate said he exaggerated the whole situation and in the end it was decided they needed to go into separate rooms.
At first, Peter liked the loneliness but with time he missed Kate’s presence. One Easter day, after eating the biggest chocolate Easter egg, Peter went into Kate’s room and got comfortable in her bed when the ugliest of her 60 dolls decided to speak to him. She came to life in a second and, since she was missing a leg, she had to support herself on a pencil in order to climb up to the bed.
Peter couldn’t believe his eyes when she and later the rest of them spoke to him. They started to rebel because they were all looking for their own place and since there were so much of them they didn’t have their own beds. Peter was attacked by 60 dolls. When Kate came back she saw her dolls spread around the bed and Peter. Peter was a bit ashamed and then he had to rearrange them as dictated by Kate. When he was leaving the room a doll told him the fight wasn’t over yet.
Peter is always in a hurry in the mornings. He didn’t like getting up early and he would always roll over to the other side and keep on sleeping. When he would finally get up he had to fight for some food and his place in the kitchen because everyone was getting ready. The only one who wasn’t like them was his cat. He would lay, nap and look at them. He was 17 years old and he had been with Peter’s mother since she was in college. Peter always wondered what the cat thought.
When he came home from school he started petting the cat. Under his neck he found some kind of a metal plate and after a while he found a zipper on the cat’s body. He could open him and see his insides. He saw his spirit. Peter decided to enter his body and the cat entered into Peter’s. The fake Peter searched for food around the kitchen and fake cat was resting. When night came the cat went outside to confront another cat who had taken his place on the fence. The other cat wasn’t afraid because he didn’t know Peter was inside the cat’s body so the other cat lost.
The next morning, tired from the battle, Peter in the cat’s body was resting when cat in the Peter’s body approached him. They again exchanged places and their spirits met again. Peter thanked him for all the lessons he taught him. Peter startled. It was still a cold, winter afternoon. His father told him that the cat died. No one was in a hurry that morning. The cat got a decent funeral and he died in peace thankful for his experience with Peter.
In the Fortune’s family house existed only one drawer and it was always filled with things used once that were still not trash. The mother would every now and then empty the drawer and she would throw away everything unnecessary. Peter went through it and this time it was full. He was wondering about the things that were in it and he found a small container. When he opened the lid he saw a cream inside. He took a little of it with his finger and then his finger just vanished. He couldn’t believe that it was a vanishing cream.
He decided to use his new discovery on his family that was resting in the back yard. He went to his mother and decided to use the cream on her and he did the same to his father. He couldn’t fool Kate with his massage and she tried to put up resistance but the cream got onto her head. A part of her head was gone and she lost her eyesight. Kate started running around and ended up smashing into a wall. Peter had no choice but to apply the cream all over her.
When night came Peter heard some strange noises. It was a monster who could only be beaten with the cream. He ran to the kitchen, opened the drawer and started looking for it but then Kate approached him. He startled from his fantasy and remembered he had to get some things for his parents.
Barry was a bully from Peter’s school. He wasn’t violent and he didn’t look strong. He was just an ordinary boy. Since Peter knew him he knew Barry always got what he wanted because if he didn’t someone would end up in pain. Barry’s birthday was coming up and about 15 of his friends were invited to his birthday. Barry invited Peter who didn’t want to come but since their parents were friends Peter was told to go because it would be nice of him and so Peter ended up at the bully’s birthday. He realized Barry wasn’t mean at home as he was at school. He had a teddy bear in his bed, helped his mother do the dishes and other house chores. Peter asked how come such bully could pretend to be a normal and a good boy during his party. He played with all the boys. Peter asked himself the same question even three weeks after the party.
During a recess he was getting ready to eat an apple. Barry came up to him and asked him to give him the apple. Peter’s knees were shaking but he decided to reject him and then he realized why Barry got everything he wanted. The kids started gathering around and barry got stronger. The kids were what made him a bully. This time they were rutting for a fight. Peter was still scared but he took a bite of his apple and told Barry he was just a good boy who helped his mother around the house and sleeps with a teddy bear. He made Barry cry. The whole crowd which was rutting for him started to tease him.
The rest of the day Barry didn’t say a word. Peter felt sorry about what he had said. He wrote a note of apology and left it at Barry’s desk. That day, since no one wanted to hang out with them, played football together and became friends.
A burglar was invading Peter’s street. Every day one house would be robbed. Peter decided to put an end to it and to catch him. He started coming up with plans and traps for the burglar. The first thing he had to do was avoid school so he could wait for the burglar. He knew he shouldn’t fake it too much so his parent’s wouldn’t stay with him but he also couldn’t fake to little so they wouldn’t send him to school.
He practiced every day his appearance, words and he even used flour to look pale. During dinner his mother noticed he wasn’t eating so she was sure he wasn’t faking an illness. The next day Peter got the permission to stay at home all alone.
After some time he heard some noises. He saw somebody’s hands in black gloves and a black hat. The man was sneaking into the house through the window. The man didn’t see Peter until he wanted him to see. When the burglar took of his disguise it turned out to be his neighbor Mrs. Goodgame, a grunting old lady who hated when the children’s ball would end up in her back yard and she disliked kids in general. She decided she needed to get rid of Peter. Peter took a picture of her to have proof she was robbing the houses. She pulled out a gun and pointed it at him when Peter felt his father waking him up. He slept through the robbery but he remained sure that his neighbor was the one who did it.
Peter’s family was visited by his aunt and her little baby Kenneth. In the beginning everything was alright until the baby ruled the house – his stuff went missing, she would put everything in her mouth, ate a part of his homework and screamed all the time. For Peter it was all unbearable and he didn’t like Kenneth at all. One day he got into a fight with Kate and she adored the little baby.
Kate took her magic set and took it to the living room. Peter was still upset with her and wanted to continue their discussion. In that moment Kenneth rose up to his feet and grabbed Peter and looked him in the eyes. Kate took her magic wand and make the room look huge. Peter realized he was standing by someone’s feet and the next thing he knew – he was the baby. He wanted to make Kate bring him back but she didn’t understand him. He wanted to explain everyone what was happening but he realized that he loved food, bananas and to be dirty all day. Every time he tried to explain everything to anyone something would interrupt him: a hot bath, toys… Everyone carried him around and he was allowed to sleep for hours during the day. One morning he realized that Kenneth was in his body. The angry boy threw his plate and left the room. Peter didn’t know what was happening. It went on for days until he decided to end it; he stood on his feet, grabbed Kenneth’s and looked him in the eyes saying that they should stop the hate. In that moment the magic reversed. Everyone was back in their original body and Kate and Peter took Kenneth for a walk.
Peter’s family spent the summer in a small summer house in a small village. Other families would visit them and socialize with them. This summer Peter was 12. He was playing on the beach, in the mountains, on the meadow and he realized that the grownups didn’t play or enjoy themselves. They would play volleyball and then they would read books or newspaper. All of it was strange to him. There was also a girl who was a med student and she was always studying.
Peter didn’t understand what it was that the grownups enjoyed and do they even enjoy the small things. They came up with so many o0bligations and made themselves into slaves. The next morning he woke up and he was in another body. He was more muscular, had more hairs and a deep voice. He was also forced to wear some weird clothes because he didn’t have anything he liked. After sometime he came to the conclusion that he wasn’t twelve anymore, he was 21.
He came down stairs and had a cup of coffee which he disliked but still drank so no one would figure him out. He read the newspaper and talked to his colleagues. It turned out he was a scientist. He saw the med student and felt butterflies in his stomach. The two of them walked to a meadow near a railway tunnel. There they kissed. The next day Peter woke up in his own body. He realized that the grownups had their pleasures but he disliked them for now. He was glad to be an adult for a while.
Characters: Peter, Kate, mother Viola, father Thomas, teacher, Mrs. Goodgame, Barry, kids from school, Kenneth, aunt…
Peter Fortune is the main character of all the stories. He is a boy who wrote all of the seven stories in two years. He was a dreamer. Peter managed to change a little number into one big story about numbers. He looked lost a lot of the time and people noticed. He loved observing other people, study them, think and make new opinions. He wanted to understand why things happen and he wanted to know how do people around him think and function.
He never insulted or disrespected anyone. He isn’t on the same page with everyone all the time but instead of judging everyone he asks why they do what they do. Why was Barry a bully? Why did the cat lay around doing nothing? Why doesn’t he feel okay after Kate moved out of the room?
The author gives us a clear message through Peter: we shouldn’t attack what we don’t understand and we should try to understand other people. We should be able to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes and we need to try to understand how other people think and feel because only then the anger and all other negative emotions will vanish.
All of the other characters represent Peter’s surrounding. They present little struggles between our own and other people’s opinions. They are the examples we meet in everyday life. Despite the book’s simplicity, its message is strong and awakens a sense of empathy, peace and understanding inside of us.
Ian McEwan Biography
Ian McEwan is an English novel writer born in 1948 in England. His father was a military officer so Ian spent his childhood in several military basis including Singapore, Germany and Libya. When he was twelve he came back to England and went to Woolwerstone Hall School. Later on he enrolled to University of Sussex where he got his masters degree in creative writing.
His first published work was book of stories “First Love”, published in 1975. The book got him the Somerset Award. His first novels were “The Cement Garden” in 1978 and “The Comfort of Strangers” in 1981. Both novels got movie adaptations. He also wrote “The Child in Time”, also an award winning novel and then he wrote “Black Dogs” and “The Innocent”.
His novel “Amsterdam” won him in 1998 Man Booker Prize and his next novel “Atonement” was named the best novel by Time magazine and it was nominated for a Booker. The novel was called a masterpiece of contemporary literature and it was well recognized not only in England but in USA, Germany, Spain and it was sold in over a million copies. In 2007 a movie was made by the book and it was nominated for seven Oscars and one of the was a best film nomination. His novel “Saturday” was also awarded.
In between his successful novels are a few children’s novels: “The Daydreamer” from 1994 and “Rose Blacnhe” from 1985.
He earned a series of significant awards for his work.