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A Corner of the Universe
"A Corner of the Universe" by Ann Martin tells the story of a shy twelve-year-old girl named Hattie and how her life changes when her mentally disabled Uncle Adam comes to live with them. The book is engaging and entertaining, while delivering insight and important messages. To consider how Martin achieves this, the book will now be considered in more detail. This analysis will specifically consider the various aspects of the book that deliver enjoyment to readers.
One of the first noticeable things about the book is that the setting is comfortable and peaceful. This starts from the first pages where the narrator describes Millerton as "a sleepy town" and describes herself waking up and listening to the birds (Martin 1). The narrator also reveals that she is there during her summer holidays and that their family has a boardinghouse. While nothing eventful happens in the early scenes, it immediately establishes a comfortable country setting. There is also a sense of an old-fashioned life based on simplicity. The comfort of the setting helps the reader settle into the book. Considering that books are read as an escape from reality, this setting is likely to help the reader to relax and enjoy the book. This is especially important when it is considered that the book will later deal with some difficult issues. This includes Hattie coping and coming to understand Adam, who is mentally disabled, while also struggling to determine who she is. When these difficult themes are considered, it becomes important that the novel is set in such a comfortable setting and one that seems quite separate from Hattie's real world. For example, one could imagine how much more difficult the situation would be if Hattie had to cope with understanding Adam in her normal life where she also has school, friends, and her peers to deal with. In this environment, the situation would probably become too complicated and difficult both for Hattie and for the reader. A reader aged nine to twelve would probably think about Adam while being concerned about what their friends would think or how being friends with Adam might cause them to be rejected from their peers. It is likely that this would take away the enjoyment of the book because it would have the reader focus on the potential problems. As it is, with the story set at the family's boardinghouse, it is like Hattie is being allowed to have a break from the pressures of the real world. In this setting, she is able to take on the new challenges that Adam has brought with him and explore issues relating to Adam and to herself. For the reader, this setting also allows them the freedom to enjoy Adam and enjoy the story, without focusing on the negative concerns. In this way, the setting plays an important role in adding enjoyment to the story.
The reader is also able to gain enjoyment from the novel because they can relate to the main character, Hattie. This is especially true because Hattie is the narrator of the book. Her first-person narration allows for a strong bond to be formed between Hattie and the reader. Lamb (145) describes the impact of first-person narration saying that:
Children, especially, like to read books written in the first person. If the voice is strong and the character interesting, kids find it easy to relate to a hero who speaks directly to them. Readers enjoy getting into the head of someone they don't know.
Hattie's first-person narration does make her easy to relate to, with it likely that readers will feel a connection to Hattie, almost as if she is a friend speaking directly to them. This is especially effective for a character like Hattie because she is a relatively quiet character. This makes Hattie a character who is not interesting because of what she does. Instead, she is interesting because of what she thinks. If the novel was written as a third-person narration, it is likely that the reader would not form a strong bond with Hattie or develop a liking for her. As it is, she comes across as quietly witty and interesting. This is seen immediately as her personality shines through and gives live to a narration of simple events and fact. A good example is where she describes Miss Hagerty taking her breakfast in her room. As Hattie narrates (Martin 3):
Miss Hagerty is the only one of our boarders who takes breakfast in her room. This is primarily because she is old, but also because oh my goodness no one must see her before she has had a chance to put her face on, and she needs energy for that job.
This example shows the light-heartedness that Hattie displays, where there is a sense of cheekiness about the way she describes things. This example also shows the conversational tone of the book. Both these features highlight Hattie's character and make her likeable. For the reader, this creates a strong connection to Hattie, while also making the book entertaining. This is one of the factors that makes the story enjoyable.
Another way that the book can give pleasure to readers is via the way that Hattie is quite inspiring in many ways. Throughout the book, she shows a general kindness and a high level of thought for others. This aspect of her character is established in the first chapter of the novel. This starts where she describes herself starting to prepare breakfast for everyone and setting out the things that the cook will need. Her high level of thought for others is also seen where she describes how she sometimes wonders if the cook would prefer to be called by her real name, rather than be called Cookie. Another example is seen where Hattie narrates, "Since Miss Hagerty appreciates beauty, I put a pansy in a bud vase in the corner of her tray" (Martin 2). These simple examples show that Hattie is someone who cares about others and takes action to make people happy. This caring part of her nature is likely to be quite inspiring for many readers. Hattie also narrates how Miss Hagerty calls her Dearie and says that "I notice she doesn't call anyone else Dearie, so I am pleased that it is her special name for me" (Martin 4). Just after that, Hattie describes how Miss Hagerty has a photo of her on every one of her birthdays and says "I think the photo mirror is a great honor" (Martin 5). This shows how much Hattie values her relationships with others and helps to expand on her kind character. It shows that Hattie is not just a person who does nice things for others, but also a person who appreciates anyone doing simple things for her. This aspect of her character are then highlighted via her relationship with Adam. The main positive point seen in Hattie's character is that she does not judge Adam, but just appreciates his company and enjoys him for who he is. Just like everyone else in her life, Hattie appreciates her friendship with Adam. Hattie also appreciates Adam's strange ways, in the same way she appreciates Miss Hagerty. This shows that she is open-minded and enjoys getting to know people, while also being accepting of people and their differences. These aspects of Hattie are likely to be inspiring to many readers. In addition, these aspects of Hattie are likely to encourage people to be more like her. Readers who are more judgmental of others might become more open to getting to know people and appreciating people for who they are. This would especially relate to readers whose relationships are mainly with people like them. In saying this, it must be noted that it is natural for young people to form relationships mainly with people like them. Berk (322) notes that children form peer groups in late childhood and early adolescence mainly with people similar to themselves. This includes people who are the same age and who have similar interests. This makes Hattie an exception to what is normal, since her friendships are mainly with people who are nothing like herself. This includes her friendship with Miss Hagerty and with Adam. One of the other important things is that it is clear that these relationships are important to Hattie and clear that she gets a lot of enjoyment out of them. It is likely that this may inspire readers to look at people who are different in new ways. Readers may begin to appreciate that everyone has something to offer and to develop friendships with others regardless of age, interests, or mental ability. This is one way that the book may challenge readers to consider how they view others and how they view potential friends. In doing so, the book may motivate readers to change their thinking and expand their circle of friends. This may bring enjoyment for readers that goes…[continue]
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