Blood Brothers by John Wickham
In Blood Brothers by John Wickham we have the theme of hate, discontent, connection, jealousy, fear, independence and confidence. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Wickham may be exploring the theme of hate. Paul is uncomfortable with his relationship with his twin brother Benjy. He dislikes the fact that Benjy appears to be able to do things that Paul himself cannot do. Paul also dislikes not being as brave as Benjy and in many ways uses Benjy as his benchmark for doing things. This may be important as Wickham may be suggesting that Paul compares himself to Benjy. When the reality is he has no need to. If anything Benjy’s influence on Paul affects Paul’s confidence and his belief in himself. Which may be the point that Wickham is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that should a person continually compare themselves to another person they will inevitably be unhappy. Something which is very much the case when it comes to Paul. He is an unhappy child based solely on what he perceives are his inadequacies. At no stage does Paul think of the things that he is good at rather his main focus is on how he is not as good as Benjy at things.
There is also a sense that Paul is afraid of failure or at least what he perceives to be failure. The walk at night time with his father and Benjy being an example. Yet at the same time Paul wants to make a connection with Benjy. Even if it means that he feels as though he is second best to Benjy. This too may be important as Wickham could be highlighting how deep and strong the bond is between Paul and Benjy. Though Paul may hate Benjy. He still wants to be his friend. He wants to have a loving relationship with his brother. Benjy’s character is also interesting as he appears to be completely secure within himself and free of other people’s opinion of him. Unlike Paul who seems to judge himself based solely on Benjy’s actions. If anything Paul lacks the independence to be his own person and some critics might suggest that Paul is jealous of Benjy’s abilities. If this is the case then Paul will never be happy as he will always be looking to see if he can better Benjy rather than living each day as it comes.
There is also some symbolism in the story which may be important. The casuarina tree and the appearance it takes on at both night and day time in many ways mirrors Paul’s change in mood when he and Benjy are at Mac’s. The angelic appearance of the tree during the day in many ways mirrors how Paul lives his life. However the appearance that the tree takes on in the evening when it is dark also mirrors Paul’s reaction to Benjy when Benjy asks him to play with him. The leather that Paul is punching holes into may also have some symbolic significance as the reader is aware that the leather in Mac’s shop is used to make and repair shoes. By having Paul playing with the leather Wickham could be symbolically suggesting that Paul is making a new pair of shoes to walk in. Something that is clearer to the reader when Paul attacks Benjy. The fact that Mac is unaware of what is happening and thinks that both boys are playing may also be important as it could suggest that the battle that Paul feels he is facing with Benjy is not a public battle but a personal battle.
The end of the story is also interesting as Wickham appears to be exploring the theme of fear. Benjy is afraid of Paul after he threatens him with the sharp awl. For the first time in the story Benjy shows fear. This may be important as it is through showing fear that the reader suspects that Benjy may now have an understanding for how Paul feels. In reality the attack connects both Paul and Benjy. Though at the time neither boy would be aware of this. It is also possible that through the experience of the attack both Paul and Benjy will become closer to one another. With Benjy probably knowing or understanding how Paul feels. If anything their relationship will grow and prosper. Paul has stood up for himself and by doing so has defined himself. Whether he meant to do so is another thing but the important thing is that he has done it. He has stood on his own two feet and not let Benjy get the better of him. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Benjy will treat Paul as an equal rather than as somebody that he can taunt and use for his own amusement.