Millicent by Merle Hodge
In Millicent by Merle Hodge we have the theme of control, conflict, innocence, insecurity and pride. Narrated in the first person by a young unnamed boy the reader realizes after reading the story that Hodge may be exploring the theme of control. Miss is in complete control of her class or she likes to think she is. The children are all afraid of her except for Millicent. She wants to control her environment as much as Miss does and it is inevitable that both will clash and there will be only one winner. Millicent in an attempt to control her school mates bribes them and this highlights how innocent or naive the class may be. Millicent is wealthy financially compared to those in the class. She eventually has control of just under half the class. While the other half wish that Millicent liked them.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Millicent considers herself to be better than her peers. She has money and she has the ability to buy those who are innocent and naïve. If anything Millicent is buying her friends. Which may place a spotlight on the fact that children don’t really understand the concept of friendship when confronted by an alternative. In reality nobody really likes Millicent but they want to be popular like her so they accept Millicent for who she is. Good or bad. Miss knows what games Millicent is playing but she is unable to stop her because Millicent has so much control over others. It may also be important that Millicent does not wear a school uniform for a period of the story. Symbolically this places her as being different to others. For good or bad is up to the reader to decide.
There may be other symbolism in the story which might be significant. The fact that Millicent comes last in the class for her exams not only again places her on the outside but it wakes the other children up to the fact that Millicent is not all she says she is. She may have money, her mother’s, and looks but she in reality is a shell of a person. She is a not as strong as she would like to think she is. Which begs the question what drives Millicent or is she in fact as insecure as the other children in the class? The narrator’s role in the story is important as we know he is a young boy and that he too was impressed or felt swayed by thinking it was important for Millicent to like him.
The end of the story is interesting because the fall that Millicent has taken, no longer popular, suggests that Miss was right about Millicent being too proud. If anything Millicent has allowed for her ego to take over. She believed she was the best academically in class and this has been proven to be wrong. What confronts Millicent is the harsh reality that she is not as important as she thinks she is. She is left to play on her own while the other children in the class begin playing with each other again. Millicent has learnt a life lesson. However we as readers never know if Millicent will change or will she remain the same.