Serious Premise vs. Entertainment

Essay 'A Long Way Down'

Essay, 2007

10 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents


Analysis of Main Thesis


Works Cited


In modern literature, the combination of conflicting themes in a novel is a popular means to break with mundane conventions. Unorthodox approaches to serious topics are more popular than they have ever been previously. This tendency provokes public discussion about the correctness and adequacy of controversial approaches. A recent example is the new satirical film about Hitler and the Third Reich, The truly truest truth about Adolf Hitler, starring the German comedian Helge Schneider as Hitler. There is a heated debate on whether or not this unusual way of presenting the past distorts the historical facts and thus promotes a false idea of history. The general public point out the importance of morality, political and ethic correctness when it comes to these new ways of looking at a serious topic.

These criteria are to be analysed in the novel A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. In his latest bestseller he situates four different characters into a plot about their strong and extraordinary connection to attempted suicide, their individual crises and the media. Hornby introduces each character from their own point of view. He uses first-person narration, leading all four of them to a popular suicide venue in north London on New Year's Eve called Toppers House.

At this peculiar place, the four individuals, desperate to take their lives meet for the first time and somehow prevent each other from committing suicide. The coincidence of meeting the others connects the four. Jess describes this as if they were a band like the Beatles:

Well, that's how I felt when JJ turned up on the roof with his pizzas. I know you'll think, Oh, she's just saying that because it sounds good, but I'm not. I knew, honestly. It helped that he looked like a rock star, with his hair and his leather jacket and all that, but my feeling wasn't anything to do with music; I just mean that I could tell we needed JJ, and so when he appeared it felt right. (27)

Despite their initial intention to jump, they soon recognise their lack of suicidal potential. Yet, the uncertainty as to whether they would not have commited suicide had they not met coincidentally is worth mentioning. They continue living and proceed with their lives relatively well, and they start feeling part of their social surroundings again; their void is slowly but gradually disappearing and fills with rediscovered values and new perspectives. Martin Sharper is a popular breakfast television presenter, who lost his job, reputation and family after he slept with a fifteen-year-old teenager and went to prison for the crime. This transgression ruined his relationship with his wife and kids, and as a result he lost his grace and dignity.

The Catholic, single parent Maureen, aged fifty-one, has a severely disabled and unresponsive son, who is the cause to her social isolation. JJ is the third character with a seemingly harmless problem. After his dream of becoming a successful rock star had failed to come true, he abandoned the most important element in his life and has quit playing the guitar. Completing the suicidal quartet, Jess, the education minister's daughter, joins the three after the break-up with her boyfriend, Chas.

Not only did Hornby choose the different characters deliberately to involve alternations, but also to express different feelings that he himself as an author has. Hornby was born in 1957 and was brought up in London. He still works and lives in Highbury, North London. He has written novels, works of non-fiction and has edited anthologies. In 1999, he was awarded the E. M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Three years later, he won the W. H. Smith Award for Fiction and in 2003 was honoured with the Writer's Writer Award at the Orange World International Writers Festival. In 1993, Hornby’s son, Danny, was born with autism. His son's disorder plays an important part in his life and it is a parallel theme to the book's character Maureen.

Hornby's latest novel A Long Way Down has already been subject to many critical voices. Critics claim the book to be no more than just another typical Hornby book. He modifies the mannerisms of his earlier writings Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, How to be Good and About a Boy very little if at all. The lists, routines and the need to be liked have been omnipresent in all his books and still are in A Long Way Down. His intention to deal with a serious topic in a funny way did not work out convincingly.

It can be argued that the topic of the novel has very little if nothing to do with suicide. The adequacy of the topic of suicide in the novel, its function and its significance in the genre of macabre, black-humoured fiction are important matters for the analysis.


Excerpt out of 10 pages


Serious Premise vs. Entertainment
Essay 'A Long Way Down'
University of Leipzig  (Institut für Anglistik)
“The Literary Essay (British Studies)”
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
480 KB
Literaturanalyse, English literature, modern, Nick Hornby, analysis
Quote paper
Stephan Jung (Author), 2007, Serious Premise vs. Entertainment, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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