Penelope Lively: Going Back - Characterization

Seminar Paper, 2005
12 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction

2. Summary

3. Jane and Edward

4. Edward and his father

5. Mike and Edward

6. Conclusion


1. Introduction

In the seminar Penelope Lively’s Juvenile and Adult Fiction I worked on Penelope Lively’s children’s book Going Back. This is the drawing up of some of the results of the group works I prepared for the seminar. I divided the students into groups and each group worked out a characterization of one character in the story. They were told to do more than just a classical characterization. They were asked to take a closer look at the relationships between the characters by writing down who is very important for the character they are working on and why.

In this paper I give a short introduction with a summary which is followed by three relationships between different characters. I will describe the most important relationships in the story. First I will take a look at Jane and Edward, who are the main characters in the story. The next paragraph deals with the relationship between Edward and his father and the last constellation of characters examines the friendship between Mike and Edward. With each relationship that is described, you can take a closer look at the characters that are involved in it. In this case you should get detailed information about Edward and his development during the story.

2. Summary

Going Back, by Penelope Lively, reconstructs the story of two children growing up on a farm, called Medleycott, in Somerset during World War II. Jane, one of the children who is now married and has children on her own, tells the story of her childhood to her husband, who drives with her to Medleycott, because the house she was born in is going to be sold.

Jane and her brother Edward are inseparable. They do everything together and love living at Medleycott, which they call a paradise. Their mother died very early and now there is Betty looking after them. When the war starts, their father leaves to Scotland but Jane and Edward do not really mind because they do not like him. Jane even hates him, because he is always very strict with Edward, who is not able to do anything right in his father’s opinion. One day Mike comes to Medleycott. As a conscientious objector and as a Quaker most people do not like him and he has to leave Medleycott when the father, who comes home on an unannounced leave, finds out that he lives there. But Mike has a special relationship to Edward since he teaches him to play the violin. Both children have trust in him and that is why they decide to go to Chedzoy, where Mike lives in his own barn. They run away from Medleycott, because Edward does not want to go back to boarding school where his father sent him after half term. Betty comes to take the children home. They have another year together at their beloved place before Edward has to go back to boarding school.

It is a story about remembering, about going back to the places of childhood and about changes that take place when somebody is growing up. And it is about the meaning of friendship between brother and sister, which lives on in the mind, even if one of them dies, who, in this case, is Edward who dies in the Korean War as a soldier.

3. Jane and Edward

Edward and Jane are brother and sister. Edward is one year older than Jane. They like each other very much and one time Jane even notices that she wants him on her own.

[...] He would lie on his stomach on the kitchen floor, curled against the Aga, listening to music on the wireless. If you spoke to him, he didn’t hear, removed somehow in time and space. Insulated. It maddened me.

Edward !’

‘Leave him alone,’ said Betty. ‘You don’t own him.’

‘But he said he’d come to the village.’

‘You go by yourself.’

‘I don’t like going by myself.’

‘What you don’t like is him doing something you don’t want.’

Was that it? As grudging as that? I suppose so, in one way. […] I remember Edward doing something I didn’t seem able to do in the same way, feeling left out, wanting to get him back for myself. (Lively, Penelope (1977). Going Back. London: Pan Books, 75)

Normally Jane and Edward do everything together. They are so closely related that they do not need language for communication.

“[…] We were as we always had been – doing things together, disagreeing, making up, forgetting about it, telling each other things in a kind of shorthand because there is a point at which you know another person so well that you do not always need language for communication.” (Lively 1977, 75-76)

The happy times have an end when their father sends Edward to boarding school. On the day Edward has to leave, Jane cries the whole day and night (Lively 1977, 81). She misses him and feels very lonesome.

Day succeeded day. I went to and from Washford to school: fed the chicken: ate: slept each night beside Edward’s flat, counterpaned bed: trailed with Sandy in the garden under a clamour of rooks that I seemed never to have heard before. Had they always made that noise?

Standing in the drive, staring up to where they swirled above the chestnuts, it seemed something new. And up in the playroom, reading in the corner of the sofa, I discovered the loudness of the mantelpiece clock. Had it always battered the silence like that? Or had there, with two of us, never been such silence? (Lively 1977, 82)

Jane is happy when Edward comes home for half term (Lively 1977, 85). During this time at Medleycott Edward decides not to go back to school, because he hates it there (Lively 1977, 88). He wants to run away and Jane comes with him. They want to go to Chedzoy where Mike is living on a farm. They make the whole long way together and when they arrive Mike calls Betty to take them home again (Lively 1977, 89-105). They spend the next year together. After that, Edward has to go back to boarding school. During the story Edward and Jane grow older and in the end, they start living their own lives with getting separate rooms and separate friends (Lively 1977, 108).


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Penelope Lively: Going Back - Characterization
University of Osnabrück  (Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft)
Penelope Lively’s Juvenile and Adult Fiction
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
455 KB
In dieser Seminararbeit werden die Charaktere in Going Back textimmanent analysiert.
Penelope, Lively, Going, Back, Characterization, Lively’s, Juvenile, Adult, Fiction
Quote paper
Katja Staats (Author), 2005, Penelope Lively: Going Back - Characterization, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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