The short-story ‘The Happiest Days of Your Life’ written by Penelope Lively (in 1978) tells a story about a young boy who quietly suffers the consequences of his parents’ neglect of taking care of him.
The story is about a young boy (probably 7-10 years old) named Charles. It starts out with Charles and his parents driving to a preparatory school in Sussex (Southeast England) to decide whether or whether not if they should send Charles to attend next term there. After arriving to the school, the boy and his parents enter the school and thereafter meet the headmaster’s wife who welcomes them. As time flies Charles becomes more anxious and in the meantime the adults are talking about the qualities of the school. When the headmaster comes, Margaret takes Charles to The Lower Third. She introduces Charles to his potential classmates and leaves him alone with them. However Charles finds himself trapped by the other students who bombard him with questions. While trying to concentrate and therefore being more and more absent-minded, one student suddenly shouts one intimidating sentence: ‘Next term we’ll mash you, we always mash new boys’. On the way home Charles parents discuss the outcome of the visit which is very positive, but Charles is completely silent and only thinks of one thing: ‘we’ll mash you’.
The story takes place in southern England in present time. When the family is heading for the preparatory school, we are told that they are passing Sussex landscape. Therefore the school must be positioned in the surrounding area.
In the beginning our characters are in the car. A family consisting of three members: A father, a mother and their son Charles. In the beginning of the story, Charles is sitting in the car with an unopened box of chocolate next to him. It can symbolize the insecurity of Charles and his dissatisfaction with the whole situation. The family is presumably a wealthy family since they can afford to send Charles to preparatory school. In the story we also are told, that they were from Finchley (a kind of middle-class area) but the mother inform the headmasters wife by telling her they are from the high-class area Hampstead, which is one of the wealthiest areas in London.
During the story, the parents seem to be more interested in what the preparatory school has to offer rather than what it is able to offer Charles. We as the readers are left with the notion that when they??re walking around the school reviewing the facilities, they actually don’t’ care that much about what Charles thinks.
The story has a 3rd person narrator, an omniscient one. But it is used in an unusual way. The focus changes through the story so we follow one character at the time and see this character emotions and then it changes to anther person. To start with the focus is on Charles. We do not hear much about his thoughts but through the descriptions of the things surrounding him we get an impression of the emotions he feels inside him.
Our main character Charles is as said before approximately 7-10 years old, as he is going to preparatory school. He is very shy and we get the impression that he speaks rarely. In fact, he does not say a single word in the story. In addition of his shyness, Charles also lacks of courage which is evident in the end of the story where he simply doesn’t dare to tell his parents exactly what he feels about this school and how he definitely doesn’t want to attend it after having heard the frightening words from one of the students: ‘Next term we’ll mash you’.