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Ha'Penny: An Analysis

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A CH

on 15 June 2016

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Transcript of Ha'Penny: An Analysis

General Synopsis
Setting
Place
Main Character
The main character is Ha'Penny, the
young orphan boy who builds his world
upon a family that is not his own. This
is obvious for many reasons; not only is
the story
called
Ha'Penny, but almost
every sentence, with the exception of
the introduction, is either about the boy
or relating to him in some way. Here are some quotes from the story that show that he is the central point of the tale:

"One
of
the
small
boys
was
Ha’penny,
and
he
was
about
twelve
years old.
He
came
from
Bloemfontein
and
was
the
biggest
talker
of
them
all. His
mother
worked
in
a
white
person’s
house,
and
he
had
two
brothers and
two
sisters.
His
brothers
were
Richard
and
Dickie,
and
his
sisters Anna
and
Mina."

"But
Ha’penny
seemed
to
me
anything
but
the
usual
delinquent;
his desire
to
have
a
family
was
so
strong,
and
his
reformatory
record
was
so blameless,
and
his
anxiety
to
please
and
obey
so
great,
that
I
began
to feel
a
great
duty
towards
him."

The whole story is full of sentences that talk about Ha'Penny, as shown above, but the ones that don't mention him directly still revolve around him - like the paragraph on the letter from Mrs Maarman (which, of course, is about him). Even the introduction, which is about the reformatory in general and its boys, is talking about the 10-14 age group, which is where Ha'Penny fits in.
Point Of View
F
I
R
S
T

P
E
R
S
O
N
A Short Story By Alan Paton
Ha'Penny: An Analysis
Analysis By ACH
Secondary Characters
Conflict
Ha'Penny's conflict is within himself - his ideal world versus real life. He wants so badly to be loved and owned that he comes up with a life that he wishes was his and fools everybody, even himself, into thinking that is his real situation. When this deception is revealed to him by the Principal, his world shatters and he falls ill. Ha'Penny cannot live with his real life. Here are some quotes from the story to evidence this:

"He
watched
me
with concealed
apprehension, and
I
came
to
the
 conclusion
that
this
waif of Bloemfontein was
 a
clever
boy,
who
had told
me
a
story that
 was
all
imagination... And
I
thought I
under- stood
it
all
too,
that
he was
ashamed
of
being
without a
 family
and
had
invented
them
all,
so that
no
one
might
discover that
 he
was
fatherless
and
mother-less
and that
no
one
in
the 
world cared
whether
he
was
alive
or
dead."

"...His
desire
to
have
a
family
was
so
strong,
and
his
reformatory
record was
so
blameless,
and
his
anxiety
to
please
and
obey
so
great,
that
I began
to
feel
a
great
duty
towards him.
Therefore
I
asked
him
about
his ‘mother’."

"His
whole
brave
assurance
died
within
him,
and
he
stood
there
exposed, not
as
a
liar,
but
as
a
homeless
child
who
had
surrounded
himself
with mother,
brothers,
and
sisters,
who
did
not
exist.
I
had
shattered
the
very foundations
of
his
pride,
and
his
sense
of
human
significance."
Character
vs Self
Theme
Time
This story takes place in a large reformatory, housing about six hundred boys. The reformatory is situated in Johannesburg. Some of the boys from the reformatory are from Bloemfontain, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Clocolan, among others:

"We
would
go
out
to
the Potchefstroom
Road
with
its ceaseless
stream
of traffic, and
to
the Baragwanath crossroads,
and
come
back by
the
Van
Wyksrus
road
to the
reformatory"
The tale is set in the past, which is clear in everything. It is especially evident in the language:

"...Establishing
a
special institution
for
them,
more like
an
industrial
school
than a
reformatory."

In the time where this story takes place, racism was still the norm:

"His
mother
worked
in
a white
person’s
house."
"There is an innate desire to fit in, to be wanted, loved, and needed, that everyone shares - regardless of age, race, gender, and background."
The Principal (Narrator)
Mrs Maarman
Anna
Mina
Richard
Dickie
Motivating Incident
CLIMAX
Major Action #1
Major Action #2
Major Action #3
Rising Action
Falling Action
Resolution (Denouement)
Exposition
The Principal of the reformatory in Johannesburg enjoys his job and his secret relations with the reformatory boys (of which there are about 600), and his favorite age group is the section of young boys (ages 10-14), which takes up a sixth of the population.
Ha'Penny, a twelve-year-old boy, is taken for a ride in the car by the Principal - a Sunday treat for the reformatory boys - and they talk about Ha'Penny's family in Bloemfontain.
The Principal, his curiosity awakened after his talk with Ha'Penny, sends for the boy's papers and the Letter Book - discovering that Ha'Penny does not have a family after all.
When the Principal, knowing Ha'Penny is an orphan, questions him again about his family, the boy changes his tale ever so slightly - in the first telling, he had two sisters, Anna and Mina, and two brothers, Richard and Dickie (this story is what caused the Principal to search his file). Now, he calls his brothers Richard and
Tickie
.
The Principal wrote to the woman Ha'Penny claimed was his mother (and wrote to frequently, as the Principal knew from the letter book, though she never responded), thinking that she was of the boy's imagination. But a letter comes back from her, and he discovers that she is a real person - but is not his mother. The Principal also learns that the son of the woman, Mrs Maarman, is actually named Dickie.
The Principal tells Ha'Penny that the boy is named Dickie, and at once the boy knows his deception is revealed. He falls ill with tuberculosis.
After much convincing and money sent for the travel, Mrs Maarman comes to Johannesburg to see Ha'Penny. At last, she adopts him and he feels loved and owned.
Ha'Penny does not live, but he died with his dreams fulfilled - after spending that special day spent with Betty Maarman, the woman he dreamed of having as a mother. Mrs Maarman asks to have them write her as his mother on his cross - at last, he is owned.
The short story Ha'Penny is told in first person, from the point of view of the Principal of the reformatory where the story takes place. The Principal, the narrator, refers to himself in first person, as
I,
and refers to Ha'Penny, Mrs Maarman, the reformatory boys, and all the other characters in third person, as
he
,
she
,
them
, etc. Here is a quote from the story that clearly shows the first person voice that the story is told in:

"I
wrote
at
once
to
Mrs
Maarman,
telling
her the
whole
story,
of
how
this
small
boy
had observed
her,
and
had
decided
that
she
was the
person
he
desired
for
his
mother."

It is also told in the past tense, like most writing - verbs are conjugated in the past, as in
"I said," "I was," "I wrote."
The Principal, the narrator of the
story, is naturally an important
character as well - the entire story
is told from his point of view and it
includes his feelings and thoughts.
Though he is not the main character
(see previous slide) he is crucial to the structure of the story, making him a secondary character. Not only is the story told from his perspective, but his role in the story directly and drastically impacts Ha'Penny's life and trajectory:

"I
was
shocked
by
the
immediate
and
visible effect
of
my
action... I
had
shattered
the
very foundations
of
his
pride,
and
his
sense
of human
significance."
Mrs Maarman, too, is a key player in
Ha'Penny's tale: she is the one he
watches, and decides he wants for a mother, and builds his life, his foundation, around her - her life and her tale intersects with his in a very important way. It is she that he writes to, and who comes when he lies ill and dying of tuberculosis. It is she who, in the end, asks to have her name on his cross, titled as his mother.

"We
buried
him
on
the
reformatory
farm,
and Mrs
Maarman
said
to
me,
‘When
you
put
up the
cross,
put
he
was
my
son.
‘I’m
ashamed,’ she
said,
‘that
I
wouldn’t
take
him.’"
Evidence
"Small
boys
turn instinctively
towards affection"
"...He
was
ashamed
of being
without
a family
and had
invented
them
all,
so that
no
one
might
discover that
he was
fatherless
and motherless..."
"...His
desire
to
have
a
family
was
so strong...
And
his
anxiety
to
please and obey
so
great"
"It
was
clear
that
the
homeless
child,
even
as
he
had attached
himself
to
me,
would
have
attached
himself to
her;
he
had
observed
her
even
as
he
had
observed me,
but
did
not
know
the
secret
of
how
to
open
her heart,
so
that
she
would
take
him
in,
and
save
him from
the
lonely
life
that
he
led."
"His
whole
brave
assurance
died
within
him, and
he
stood
there
exposed,
not
as
a
liar, but as
a
homeless
child
who
had surrounded himself
with
mother,
brothers, and
sisters, who
did
not
exist.
I
had shattered
the
very foundations
of
his
pride, and
his
sense
of human
significance."
"She
poured
out
her
affection on
him,
and
had
no
fear
of his sickness,
nor
did
she
allow
it to
prevent
her
from
satisfying his
hunger
to
be
owned."
Full transcript