Within these highly important first set of pages Roddy Doyle successfully begins to tell the reader about Paddy’s feelings, emotions and situation. He does this by informing the reader about a number of different key points such as Paddy’s relationships with the other main characters in the book, including his mother, his father, his little brother Sinbad, Kevin and Mr Hennessey, Roddy Doyle also tells the reader about certain themes within the book, which are set to continue as the narrative progresses.
One the key relationships that the reader sees, through the eyes of Paddy early on in the book is that of him with his friends, and of these the main ring-leader; Kevin. We can tell from the first ‘sections’ (which are used in the place of chapters) that Paddy looks up to Kevin with admiration, and wished to be more like him, a good example of this is the matches:
I couldn’t really use matches properly. The match broke or it wouldn’t light or I’d pull it along the wrong side of the box; or it would light and I’d get rid of it too quickly.
This comes after a section about Kevin who uses matches to light a fire, which they had made with old cardboard boxes, and were to light in a building site.
This point also highlights one of the main themes that runs throughout the first part of the book, and is most likely to continue throughout the whole of the narrative – fire. In the first fifteen pages every section apart from the first and one other at least mentions, if not revolves around the subject of fires or something to do with fires (for example matches). Although the reader could easily see into this it is perhaps important to remember that many young boys seem ‘obsessed’ with fires, perhaps because they are dangerous, and uncontrollable.
Another key relationship with this section of the story is that of Paddy and his father. Paddy is very close to his father; he looks up to, and respects him. However this can sometimes go too far, for example Paddy takes everything his father says in the same way; when his father tells him about finger-prints Paddy remembers everything and is able to reuse this information, however when his father tells him about things such as
When you were doing a funny face or pretending you had a stammer and the wind changed or someone thumped your back you stayed that way for ever.
Paddy also takes this seriously going on to explain how Declan Fanning go a stammer; he was mimicking someone else and another boy punched him in the back.
The fingerprinting ‘section’ is very important to the story, and demonstrates two main points; i. how close the relationship between Paddy and his father is, and how Paddy respects his father and ii. how Paddy is able to absorb information and then use it for his own device, in this instance he uses the information his father has given him to scare his little brother, Sinbad:
-They’ll dust them for fingerprints, I told Sinbad. -And if they find your fingerprints on the matches they’ll come and arrest you and put you in the Artane Boys Band
Another important feature to note throughout the book is the attention to detail that is painstakingly recalled by Paddy during the narrative, is just one of the many clues given to the reader to illustrate how intelligent Paddy is, a good example of this attention to detail can be found in the section concerning the fingerprinting:
He [Paddy’s father] locked the cord and held it for a while to make sure that both sides of the blinds stayed up
While this sort of detail may not be noticeable at first the reader will eventually realise that an unintelligent person would simply not use this much details in the telling, or retelling of a story, but would simply stick to the main points that move the story onwards; indeed many writers do this, however Roddy Doyle uses this sort of description to enable you to picture the situation and what is happening, make it seem real rather than a work of fiction.
Paddy is portrayed as somehow feeling a certain distance from his mother in the first pages, perhaps because she has the younger children to attend to; not much time for him; whereas his father tries to teach him, as he recognises that he has a very intelligent child. Paddy often copies things that his mother does, perhaps seeking to become closer to her, for example
I rocked the pram the way she [Paddy’s mother] always did.
Another example is when he hears his mother referring to Uncle Eddie with the words God love him, he then repeats this at the dinner table when he is again referred to, for which he receives a smack from his father, after this Paddy does not use these words again in reference to Uncle Eddie, perhaps this is a sign of Paddy’s respect to his father, and a wish to please him. This incident once again shows Paddy’s intelligence and his ability to absorb not only information but also remarks and references.
Another important relationship featured in the first fifteen pages of the narrative is that of Paddy and his little brother, Sinbad also Paddy claims I hated him, it is quite evident that Paddy does love his brother, and feels close to him. However this closeness is overridden when Paddy is with his friends especially, Kevin, who I’m sure will prove to be a bad influence, and in these incidences he can be extremely nasty to his brother, for example the light fuel incident where a lighter fuel capsule is forced into Sinbad’s mouth and then lit; leaving Sinbad with blisters for what seems to be a long time, although this could just be the way the book is written.
The book is written in a way that mixes both the stream of consciousness idea with the standard ideals in novel writing; although the order of the sections is set out in the way that Paddy would think, they narrative is written in complete, structured sentences and it is extremely unlikely that Paddy would think in this way; it is almost as if Paddy is writing as he is thinking (although the book is in the past tense) – refining and rearranging his thoughts into comprehensible, understandable and complete sentence that people will find much easier to read, but because it is being written as he is thinking the order still appears somewhat jumbled and sections are often linked by only one or two ideas or even words. An example of this is sections four and five where in section four Paddy says I preferred magnifying glasses to matches (which is linked in with the main themes of fires and more locally the lighter fuel incident in section three – giving quite an obvious link), then in section five Paddy was looking at crumbs, at first these seems a bit odd but then he goes on to explain; My da put his hand on the magnifying glass, and this provides the link for these sections.
Another point to note about the narrative style is the way that, like any ten year old boy, Paddy automatically assumes that the reader will know what or whom his is talking about, for example I was looking at crumbs, My da put his hand on the magnifying glass, he does not actually give a direct statement saying that he is using the magnifying glass; it is simply implied. Another occasion is at the end of the same section:
A few days later Napoleon Solo found fingerprints on his briefcase
Here Paddy is referring to a television character and simply presupposes that everyone else will watch this programme or at least know the character and his situation / what he does.
Overall the first fifteen pages are extremely important to the novel as a whole; although they do not directly set the scene or situation, but rather delve straight into the narrative on the first page, they do give you some background information with references and ideas. These pages also identify the main characters and themes which are likely to occur throughout the rest of the story and also the way Paddy thinks and feels which will help the reader to grasp what happens later and to understand it.