In this essay I shall discuss the different approaches Berlie Doherty used to conceive the idea of teenage pregnancy. The characters that I'll address will be Chris, Helen, Jill, and Helens mother.
A good book leaves a lot of ambiguity, there is room for the reader to read their own life experience into the book and this book shows that well. The fact that Berlie Doherty is a man, changes my perspective of this book, because the approach of a female author would perhaps of been more dominant in forcing her biased opinion onto the readers. Unlike the male author, who purposely introduces variable characters with different backgrounds and of different ages so that the reader is not pressured into condemning his or her thoughts to one viewpoint. The unborn child is a fundamental character in this book, the child is used for people to express their feelings openly about teenage pregnancy.
Chris is 18, he's in upper sixth form. Chris is a very sensitive person and the whole prospect of being a father slightly scares him. But the idea of it is a challenge that he is willing to take on, as he sees the situation as an opportunity for him to become more mentally mature. I think that Chris feels guilty and this is partly why he believes that it is his duty to stay with Helen and look after their baby. Chris' and Helens future seemed to have crumbled beneath them, as they both wanted to go to university, Chris' Uni was in Newcastle and Helens was in Sheffield. I think the author did this deliberately because it gives the aspect of being pregnant at such a crucial stage in a young persons life and it may somewhat warm the reader to the character more with the feeling of empathy. Because Chris feels ashamed that he impregnated Helen, he struggles to tell some people that he will be a father but with others it is easy, I think Chris finds it easier to talk to some because perhaps these people that he told aren't judgmental. 'She's having a baby, sir. We split', Chris came out with that comment without any hesitation, he was speaking with his hippie teacher, whom he trusted and found inspirational. The author consciously adds mutual characters to make the story less intense for the reader. Chris feels that he might aswell not be the father by the way he is being treated by Helens family, he feels shut out and un-informed. At first Helen acted hostile towards Chris and then after a while she told him their relationship was over and that saddened Chris immensely as he loved Helen a considerable amount. To relieve himself of his grief Chris decides to go on a holiday to France with his closest friend Tom. Whilst in France Chris meets a girl that he takes a liking to called Bryn, in a way Bryn reminds him of Helen.Towards the end of the book the author sends Chris to France so that the characters can be concentrated on as an individual, because their lives are always inter-twining with eachothers, but the author knowingly kept an element of Helen in the story by writing that Bryn reminded Chris of her. 'She had a smile like Helens'.
Helen is the most prominent of all characters in this book, mainly because she is the holder of the baby. Helen doesn't express herself much through speech, instead she writes letters to her baby titled 'dear nobody' these letters play an important role in the book. A majority of the book is Dear nobody letters. It gives the reader a better understanding of how Helen is feeling. In principle the purpose of this type of communication is to create and effect on the one communicated to. Be that effect an idea, a picture, a thought or even a death. As such the creator of the communication crafts their communication in an attempt to create that specific effect. If they're using language they may use metaphors, similes, rhyme, poetry etc, all in an attempt to create the exact effect desired. The letters confess her hatred, guilt, anxiety, confusion and helplessness for life and existing things around her Helen is constantly using metaphors and similes in the letters 'but the thought that you might be there is like a drip, drip, drip that wont go away, day and night, day and night now, regular and slow and insistent, like a beating pulse that wont lie still, like a clock that never stops ticking'. To confide in an inanimate object for Helen is easier because the stress is weighing her down and as I said earlier, she doesn't like to express herself through speech. Around the beginning on the book, when being pregnant was just a suspicion of hers, Helen became cold towards Chris and her family because she was feeling perplexed. 'I keep trying to ring Helen, she never seemed to be around'. Helen had a slight case of paranoia, she thought that people wouldn't think that highly of her anymore because of her being pregnant at a young age and not married. Helen made a desperate attempt to rid of the baby, she was riding a horse called Nab extremely fast without any assistance and the horse went out of control but luckily the women that was leading the group caught up with her and managed to stop the horse from causing any further damage. By coincidence the leader was Jill, Chris' aunt. Berlie Doherty wrote this scene into the book to add some trauma and thrill, he writes that somebody in that situation can stoop so low as to trying to destroy the unwanted presence or thing. When Helen looks back in hindsight she felt deep remorse as she had grown to love her baby like a mother would. Something that bothered Helen was that she would have to grow up and become an adult quickly and Helen felt she deserved a life of fun and laughter not to be tied down with the abundance of looking after a child. Helen also didn't want Chris to be a part of her life forever so she broke up with him because she felt it would be best. Helen sent all the Dear Nobody letters that she wrote to Chris just before he went to university. I think guilt and revenge was a constituent for doing this. Guilt because she felt that she had hurt Chris by splitting up with him and she wanted him to know how she truly felt. Revenge because she wanted Chris to have some pain for once instead of her and thought by Chris reading the letters Chris would feel for her. ' I opened up the parcel and shook out the contents over my bed. It was just a pile of letters'. Something I've noticed about Helen whilst reading the book is that she only likes to be comforted by people close to her heart, even when talking to Jill she didn't open up much. Babies provide an immediate source of unconditional love and I think this is what Helens needs; a sense of security.
Jill is Chris' aunt. She is a minor character but has an important role in the book. Jill has a caring nature to her, this shows when she speaks to Helen about riding Nab. To me, Jill comes across as a cryptic person with her use of language, who doesn't always like to talk things in full and to the point, 'how's your bike?' Jill asked Chris this when she rung him up to tell him that his girlfriend had been shaken up, I suppose she said that not to get Chris worried all of a sudden. Jill is considerate towards Helen because she had been through the same thing herself. Jill's support for Helen dilutes her worries because she knows that someone can relate to her. Jill doesn't over-represent the idea of being pregnant which makes Helen more feel more normal. I think that Jill did have a part to play in Helens decision to keep the baby because she explained to Helen how something so significant can go so quickly and easily. The author made good use of this type of character because it's a character that can offer advice to tone it down and Jill is not emotionally tied in like Helens parents.
Helens mother is a very opinionated character. She can be stern and hard. There isn't a strong relationship between the mother and daughter. Helens mother thinks that she should get rid of the baby by abortion or adoption. She reveals why she wanted Helen to do this nearing the end of the book, its because she was born an illegitimate child and children at school would mock her of because of that. Helens mother gave her the opportunity to marry Chris but Helen told her she didn't want to.
The ending to this book is a typical happy ending. Helen has the child and settles down well and Chris goes to university. Its ended with a letter to Chris instead of the baby telling him that in the end everything turned out just the way she wanted it.