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Ocean at the End of the Lane: Remembrance of the Childhood

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In the Ocean At the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman demonstrates through child lost innocence, they can change reality into make believe as they do not have the ability to see the world for what it really is; and they still want to hold onto childhood as every human wants to do . He proves this in many different ways throughout this book. He shows how when a child is growing up in certain events that they do not like or understand, they will change the way they perceive reality to make it better than it actually is. Children create imaginary outcomes of events in their life to exaggerate the truth of their positions in life.

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The narrator starts as he flashes back to a time when an opal miner, who was living at the boy’s home, steals his father’s car and ultimately commits suicide in the back seat, due to his greed he gambled away all of his friends, family, and money leading him to take his life. This death opens a window for a supernatural being to come into the world. This supernatural being (Ursula) leaving money for people in unpleasant ways, to the point that you can get the feel that this kids imagination is running at one hundred miles an hour. After seeing a suicide knowing it was caused over money you can see from an adults prospective he’s learning that greed only leads to a persons demise in some way, shape or form. As the novel progresses he builds this into even more far fetched scenarios.

After a coin becomes lodged in the narrator’s throat overnight choking him, he runs to his neighbours daughter Lettie’s help. She agrees to help, insisting that he would tag along with her on the travel that was imperative to find the spirit and bind it. Lettie told the narrator to never let go of her hand, in a moment of surprise he loses focus and lets go, causing something to lodge into his foot. As he made it home he inspected his foot and attempts to pull what appears to be a worm out of his foot, but a piece of it is left inside of him. After spending most of the time locked up in his room avoiding Ursula and escaping one night from her, he manages to make it to the Hempstocks farm where they remove the rest of the worm hole from his foot. From reality and the adults point of view you could say that in this instance that the narrator is searching for individuality but his child state of mind is making him imagine his nanny as someone who is out to get him.

The Hempstocks promise to keep him safe, but the ‘hunger birds’ begin to eat at his world so that they can force him off of the Hempstocks property. This tactic proves effective at first and the narrator attempts to sacrifice himself by protecting Lettie, only for it to backfire on him and Lettie to jump in between him and the ‘hunger birds’. Lettie’s grandmother threatens the hunger birds, which she always refers to them as ‘varmints’, with annihilation if they do not leave. They submit to the grandmother, but Lettie’s near death as a result of their attack. The Hempstocks place Lettie’s body in the ocean behind their house, where they say that she will rest until ready to return to the narrator’s world. After the incident , the narrator’s memory of the incident fades. He has no recollection of Lettie’s near-death, instead believing that she had gone to Australia.

The book then returns to the present, where the narrator finishes his remembrance of his childhood story and is shocked when the Hempstocks inform him that in fact this is actually not the first time he has returned home to visit their farm, he has actually visited their farm multiple times throughout his adulthood. They say his visits are a result of Lettie wanting to check on him and as the memory of the past events begin to fade again, he tells the Hempstock women to let Lettie know he said ‘hi’ when she returns home. This can be implied that through all of the events that Lettie turns out to possibly nothing but an imaginary friend back from his childhood.   

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