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Analysis of "how to Be Good" by Nick Hornby

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Analysis of How to be Good

In the extract from the novel How to be Good (pages 10-14), Nick Hornby challenges the meaning of being "good", and how being too good can transform a person into being harmful to his family. The characters have a significant part in the plot of the story. Most interestingly, is Katie, the narrator and also the mother and wife of the family. Her role is to stabilize the family, especially from David's, her husband's, extreme beliefs of being virtuous. The characterization of Katie, David, and the relationships within the family, is therefore very important in achieving an overall understanding of the extract, thus revealing the key elements of the theme.

It is clear, that Katie has undergone a transformation from being the "good and reasonable" person, to being the seemingly "bad and greedy" person after the transformation of David's way of thinking. However, she still is and always has been, the most rational person of the family. At first, she sees herself as a Doctor, a good mother and wife. This can be seen by the fact that she doesn't want to spoil their children by giving them a computer each, "I had wanted them to share...because I was beginning to worry about spoiling them". She also believes that "there shouldn't be homelessness...[and] battered women". However, when David transforms into being more virtuous than her, she starts to question whether she still is the good one. For example, after Tom's computer had been taken away, she wished for him to have it back, although the unfortunate children would have much more joy from it. The tension between David and her bursts, when David wants to give their lunch away to those who can't afford anything to eat, where she says "FUCK THE HOMELESS". All in all, Katie is still the good and reasonable person. It is her crazy husband that makes her seem like the bad person, with no moral principles. She is actually the rational one, who finds a balance between giving and not giving, thus enforcing the idea that the concerns of others should not harm the family. Her husband is too fanatic/mad, and is willing to break his family apart, for the better of the poor.

David has become a man of virtue, but to a level that crosses the line, to a level where he prioritizes his beliefs over his family. David was at first not very generous to the poor. It was him that insisted on spoiling his children, by giving them a computer each. He then accused Katie of being "a typical joyless liberal, the sort of person who would deny their kids everything and themselves nothing." However, exactly that was what he ended up being, on a more extreme level. He took Tom's (his son's) computer away from him, and gave it to "the women's refuge in Kentish Town" where the children have absolutely nothing. He justifies his action by saying "Two [computers] is...not obscene, exactly. But certainly greedy." and "If we're worried about what's happening to poor people, we can't wait for the Government to do anything. We have to do what we think is right". He has also become a seemingly "perfect" husband and father, "During the day...he [David] sits in his office reading; late afternoons he cooks, he plays, he helps with homework, he wants to talk about the days that everyone has had...". However, his extreme beliefs and actions really becomes evident when he attempts to blackmail his son by telling him to go see the poor children who received his computer (just because he was unhappy of losing his computer), and when he feels like he must give away the big lunch to those who can't afford, "I can't sit here and eat this while there are people out there with nothing". David has become too engulfed in his beliefs, and if it weren't for Katie, he would go on



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