In the third chapter of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a dream becomes real. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
The first time my mother disbelieved me, I was seven. My sister was four, and she took my old room. I had to move in with my brother, which was fine because we got along. Being twins, there were two sets of toys to play with, and if I got bored with my Lego set, my brother and I would switch. We liked to pretend to be each other, to try and trick our mom, but she never fell for it. It became a challenge.
But sometimes, I resented not having a room to myself. It wasn’t because I didn’t like being around my brother. It just started to creep up on me. My brother and I would get one thing to share between us. We’d be referred to as a single unit. I wasn’t ever just Mark. It was Mark and Michael. We couldn’t wear different outfits. And the more and more attention our sister got, the more it felt like my brother and I were just one person.
So when I found myself in the old room, looking in the closet for one of my missing Hot Wheels, I wished that I didn’t have to dig through clothes, toys, and boxes full of things that weren’t mine. I knew my mother had left a few things behind because not everything of my brother’s and my stuff fit in our room, but she had simply told me to find the Tupperware full of cars myself.
Having failed to do so, I was neatly stacking my sister’s stuff in the closet when something hard and metal smacked me in the back of my head. I whipped around to see my sister standing in the doorway, a smirk on her face. What did you do that for? I yelled at her. When I stood up, I stepped on the very car I was looking for. By the time I managed to stand up, my sister had already bolted, and I followed behind her.
My mother was in the living room, watching Oprah, who was the first person I ever saw have a gay guest on their show, and I had this bizarre moment where I didn’t want to interrupt Oprah, as if she would get mad that I interjected. My sister had climbed up onto the couch close to my mother, stealing glances around my mother at me, that devilish grin on her face again.
“What do you want, Mark?”
I hesitated. Mom, I started, she just threw a car at the back of my head and –
“No, she didn’t.”
“She didn’t do that. She’s been here the whole time.”
No, I countered, she was just in the room.
“Are you calling me a liar?”
I balked. I didn’t say anything. I just backed out of the living room, realizing the impossibility of what just happened. I couldn’t win.
This wasn’t the last time I wouldn’t be believed. But it was the first one.
- Actually, there was a lot here I could have responded to. The desperation of poverty, particularly realizing you are poor. That’s something that was addressed in the previous chapter, too. And this chapter also revealed that the narrator was bullied extensively by his peers at school. Frankly, I found most of chapter three to be so charming and mysterious that I didn’t want to get too sad. Plus, I’ve written about my experience with bullying a lot, and I didn’t think this was the right time.
- One of the things I love about this chapter is how Gaiman conveys grandeur. Specifically, it’s the grandeur we experience as children, a specific form of wonder about the world that often is diminished once we start perceiving that things are smaller and less fantastic than we thought they were. That’s not to suggest that every one loses their imagination or creativity, but I remember when I thought that have four quarters meant I had a fortune. I remember those UNICEF donation banks and how important I felt when I could fill them up and turn them in. I remember the joy of finding the toy in the cereal box. I love the narrator’s excitement over being “rich.”
- SO WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE. As far as I can tell, this is about the opal miner’s dreams literally coming real. He wanted others to have money, and that happens, except it means that the narrator wakes up with a schilling lodged in his throat. Bills appear in people’s purses. There’s that coin that was in the fish in Lettie’s “Ocean.”
- God, the Hempstocks are so matter-of-fact about whatever bizarre world they’re talking about. How can Old Mrs. Hempstock see electrons???
- “I remember when the moon was made.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Consider that the point where I was 100% into this book because that is one of the most entertaining sentences I’ve ever read.
- “Ghosts can’t make things,” said Lettie. “They aren’t even good at moving things.” Hahaha, holy shit, ghost condescension. THIS IS GREAT.
- SO: Lettie is off to “bind it, close its ways, send it back to sleep.” What is Old Mrs. Hempstock talking about? A spirit? A being? The money itself?
Please note that the original text contains the words “mad” and “stupid.”
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