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The Affects of Setting on Character Development in the Book the Prisoner

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| The Affects of Geography, Socio-economic Factors, and History on Marc Kilgour | Aditya BhattacharjeeMarch 31, 2014ENG2D7Ms. McMulkin | | | |

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Imagine having to sleep on straw-stuffed mattresses on the floor while being haunted by the nauseating smell of rotting bodies and the continuous screams of prisoners being tortured to death. Imagine being forced to work for 11 hours a day and being given little to no food as a reward all the while being a victim of constant German prejudice. This is exactly what life was like as a Nazi prisoner in Germany during World War II. For the protagonist Marc Kilgour of the novel The Prisoner written by Robert Muchamore, life as a prisoner is the equivalent of life in hell. Marc is a fourteen-year old orphan from a small city called Beauvais that was located near Paris, France. He is taken prisoner by the Germans when it is discovered that he is a spy working for a British espionage group. Marc is snatched of his freedom and when he feels that he has had enough, he decides to embark on a daring escape to France from his prison in Frankfurt. Throughout the course of the book, Marc’s experiences as a prisoner and a fugitive, along with his socio-economic status after the escape, and Germany’s state during the war when the story takes place all play a significant role in the overall development of Marc’s character. All the hardships and obstacles Marc faces throughout the novel help shape his character at the end of the novel. Marc’s experiences as a prisoner and a fugitive play the biggest role in shaping his character at the end of the novel. The dreadful living conditions of Marc’s prison camp have a significant impact on his behaviour and self-confidence. The author briefly describes Marc’s condition in prison, explaining how, “It was hard being far from everyone he knew, being hungry and being forced to work, but the bugs and filth were worst because they meant he didn’t even control the most intimate parts of his body” (Muchamore 8). Marc has to live in unhygienic conditions while being forced to work and being given very little food. This has a negative effect on Marc’s character. His miserable life in prison leads him to feel that someone else is controlling his life and that he is of no worth. Marc soon loses his self-confidence and becomes insecure. At one point, he loses faith in life and tries numerous times to take his own life before any of the Germans can. All of these attempts, however, fail since Marc is unable to muster enough courage to do so. He soon realizes that quitting will not do him any good and so therefore, he starts devising a plan for escape. The plan is successful as he manages to escape his prison by outsmarting German authorities. The Germans soon find out that he is missing and send out a search warrant for him. Frankfurt is soon put under heavy military surveillance in hopes of capturing the escaped prisoner. This change of scenery forces Marc to adapt to his new surroundings. As a fugitive being hunted down by Germans, Marc becomes more vigilant and carefully inspects everything that happens around him before he makes any moves. He learns to make careful decisions because he realizes that one small mistake could lead to him being compromised or even killed. This is evident when the author writes, “The shed was such an obvious hiding place that Marc scouted the edge of the roof looking for a plan B” (106). Marc constantly doubts his opportunities and looks for alternatives to his plans. This type of attitude later assists Marc in his escape. He becomes more confident of himself because he believes that he has come too far to let his fears stop him. His insecurities soon become a thing of the past as his new surroundings force him to change his ways which later on leads to Marc escaping Frankfurt safely. In addition to Marc’s past experiences, his socio-economic status also plays a role in developing his character. When Marc finally escapes to Paris, he is faced with another problem. He has no money to buy food, clothing, or even find a place to stay. He expresses his frustration when he mutters to himself, “…when it seemed life could get no worse there was always some new depth to plumb” (83). Marc had been through a lot in prison and the joy that he feels after regaining his freedom is soon dampened by the fact that he is broke. This time, however, he remains hopeful of his future as he knows that he overcame many tougher obstacles in the past. A sense of optimism develops in him. Even in times of desperation, he looks at the bright side of things despite having thoughts of resorting to stealing as that was his only way to survive. These temptations are shadowed by Marc’s determination to get his old life back. In search of money, Marc goes to the farm he worked in before he got arrested and asks for his old job back. Marc is assigned to do farm work that provides a reasonable amount of pay. It is when he works on the farm that he starts reflecting on what he has been through. He starts remembering his old self in prison. He realizes that he would not have been who he is at this point if it were not for the torture, prejudice, and hardships he faced in prison. This creates a sense of pride and accomplishment within Marc but also saddens him as he thinks about the prisoners who are not as fortunate as him. When Marc recalls an event where a scrawny prisoner no older than him was being beaten by German officials, he is instantly reminded of the horrors of prison and is outraged by this fact. Marc tries to forget this moment but, “the injustice of it reminded Marc of how powerless prisoners were and made him boil with anger” (21). Marc starts to develop a deep hatred towards Germans and feels that he has a responsibility in helping to fix this situation. The year when the story takes place also affects Marc’s character. The story spans a timeframe from May 1942 to September 1942. In August 1942, the Allies launched a raid on Dieppe in Northern France which ends up failing and results in loss of thousands of lives. (Dieppe). This put Germany on high alert as it hunted down soldiers sent by the Allies. Marc encounters two Canadian soldiers that have participated in the Dieppe raid. They ask him for help and provide them with shelter which causes Marc to become anxious. He is yet again faced with another problem. The soldiers ask him to take them to the French Resistance which is located at a discreet part in Paris. France at that time was under the control of Germany and German soldiers could be seen patrolling the streets of Paris. Marc figures that if he wants to help the Allies, this is the way to do it. Marc becomes more courageous and learns how to cope with stress as he and the soldiers reach Paris within two days of the raid. His courage is displayed when Marc has to sneak into a German office to steal identification papers that the Canadian soldiers will identify themselves with. Marc’s bravery is acknowledged by one of the soldiers when he says, “Nice job lad, didn’t think you could pull that off” (283). The Canadians are grateful to Marc as he has saved them from being identified as Allies by the Germans. This acts as an esteem boost for Marc and he feels more confident regarding the fact that they will be able to successfully reach the French Resistance base. During the journey, news of Marc’s escape spread to Paris and guards are put on high-alert. Marc has heard about the massive killing of Jews in Auschwitz that took place a while back. In June 1942, Jews were being gassed to death in the concentration camps of Auschwitz (World War II). In fear of being caught and experiencing the same fate, Marc changes his identity and has to put on a charade so he doesn’t get recognized. He learns how to improvise and think on his feet. His espionage training comes into effect as he is forced to kill a German official who confronts him when Marc is leaving for Beauvais. He expresses his gratitude for the man who had trained him by saying, “Thanks Charles, you truly are a life-saver” (311). He is thankful for everything he has learned and wishes to meet Charles one more time so he can personally thank him. These all result in changing Marc’s outlook on life. As a result, the combined effects of Marc’s past experiences, his financial status, and the history of Germany during that time all help shape Marc’s character at the end of the novel. Marc is a completely different person compared to his old self due to the effects of the obstacles he faces throughout the novel. Marc learns valuable skills from these experiences. Both Marc’s old experiences living life as a prisoner and a fugitive as well as his lack of money forces him to be adaptive and teaches him life lessons that permanently change him in the end. The state of Germany at that time forces Marc to go out of his comfort zone as he picks up new traits that have an effect on his personality. All in all, Marc’s character is greatly influenced by these factors. He would not be what he is at the end of the novel if he had not encountered these hardships. Throughout his journey, he learns and witnesses various things which all affect him in some way or the other and thus, leading to completely different Marc Kilgour at the end of the novel.

Works Cited
Dieppe 1942. Web. March 28, 2014.
The Prisoner. United Kingdom: CPI Group. 2012. Print.
World War II in Europe. Web. March 28, 2014.…...

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