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Richard Rive

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Richard Rive’s, “Buckingham Palace,” District Six focuses on a small community, unable to establish themselves outside of gangs, thievery, alcohol abuse and prostitution. District Six sits at the foot of Table Mountain and provides a stark contrast. For an essay, a brief overview of the environment in which the characters exist (District Six) is useful by way of introduction. Some generalizations of the characters in this novel are necessary as many of their lives overlap and characters develop because of each other. The affectionately- named “Buckingham Palace” is the row of “mouldy”cottages, notorious for bringing out the worst, and often the best, in the characters. Their criminal pursuits are moderated by humor. Religion and community spirit keep them alive and allow the reader to be accepting. I am not sure which characters you are most interested in but here are a few. Mary (and her Girls), at number 201, keeps The Casbah, a “House of Pleasure.” Next door (no.203) is Zoot and The Boys.

The Jungles live at 205 , the narrator at 207 and Last-Knight the Barber at 209. Life is hard and prospects are poor but “what a wicked and enjoyable place the world was.” The characters find peace in their routine which hardly varies from week to week. Mary, Zoot and Pretty-Boy are legends. Mary, a Pastor’s daughter and accomplished baton-twirler, is humorously portrayed as quite a husband stealer. Other women’s husbands suffer “ill-health” after being in her company and eventually Mary is able to use her “skills,” after her own husband, Knight-Before -Last, runs away. “The Girls” initially take refuge with Mary, from their fathers or husbands but they too acquire skills and before long the brightly- painted house officially opens “for business.” Mary still pays her dues to the Church and, despite the glances of others, takes communion once a month.

Zoot is very capable of manipulating situations. Early in his childhood his “absolute dislike and disregard for authority” becomes entrenched and he spends years in reformatory and prison for stealing. He has a huge capacity for language but expresses himself profanely. Zoot, the “Jive King of District Six” is also an accomplished dancer. He becomes Mary’s “bouncer” for lack of other opportunities. He “persuades” Katzen, the landlord, after he has heroically rescued the elderly, drunken Davids from 203, to “rent” the house to him. He is protected and guided by “guardian angels.” Pretty Boy has striking blue, innocent eyes. He is a friend of Zoot’s from reform school and has spent some years in prison in Pretoria. He acquires items for Zoot’s cottage “at a bargain price” and is very resourceful. The Jungle Boys are the Abrahams’ children from 205, so named because of their method of settling disputes. They are “mean and generous” and known to “hunt in a pack.” Their reputation precedes them, because “they are like that.” Katzen, the landlord of “Buckingham Palace” is a “small, Jewish shopkeeper.” Never one to give up on opportunity, he capitalizes on his position and keeps a sign in his shop window: “Although Katzen has been burgled again, Katzen will never burgle you.” The reader can recognize the stereotyped Jew in Katzen. The narrator, whose house is the last one standing before being bulldozed, “the soul” being ripped out of all the residents, feels completely detached from his roots “in my separate cocoon, in my separate area set aside for my separate group.”Apartheid means “separateness.” Sue Townsend.

Description of the main characters
Adrian Mole: Adrian is about thirteen years old and an incredible worrier. ‘The problems of existence’ hit him hard, like spots, being in love and the relationship between his parents. He strongly believes he is an intellectual. Pandora: she is a new girl at Adrian’s school. Adrian immediately falls in love with Pandora. She is dating Adrian’s best friend and she creates scandals at school. In spite of this, after a while Adrian and Pandora get together. Bert Baxter: Bert is a dirty old man who lives in a house that is in a disgusting state. Adrian has got to look after him, because he has joined a group called ‘The Good Samaritans’. This group organises all sorts of social work and Adrian gets saddled with Bert Baxter.

A summary of the story
Adrian starts his secret diary on January 1, when he is 13 ¾ years old. He makes some resolutions for the New Year and is worried about a spot on his face (he never had one before). Adrian’s parents quarrel all the time, and now, during the celebration of the New Year, they quarrel about the flowers Adrian’s mother got from the neighbour. When Adrian decides to become an intellectual after a while, he writes a letter to the BBC and asks what he must do from this point on. He also writes his first poem and joins the library. At school he meets Pandora. Now he is even more worried about his spots, because he wants to leave a good impression of course. He joins a group called ‘The Good Samaritans’ which does much social work for old people. Adrian is signed to look after Bert Baxter. His first visits to the old man are very disappointing. Bert appears to be a really dirty old man and his house looks incredibly disgusting. And if that isn’t enough already, he starts complaining about Adrian to the headmaster and Adrian is wrongly reprimanded.

And when he nearly got over all this, he finds out his best friend his dating Pandora. In March he gets to hear that his parents are splitting up. At the end of the month his father leaves the house and decides to live in Sheffield. On June 1 his father gets unemployed and starts drinking and smoking heavily. At school Adrian gets in trouble because of wearing red socks. He does this because he feels rebellious. Suddenly, Pandora organises a sock protest committee and all the members put on red socks. Unfortunately, the head master sends them all home. In October Bert Baxter is taken to an old age pensioner’s home because he suffers from leg trouble.

He hates it in there but only a month later, after Adrian has gone to the hospital to have his tonsils out, he hears that Bert has become friends with a woman called Queenie. In the meantime Adrian’s father is still unemployed and does really nothing all day long. Adrian’s relationship with Pandora isn’t very harmonious anymore and when Pandora finds out another girl is in love with Adrian, she fights her. Adrian has a three day during friendship with a girl called Barbara. On April 2, Adrian’s birthday, Pandora ignores him. But the next day already, they make up with each other.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole
Author: Sue Townsend
Summary: Adrian Mole is a boy growing up in Britain, aged 13 3/4. He lives with his mother, his father, and an animal known only as ‘the dog.’ And this is his diary, which goes on for a year and a quarter. It starts off nicely, revealing Adrian’s personality. His best friend is Nigel, and he’s in love with a girl named Pandora. The dog provides amusement by eating a model pirate ship and having model pirates surgically removed from his stomach. Meanwhile, Adrian decides to ‘become an intellectual’ and read classics even as Nigel starts to go out with Pandora, the only girl Adrian ever loved. One day, Adrian dares to wear red socks to school (horrors!) instead of regulation black. He gets a lecture on the dangers of being a nonconformist, but it’s worth it. Because Pandora decides to start a Red Sock Revolution with Adrian & friends and suddenly EVERYONE is wearing red socks. The RSR was almost immediately put down, but it brought Adrian and Pandora together. Mr. Lucas, the guy down the street, is getting a divorce because his wife ran off with another woman.

Adrian’s mother keeps going down there and ‘comforting’ him and Adrian is blind to her philandering as he gets wrapped up in Pandora and measuring this thing Adrian’s father isn’t blind, though. They split up and Adrian’s mother leaves town with Mr. Lucas. They fight over who doesn’t get custody of Adrian and his mother wins. But awhile later, Adrian’s father was fired from his job. Their income sinks and soon the electricity is turned off and everything is in dire straits! Coupled with this is Adrian’s frank but funny description of a field trip on a bus to a museum. By the end of the trip a teacher had resigned, the bus driver had gone mad and gotten arrested, one boy was charged with theft, and the museum decided to accept no more groups of students. Meanwhile, Adrian’s mother makes him visit occasionally before dumping Mr. Lucas and returning to the house. His mother sets things straight and becomes a secretary for an insurance company. Adrian’s father tries unsuccessfully to make spice racks for a living before becoming a foreman at a dock. And Adrian forms the ‘Pink Brigade’ with Pandora and some others, it’s a group of radical thinkers. The book ends with Adrian accidentally getting his nose glued to a model airplane.

The book is written in a diary style by Adrian Mole, a thirteen year old boy who, although writes confidently, often misinterprets and does not understand the events that go on around him. The book follows him through the year of 1981 and a bit of 1982, starting with his new year’s resolutions including “stopping squeezing my spots” and “vowing to never drink alcohol… after hearing disgusting noises from downstairs last night.” Mole is a self-described intellectual who writes unreliably about the events he goes through and his troubles as an adolescent- resulting in a light-hearted and amusing book.

He writes bluntly about his parents’ marital troubles and his own relationship with Pandora- a fellow Year 9 with beautiful “treacle hair”. “Pandora and I are in love! It is official! She told Claire Nelson, who told Nigel, who told me.” Adrian Mole also writes about his cringe-worthy poetry, his troubles at school, his acne problem, the Royal Wedding and his eighty-year old friend Bert, and numerous other events. I would highly recommend this book. It is a hilarious book to read and is still relevant today. It is especially amusing if you are around Adrian’s age (12-ish to 16-ish), because then you will really appreciate and understand when he says “Just my luck! Another spot on my chin!”. It is not only witty, but deeply touching, too. Great as a stress reliever, this book will provide hours of entertainment for everyone.

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