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The Cement Garden By Ian Mcewan English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3229 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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To be honest I am not much of a reader but I am a good listener. Almost all the books which I have read till now were part of school activities. I prefer listening and watching than reading. However, I always have been fascinated by stories maybe that’s why I watch lots and lots of movies. Watching movies is definitely one my hobbies.

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I went to boarding school in Nepal so the school system was like in United Kingdom. When I was in nursery my teachers used to sing rhymes for us and we had to repeat it. My favorite one was “twinkle twinkle little star” but I also liked “ba ba black sheep” and “wheel on the bus”. When I was in Elementary school I have listened and read fairy tales and stories like Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Hansel en Gretel, the story of King Midas, The frog and the princess, The gingerbread man, Ali Baba and the forty thieves, the golden egg, Gulliver’s travel, I can go on and on but these are my favorites. My father used to borrow many books for me and we used to read together. My father was elementary school teacher so he knew how to tell stories in interesting way. I have always liked listening to my father. Most of those stories were moral stories.

When I came to Holland I was 11 years old. The first school I went was in Nijmegen where I learned Dutch. There I read some books from book series ‘De Griezelbus’ by Paul van Loon. When I was in ISK in Edithstein, every week there was a school period of 90 minutes where we had to read books in group of four. I don’t remember the titles of all those books but one which I liked the most was ‘Polleke’ by Guus Kuijer. It was about a little girl who falls in love with a Moroccan boy and the problems created by their cultural differences.

In the first three years of the secondary school, I have read many books by famous Dutch writer Carry Slee. Those books deal with the problems of adolescents.

In the fourth year I had to read 5 books for Dutch (Nederlands). ‘Het Gouden Ei’ by Tim Krabbé is definitely the best book I have ever read. I love thriller books and films. After reading ‘Het Gouden Ei’ I have often selected thriller books to read for school for example De Donkere Kamer van Damokles , De Aanslag , Specht en Zoon etc. For English I also have selected books of genre psychological thriller: The Collector and The Cement Garden.

The Collector


I had to read two books this year for English subject. I got a list of books from my teacher form where I could choose. I had already made my mid to choose a book of thriller genre so I marked some titles of that genre and searched on the internet. The plot of this book really fascinated me so I searched further for some reviews. The rating was really high and comments by readers were very positive. Another reason to choose this book was that it was not that old and it was also thin. It was pretty amazing that this was John Fowles’ (the writer) first book and was already renowned for this book. The book cover was also attractive.

Bibliographical entry

John Fowles, The Collector, London: Cape 1963,


The Collector revolves around the main character, Frederick Clegg. He is 21 years old .His father died in accident and his mother eloped with other man so he was raised by his uncle Dick and aunt Annie together with his cousin Mabel. He is not social, he doesn’t have friends and he is almost invisible to everyone. You can say he is mentally ill. He works in a bank at Town Hall Annexe. He has a hobby of collecting butterflies (he calls himself entomologist). He is obsessed with a beautiful girl (Miranda). He secretly observes her and dreams about her. One day, he wins 73 thousand pounds from football pools (football betting) and moves to London. He finds out that Miranda is studying arts in London. One day, he dreams of abducting her after saving her. After aunt Annie and Mable move to Australia he plans to make his dream real. He finds a lonely house in Sussex and he prepares and plans everything. Then he kidnaps Miranda and locks her in the cellar where nobody can hear or rescue her.

Miranda request him to let her go but he says he has to keep her there. She goes on hunger strike so He agrees to let her free after 4 weeks (a month).He thinks she will understand him and love him back. He buys what she wants and brings her everyday breakfast and meals. They spent lots of time together in the cellar. Miranda paints him and he photographs her.

Miranda tries to escape many times for example by pretending to be sick but everything goes in vain. He takes her to bathroom and waits outside. One day, he shows her, his butterfly collection and Miranda says to him now you have collected me and claims he is not human.

One day Miranda really becomes sick but he thinks she is pretending. She looks more and more ill but he thinks she has just caught cold. She pledges for a doctor but he bring her pills instead.

After this, the story changes the perspective form Ferdinand Clegg to Miranda Grey. The story is told by the diary that Miranda kept. It starts after the seven days of kidnaping (14th October) and ends in December 7th. Then the story resumes. He watches her die bit by bit every day and buries her under the apple tree. At the end he is thinking of kidnaping another girl called Marian (another M) just to compare her with Miranda.

First Personal Reaction

When I was reading the first pages I already knew this book was going to be very interesting and really thrilling. When he wins the pools you directly think now he is going to kidnap her and you just read and wait how he is going to do. This waiting feeling keeps you reading. When I was reading I didn’t knew how fast the time flew. One day I started reading around 9 pm and when I looked at the clock it was 4 am. This book is one of the most suspense books I have read (after ‘Het Gouden Ei’). This book was easy to read so you really go parallel with the story when you are reading. It makes you really curious. You want know what he is going to do with Miranda whether he is going to give her freedom or keep her collect like those butterflies. You can’t stop thinking about this book until you read it to the end.

According to me the book is pretty realistic, this could happen to anyone may be it has happened. The writer tries to make it more and more realistic by using real places like London and Sussex and describing it as well as possible. The diary of Miranda also gives the story realistic aspect.

To be honest I was absolutely shocked by the end of the story. I was desperately hoping for a happy ending but it was not to be. It is so shocking how Frederick watches her die day by day and what really insane is that he thinks it was after all her fault that she was dead (OMG!!!!) and he says (quotes) “Not while she was living, but when I knew she was dead, that was when I finally forgave her”. He doesn’t blame himself for killing her and thinks about kidnaping another girl. He is really a psychopath. As a reader you really hate him for what he had done . Miranda was write he is really not human.

Book Assignment

I have selected the 5th task for this assignment.

The main character of this book is really creepy and crazy person. He has no social skills; he doesn’t talk much and thinks he is a better person. He really likes Miranda but doesn’t know how to come in contact her so he observes her from far. He wins 73 thousand pounds but that money doesn’t make him much happy. It doesn’t mean much for him but with that money he arranges to kidnap Miranda and take her captive.

He is not sexual about Miranda. Hi thinks that sex is an animalistic thing and he is not that type. He says, “If more people were like me, in my opinion, the world would be better.”

He just wants to keep the beautiful woman and love her but Miranda doesn’t like it and says he is inhumane and how he has collected her like all those poor lifeless butterflies. Miranda often compares him to Caliban from Shakespeare’s Tempest because he is hopelessly obsessed with her. He gives Miranda everything she wants apart from the one and only things that she wants from him, freedom. At first, Frederick even introduces himself to Miranda as Ferdinand, who wins Miranda’s love in Tempest.

In Miranda’s diary she describes him like this “He is solid; immovable, iron-willed. He showed me one day what he called his killing-bottle. I’m imprisoned in it. Fluttering against the glass. Because I can see through it I still think I can escape. I have hope. But it’s all an illusion. A thick round wall of glass”

Another quote by Miranda describes a lot about Frederick. “I am one in row of specimens. It’s when I try to flutter out of line that he hates me. I’m meant to be dead, pinned, always the same, always beautiful. He knows that part of my beauty is being alive, but it’s the dead me he wants. He wants me living – but dead.”

He doesn’t think he committed a crime, which shows that he can’t distinguish between right and wrong. On top of it all, he considers Miranda to be his guest, not his victim.

I would not consider him as a kind person. In fact, he is the least sympathetic character. He just watches how Miranda dies and does nothing to cure her. He even gives false hope of Doctor coming to see her. The writer also wants to describe him as a psychopath who doesn’t know what he is doing.

Another important character is Miranda Grey, an art student at the Slade Art School in London. She is twenty years old when Clegg kidnaps her, Miranda begins writing a diary that makes up the half of the novel. In her diary entries, she attempts to analyze Clegg and to understand her religious faith, her sexuality, her talents as an artist, and her relationships with her family and various men in her life, most specifically with G.P. He was an artist twice her age whom she had begun to view as her mentor but whom she had refused as a lover. When Clegg captures her, Miranda is a pacifist who believes in nonviolence at any cost. However, she physically attacks Clegg several weeks after her abduction.

According to me you can consider her as sympathetic person. She tries to convince Clegg to help him and not to tell anyone about kidnaping. She says, “You could. We could be friends. I could help you.” Looking up at me there. “It’s not too late.” when she knows about the pools money, she asks him to donate some money to children organizations. Being so beautiful she is not arrogant. I really pity her condition in the story. The writer wants to show her as really smart and talented person. For example, she has got a scholarship in an art school and she is really good painter.

The Cement Garden


My first choice played a big part for choosing this book. I really liked the first book (The Collector) and the genre was same so it was on my mind when I finished reading my first book. My friends were talking about how good ‘The Graduate’ was so I also wanted to give that a try but many had already read that book so I decided not to choose it. I also was interested by ‘The Reader’ because I had seen the film but the storyline of Cement Garden was strong and new for me and I like psychological stories. My friends also recommended it. I also googled it and found very positive reviews so I decided to choose this book but all book in the library were borrowed so I bought the eBook online at (http://www.kobobooks.nl/ebook/The-Cement-Garden/book-_DKFn1ltIUudAGuPd4arXQ/page1.html)

Bibliographical entry

Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden, First published in Great Britain by Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1978, Vintage classic 2004


The four children, Julie, Jack, Sue, Tom have lost their father and soon after, their mother dies form cancer, they are left as orphans. They hide her body in the cellar, by covering with cement, in fear of being taken apart and adopted by foster family. The family was not that social, they barely had visit, no real relatives and their father didn’t like bringing friends to his house. After their mothers death they completely isolate themselves form the outer world.

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The story begins with ‘I did not kill my father, but I sometimes felt I had helped him on his way’. The story is told by Jack. After the death of their parents, Julie and Jack act as the head of the family however, they are least parent like, for example they play alien doctor with their younger sister sue by making her naked. Jack adores his elder sister which later develops into a taboo, sexual, relation between two siblings. Tom is bullied by his schoolmates so he wants to be like a girl because he thinks girls doesn’t get bullied so they dress him like a girl and treat him like a little baby.

Julie has a boyfriend named Derek whom she brings to the house. This disturbs their situation and creates problems. Jack doesn’t like this because he is in love with his elder sister. Derek soon wonders form where the nasty smell is coming and he finds out it is coming from the cellar but he is told that the dog is buried their so he even helps them to cover the crack.

When Derek finds out about the sexual relation between the siblings, he begins to suspect what really is in the basement. He breaks the cement covering with sledge hammer and he finds out the truth but jack and Julie have noticed that so they lock the cellar door but Derek escapes and tells the authorities about it after some time they are surrounded by police vehicles.

First personal reaction

To begin with, I would say I had never heard or seen this type of story. It was complete new to me and it came as a surprise. Though the book was simple and easy it was still difficult to read, not by language means, but by the situation in the book. When I read a book I like to imagine what I’m reading so that I get acquainted with the story but this time I just couldn’t. The story is really filthy and animal like. I don’t mean I hate this book but I also don’t like it that much. The relation between two siblings is understandable because they are isolate form outside, they don’t know much about society and the norms and values but I just couldn’t accept the sex thing. The scene was described in details that made me really sick sometimes I had to skip some sentences.

The best way to describe this is unusual and wicked story which has interesting plot but gets filthy because of sex. This really puzzles you and you ask yourself whether you like the story or not. To be hones I don’t really have answer to that question. One thing is certain it had some disgusting scenes. When I was reading this book I was planning to see the movie based on this novel but when I finished I didn’t want to. I think the film would make me even sicker because when you see a film it’s like everything is happening in front of you and I was not ready for that. I just couldn’t see the fun in watching family sexual relation. This book must have been surrounded by many controversies because of its plot.

Book assignment

I have selected 8th assignment for this book.

First let me explain what ‘incest’ means. This is one of the themes of this book.

There are many disturbing and filthy things in the world, and incest is near the top of this list. Incest is when people who are related have sex. This can be, for example: a parent raping a child is incest. Two first cousins marrying is also incest. Different countries and states have different rules for how distantly related two people need to be to avoid incest, mostly because children born from incest often have serious health problems.

I have searched the internet on incest and I am really shocked to encounter so many articles. I have read many cases from different parts of the world. I didn’t know how common this is in our world. However, in most of the cases abuse plays a big part but the condition in the book is not abusive. When I read this book I thought this theme would not apply to real world but after searching on the internet I have come to conclusion that it is quite common. Let’s take India as an example: especially in south India it is legal to marry your cousin, though it is not that disgusting as the situation in this book it is still Incest. I think is really should be banned because it has no many side effects. There are many cases where children are born as handicap.

I would like to discuss an article from BBC news. This is one of the most known recent cases of abusive incest. I will only quote the headline of the article. The following article is copied from www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14668270

25 August 2011 Last updated at 15:28 GMT

New incest case with Fritzl echoes shocks Austrians

Police in Austria have arrested a man suspected of imprisoning and sexually abusing his two daughters in his village home over 40 years. Police are investigating the alleged abuse at a house in the village of St Peter am Hart.

The theme of this article, incest and isolation, could be compared with the book. However, in the book there is no abuse involved and this article is about complete and forced isolation but this is not the case with the book. In the book they isolate themselves willingly.

But the behavior and character for these two daughters could be compared. Jack and Julie didn’t know much about social values so they didn’t consider sibling relation as wrong so they practiced it. These two daughters also did know much about social values and they had mental disorder and I think you can apply this to Julie and Jack because only mentally person can do such things.

The following article is copied from (I have only copied headline for full story visit this website)


Another incest rape in Kerala: 14-year-old girl sexually abused by brother, friend for 2 years

Kasaragod, Mon Dec 17 2012, 16:34 hrs

In yet another incident of sexual abuse of minors by their kin in Kerala, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her brother and his friend over the last two years.

This article is also about Incest but this article fits more with the book than the first one. The similarity between this article and book is the relation between siblings and a difference is that the girl is forced. This is just insane; I mean how you can allow you to have sex with your sibling. I think these types of people should be hanged in front of everyone. They are disagrees to the human society.


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