Within the novel, we see Malorie Blackman present the hastened maturation of Dante forced upon him by the reality of fatherhood that has unfortunately pressed itself upon him.
His daughter, Emma, is to be cared for by him after her mother leaves her and we see how Dante is initially bewildered, unable to even grasp his situation.
The failure to grasp the scenario, and also a subtle depersonalisation experienced by Dante, ends up with the character of Emma seeming more like an object at first, or a force of nature and time.
She is described with the pronoun ‘it’ at first, which reinforces the concept of her objectification. She is likened to a ‘ticking time bomb’ that will explode and change Dante’s life irreparably. What we see in the novel is a narration of a harsh and unfortunate reality, one in which youth and its liberty must be sadly abandoned when parenthood rears its head prematurely.
The highlight of the novel is obviously the character of Dante himself and his transformation, his struggles and his ability to fight back against the tides of life to become what he has to be. It is rather a tragedy as we see him realise and deeply understand that all of his dreams, his hopes and his desires, must be forgotten. Each goal he built for himself must be left to rot as he has to dedicate his time completely to Emma.
One can view the novel as a showcase of all the ways in which a child can affect a predicament. Emma’s existence not only affects Dante exclusively, it aids his relationship with his father. She eases the two until they can show emotions to one another. In a sense, we can see a grander criticism of society: the belief that men should be these stalwart vanguards, stoic statues that never show their feelings.
Emma arrives as a character and, like a force of nature, warms up the frost that has frozen the father-son relationship. Furthermore, we see a substantial effect in the character of Adam. He begins by appearing more open and supportive of Emma. He showers the young child with compliments and good will and is genuinely proud of her simply living.
Come the later portions of the work, we see how Adam is saved from suicide when Emma is the only one who treats him like a human and does not shun him. His effective ‘exile’ from society pushed him to the edge but it was the love and acceptance from Emma that pulled him back, implying that not only is society seriously harmful for judging as such, but it can so often be the heart and effort of one that saves the life of another.
Emma is leagues more than a human and yet, at the same time, she is the most human of all. She swoops in like a storm for some and like a refreshing breeze for others but leaves all better than before she arrived. She is the humanity, the kindness that eases the cold and saves the weary.
From this, we can argue that Malorie Blackman might be trying to portray society as a reality that lacks humanity. It ostracises many for their differences (Adam), judges many too hastily for their ‘mistakes’ (Dante), and robs many of meaningful relationships because of silly and ultimately nonsensical stereotypes (Dante’s father).
Blackman might subsequently be crying out for things to change and for the world to adopt its own Emma, something that’ll make it see the warmth. The subverting of expectations and stereotypes accelerated by Emma place her as the entire reason for the narrative, the driving force.
Dante’s dedication to learning how to be a better parent and eventually achieving that wish subverts the perception that all young parents are unwilling to learn, his father’s eventual statement of his pride for his son subverts the stereotype of men being unable or ‘forbidden’ from opening up, and Adam’s realisation that his appearance is not the end of how opportunities and his life subverts the concept that such things are true.
Boys Don't Cry
Malorie Blackman explores the realities of teenage fatherhood. You nervously wait for the postman, as he’s bringing your A level results. University, a potential career as a journalist But when the doorbell rings it’s your ex girlfriend; and she’s carrying a baby. Your baby. You’re happy to look after it, just for an hour or two. But then she doesn’t come back – your future now suddenly looks very different. Malorie’s dramatic new novel will take you on a journey from tears to laughter and back again