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Analysis of Stone Cold – English Literature

Stone Cold - Assignment Example

Link and Shelter are the two main characters in Swindells novel, “Stone Cold”. They
represent two extremes and their characterisation is shaped by Swindells use of
language, imagery and by the atmosphere of the novel. The plot of “Stone Cold”
involves the gradual integration of these two extremes that eventually collide in a
dramatic ending. Swindells starts the novel using a direct and formal introduction to
his character, “You can call me Link. ” By characterisation and tone Swindells then
expands and gradually supplies the reader with more information, “It’s not my name,
but its what I say when anybody asks.

Which isn’t often. ” The tone is sarcastic and the character appears fed up with the
route his life has taken, and as we read on reasons appear for this attitude. Link is our
first character. He is a teenage boy, full of promise and potential until he finds himself
homeless. In this novel he acts as our link to understanding the theme of
homelessness, he is the link to finding the missing youths and in a more profound
thought, he is the ‘missing link’. He is a character, which searches and searches for
something, which in the end he never finds.

Link is our direct connection to the streets of London through his diary entries and
use of adjectives. This style allows the reader not only to emphasise with Link but
also actually see themselves in London’s streets, feeling the excitement and fear first
hand through their “Link”. Swindells then introduces us to “Shelter”. Again it is direct
and within the first paragraph, the use of his name develops a certain irony, “Shelter,
yes I like it. It’s got a ring to it, I’m sure you’ll agree. ” He promises to offer the street
people “shelter”, “Shelter, as in from the stormy blast”, but in fact entices them to
their death.

As well as the tone giving us a feel of the characters and the way they act and speak
so does the type face. Swindells uses a soft font of Times New Roman for “Link”. It’s a
familiar font, easy on the eye and gives an all round ‘normal’ feel, as it is the font that
most publishers use for their text. On the other hand Swindells uses a bolder upright
font for “Shelter”. This suits his military no nonsense character and this reflects in the
title chapters as they are recorded as “Daily Routine Orders”. Swindells allows us to
learn a lot about his characters in a small amount of time.

This makes easy reading, as the characterisation allows more and more to unfold as

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Analysis of Stone Cold – English Literature

time goes on. “Link” is a first person narrative. Very quickly we become aware of his
bitter and sardonic tone, “My fascinating life”. This again indicates the irony of his
own personal situation and links him with “Shelter” as they are both using black
humour to get themselves through their situations. The opening page “You can call
me Link” is slightly mysterious. We do not know “Link’s” real name, and nor shall we
ever. This is designed to draw us into his world.

He informs us that he is “invisible”. Ironically, although we learn everyone ignores

him, we still find ourselves becoming more interested to find out why. “Link” doesn’t
leave us short of information. His first real chapter, a diary entry style is informative,
yet keeps the sarcastic, scornful tone throughout. “Shelter” can use the same irony
and tone, so to avoid the novel becoming repetitive and monotonous Swindells
jumps from “Shelter” to “Link”, alternating chapters between the two. “Shelter” is
again a first person narrative.

His extracts are told with military precision, the majority of the time apart from odd
digressions of madness, and with references to military language, such as, “Get fell
in, my luck lads”. However we learn far less about Shelter. He does not give us his
history and doesn’t waste time delving into his emotions. The only fact we really
learn about “Shelter”, except his hatred for homeless people is that he was
discharged from the army on medical grounds, yet he doesn’t give us reasons why.
“Discharged on medical grounds. And there’s nothing wrong with me”.

In fact he seems to be in denial and we question whether he has a mental rather

than physical illness. Swindells paints a socio-political background on which he sets
his novel. The main theme of homelessness is topical for young people and society
today. In chapter two Swindells tells us of the problems homeless people have to
face. He gives this as a personal account on Link’s behalf. He addresses the problems
within family households, how this can affect young people and make them resort to
voluntarily making themselves homeless.

Link tells us of his mother’s crude and unpleasant boyfriend, “but he went on and on,
getting nastier and nastier”, and then eventually, he tells us how he became
homeless, “He locked me out the house. It wasn’t even his house. ” We can tell that
Link is bitter towards Vince but we can also tell from his tone that he doesn’t regret
leaving. Even though Link doesn’t regret leaving, in chapter three we can sense a
feeling of vulnerability, “You’re going to find yourself living among hard, violent
people, some of whom are deranged.

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Analysis of Stone Cold – English Literature

None it appears more deranged than Shelter who picks up on this vulnerability and
he uses it to his advantage. Shelter refers to his victims as “recruits”, he had served in
the army and this reflects in the way he talks about the homeless people, “My
mission in life – to turn dirty, scruffy, pimply youths into soldiers”. Picking up on their
vulnerability Shelter tells them that he, “runs a hostel on Plender Street”. Although a
few seem suspicious of this, as they’ve never heard of such a place, they soon cave
and follow Shelter unsuspectingly.

Swindells uses other techniques within his novel to develop his characters. He
changes his vocabulary and tone depending on his character, and relies heavily on
imagery and metaphorical phrases. When looking at the contrasts within vocabulary
we realise Swindells has used Shelters army background to his advantage. He uses
military analogies to record each chapter and uses army vocabulary such as “it’s
begun, the recruiting. ”

Link on the other hand uses colloquial language, using slang and language that is
relative to the homeless way of life such as, “roughing it. He also uses minor
swearing. Swindells uses this vocabulary to bring Link across as a natural teenager. To
add to the distinction between this vocabulary Swindells uses a difference in tone.
Shelter on one hand is sinister, unnerving and matter of fact. His arrogance and
boasting of the killings make him proud of what he is doing. “It was as easy as falling
off a log” he states after he has murdered his first victim. He is deeply disturbing and
whilst taking on this false persona, “Shelter, yes I like it,” we still can feel his arrogant
army personality seeping through his new exterior.

Shelter’s accounts seem almost emotionless, whereas on the other hand Link shows
us an array of emotions in his slightly embittered account. Link goes through an array
of emotions in short measures of time. At first we hear him in his cynical yet
depressed state, “I’m invisible see? ” He is feeling alienated because of his
circumstances. This is put across to the reader almost straight away. In his opening
paragraph he says, “Right now I’m sitting in a doorway watching the passers-by. They
avoid looking at me”. This is his link with reality. Link then goes on to tell us of his
embarrassment and anger.

Both of these are to do with his friends and family. He feels anger and hatred
towards his mother’s boyfriend, yet feels embarrassed about his situation and that’s
why he moves to London, “I kept seeing people I knew”, “You can’t possible know

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Analysis of Stone Cold – English Literature

how low it makes you feel. ” Link continues to show us an array of emotions and by
the end of the novel Swindells has managed to incorporate nervousness, the
confusion of lust and even terror when Link realises who the man he is left alone
with really is and what he’s capable of. Swindells novel heavily relies on imagery.

Shelter uses a military way of expressing himself, such as, “breaking it in like a new
pair of boots”, “tour of inspection”, “it was about 20:00 hours”. When expressing his
views on the homeless youths Swindells makes Shelter use derogatory imagery,
metaphors and similes. Example of these are, “but I can clean up the garbage can’t
I? ” this is a metaphor. Shelter isn’t really talking about garbage at all; he’s talking
about homeless people. “He trotted at my heels like a ruddy poodle”, “followed me
home like a three year old. ” These are both examples of similes. Shelter is
comparing his victims to pathetic, helpless things, such as children.

Swindells does still keep the military connection though, “a gross error, like Hitler’s
invasion of Russia. ” This is again a simile, but uses his military background to base it
on. The use of military metaphors creates the image of a cold-blooded trained killer
who would have us believe that he kills out of necessity. The similes create images of
putting animals out of their misery. Such as act would be one of compassion but I
think it is clear that Shelter acts purely out of selfishness. Swindells uses cynical
metaphors for imagery for Link to create the idea that he is vulnerable and isolated
from society.

He uses phrases like, “I’m invisible,” and “stuck out like a sore thumb” for emphasis
of his point. However Link’s attitude slightly changes when he finds himself
unexpectedly falling in love. He becomes less cynical and uses emotional descriptive
language such as, “Her hair, Chestnut, spilling from under her green knitted cap like
fire”. The emotive images of Link contrast with the emotionless images of Shelter.
Link’s ability to love shows hope in contrast to Shelter” cold hearted attitude.
However, ironically Link’s love of his life turns out to be false so I question how real
this hope can be.

As well as relying on imagery to create and integrate his characters Swindells also
relies on mood and atmosphere. This atmosphere becomes apparent from the title,
“Stone Cold” as it gives us a sense for the mood and tone of the novel. It would be a
completely unsuitable title for a romantic comedy, however as the themes are
serious the title is very fitting. The mood is first set with Shelter’s initial caution and
meticulous planning.

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Analysis of Stone Cold – English Literature

He doesn’t want to leave a pattern, however this cannot be helped as he only wants
to murder homeless people, but he spends a great deal of time planning before he
acts. So it’s a case of wait for it, you ‘orrible little man. ” Shelter then goes on to
speak of his first outing. On this outing Shelter spends more time planning, getting
familiar with his surroundings, finding where people stay and the like, “Tour of
inspection”. He then goes on to his final stage of preparation. He wants to be friendly,
yet not overly, so he adds a cat, a normal household animal into the equation,
“Sappho is going to project a certain sort of image. Kindly and a bit academic. ”
Swindells tells us small, yet important details so we can understand Shelters
meticulous thinking.

He doesn’t want to become complacent, “But there is this unavoidable pattern, so I

have to create as much variety as possible”, “but you mustn’t get complacent”. As
Shelter’s plan falls swiftly into place. He allows it to do so with such precision that by
Daily Routine Orders 15, he’s feeling a supernatural sense of confidence. He both
begins and ends, by laughing at the police, “ha, ha, ha! ” showing that he thinks he is
higher than law and order in society. Swindells uses this to create the mood Shelter is
feeling; he is one up on the police and therefore is feeling very smug and happy for

This is brought across in the mood and tone of the writing. Swindells however uses a
different mood for Link to show contrast. Although Shelter is resentful towards the
army for making him leave, this is almost nothing compared to the resentment Link
feels towards Vince. Swindells portrays a sense of helplessness when writing as Link.
We notice this almost from the beginning of the novel. In the second chapter
Swindells gives us the character history. Link tells us of why he left home and the
atmosphere within his house; “nobody stuck up for me not even my sister.

He concentrates his anger and frustration mainly towards Vince his mothers
boyfriend, “he leers at Mum and comes out with this suggestive stuff”, “Vince stated
on at me about living on his money”. This helplessness about his situation at home
soon progresses to his fear of the streets. He is scared about being alone and being
‘picked on’. His helplessness comes through within his vocabulary, “hunger pangs and
real cold”. The image of Links vulnerability being alone contrasts with Shelter’s
military imagery. Normally the military would provide a brother-hood and protection.

However, Shelters ideas are quite deranged which may be why he was expelled from

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Analysis of Stone Cold – English Literature

service. He is now as isolated as Link. Whilst Link sees himself as helpless, Shelter
finds it motivating. This helplessness evolves when Link meets Ginger. Link feels a
surge of relief, “I’d found a friend and wanted to hang on to him”. No longer was he
alone on the streets, he now had someone to look to for support. However, Ginger
soon vanishes, and Link once again feels helpless and alone. He spends his time
searching for Ginger, hoping that he will reappear, but he doesn’t.

Swindells gives Link a certain air of panic, and this panic doesn’t leave him until he
meets Gail. The Link’s mood lurches in the opposite direction. He finds himself falling
in love, and changing his tone, leaving the cynical depressed talk behind, “We sat
there talking. It was unbelievable”. Swindells then allows the tension and pace of the
story to gather. As Link and Gail begin to twig about Shelter. The pace of the story
takes off at a great speed. This pace alters within the novel. When speaking of Vince
it picks up to let us feel Link’s hurt, anger and frustration.

However when Link meets Ginger he calms down. He becomes more comfortable as
he now has a friend. Swindells brings up the pace once again when Link is frantically
searching for Ginger, but he rounds it off and slows it back down with the
introduction of Gail to the plot. Once again there is a sense of calm within the writing
yet bursts of fury start to build up until we get Link’s confrontation with Shelter.
These increases and decreases of speed add to the creation of tension. As Swindells
talks of Links situation with being homeless, he builds up tension by speaking of the
dangers of being homeless.

When Link first moves to London he is alone and scared of other homeless people,
with good reason we are shown, “Nice watch. Gizzit! ” On the other hand Swindells
doesn’t build up tension as much with Shelter. Shelter uses matter of fact and brief
diary entries. He doesn’t go into great description of his murders and this therefore
leaves more for the reader’s imagination to play on. Link and Ginger walk into Shelter
when they are walking along and as they laugh Shelter believes they are laughing at
him and he tells us, “Never forget a face,” hinting to us that Ginger and Link will soon
be joining his ‘army’.

By interacting these characters Swindells is creating tension and pace adding to the
drama of the attempted murder of Link. It starts with a slow pace, and Shelter’s fake
concern. Swindells shows Shelter trying to persuade Link he’s a ‘nice’ person and
soon enough Link falls for it and follows Shelter into his house, “It was as simple as
that”. Link then starts to become suspicious again and Swindells increases tension

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Analysis of Stone Cold – English Literature

with an increase of pace. Link tells us, “There was a tightening sensation in my chest”,

“and when the door slammed I cried out”.

This shows tension both within the character and writing which then transfers into
the reader. This increase of tension increases until, “He was bending over me,
brandishing his garrotte, when the siren sounded. ” Swindells uses this to send
almost a wave of relief over the reader. Swindells relaxes his writing style towards the
end. The plot has been unravelled and now needs rounding off. However, after this
initial reaction of relief the reader is dismayed to discover that there is no happy
ending for Link who continues to be homeless and has now lost his hope of love.

By effectively creating a sense of tension and a varied pace Swindells managed to

integrate and intertwine two main characters into one plot. He does this by using
first person narrative and imagery to create an atmosphere so that by the end of the
novel a surge of relief comes over the reader. At the end of the novel Swindells
concludes with a rhetorical question, “It’s a free country right? ” because Link will
never be free whilst he lives on the streets and he will never be free of his memories
of Shelter.