CHAPTER SIX: Nobody Owens’s School Days
On a rainy day, Bod conceals himself beneath an arch on the Egyptian Walk as he reads Robinson Crusoe. Thackeray Porringer, who was buried with the book when he died at fourteen years old, rudely asks Bod for his book back. Bod complains that he was just borrowing it, on account of there being so few books in the graveyard, but hands it over to Thackeray. When Bod suggests that he could read Robinson Crusoe to Thackeray, Thackeray whacks Bod on his ears.
Now that Bod is eleven years old, Silas decides to tell Bod about how his parents were murdered and how the man who killed them is still searching for him. Upon hearing this, Bod proposes that he should go to school so he can be better prepared to face the man. Bod attends school without being noticed or recognized. One day, however, he gives advice to a fellow student, Paul Singh, about how to deal with two bullies: Nick Farthing and Maureen “Mo” Quilling. When Paul refuses to give his lunch money to Nick and Mo, Mo realizes that Bod was the one who convinced Paul to refuse to pay.
After school, Nick and Mo follow Bod to the graveyard to teach him a lesson. Bod is able to outsmart them by using his Fade and Fear tactics to scare them away. Amabella, Portunia, and Roderick Persson—three ghosts from the nearby graveyard—congratulate Bod on his efforts, but suggest Dreamwalking or Visitation as the best way to get a point across. Roderick Persson tells Bod to give Silas their regards, stating that they never meet any members of the Honour Guard. Bod doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but files it away for later.
Even though Bod goes to school with the living, he’s not excused from his lessons with the dead. Because he’s at school all day and all night, Bod grows exhausted. After a particularly tiring night, Bod sits in History class, and feels Nick Farthing stab his hand with a pencil. Later, Mo corners him in the hallway and says she’s not scared of Bod, despite what he did at the graveyard. Bod realizes that the students at school have begun to notice him, so when he tells Silas about what has been going on, Silas forbids Bod from returning. In retaliation, Bod runs away, and heads to Nick Farthing’s house.
Bod stands outside Nick Farthing’s house and uses Dreamwalking to transform Nick’s dreams into nightmares. After Bod successfully frightens Nick, Liza Hempstock appears and calls Bod out for running away so quickly. Liza convinces Bod to return home, but as he starts to head back, two police officers accompanied by Mo stop him. Mo identifies Bod as a local delinquent and they take Bod away. Bod learns that one of the police officers is Maureen’s uncle.
On their way to the station, the police officers hit someone. From the backseat, Bod realizes that Silas is the person they hit and Bod exclaims that they killed his father. As the police officers deliberate what to do, Silas wraps around Bod and they disappear from the scene. Back at the graveyard, Silas tells Bod that Liza came and told him about the trouble Bod was in. Bod apologizes to Silas and promises to not return to school. A week later, Bod visits Mo in school while she is cleaning the science lab and haunts her. Later, Silas tells Bod that they’ll need to find other ways for Bod to interact with the living, such as going to the theater or football games. Silas tells Bod that “they” are still looking for him, but Bod doesn’t know who Silas is referring to.
Bod’s interest in reading Robinson Crusoe, a famous book about a shipwrecked explorer, shows Bod has entered the next stage in his coming-of-age journey and is beginning to outgrow his safe life in the graveyard. Although Bod is usually honest, he takes the book without Thackeray’s permission, showing how badly he wants to understand the world beyond the graveyard. Bod’s explanation of the book to Silas shows how narrow Bod’s world is, as he understands what the sea is only by comparison with the puddles he has seen. Thackery’s immaturity and bad temper symbolizes the danger of lack of growth as he was a young teen at the time of his death, and his growth is frozen in time. The lack of books in the graveyard to satisfy Bod’s growing curiosity is also a factor behind Bod’s request to go to school, a request that Silas ultimately grants to facilitate Bod’s growth and ability to protect himself.
Bod’s character develops in another way as he gradually loses his innocence. Though he is still a curious, compassionate boy, he also exhibits vengefulness. Bod’s response to the bullies Nick and Mo shows his new realism and willingness to protect himself and others. Bod has also given thought to what it means that the killer of his family is alive in the outside world and warns Silas that he intends to seek revenge and use the skills he learned from the dead to fight back. In the Dreamwalking episodes, Bod shows he is willing to use his enemies’ fears against them. Although Bod’s independence is growing stronger, he shows he is still unprepared for the outside world when he is taken by the police officers and needs to be helped out of the situation by Silas. The episode provides a shift in Silas and Bod’s relationship as Silas realizes Bod must eventually learn to safely navigate the world of the living on his own. The fact that Silas changes Bod’s rules to accommodate his new needs, as any parent must do when a child begins to enter adulthood, shows he recognizes that Bod is becoming a young adult.