Doyle, Roddy - A Star Called Henry (Character Analysis of Henry Smart)

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Character Analysis of Henry Smart

Henry Smart is the main character and the narrator who tells the story. If we want to understand the character of Henry, we have to focus on his motivation. First of all Henry is driven by his desires to be acknowledged and loved. These desires, which are based on negligence during his childhood, are the root cause for his susceptibility to the seductions of being a hero. Jack Dalton uses this against him to lure him back to the IRA (cf. p. 175).

In this connection, the title “A Star Called Henry” directly refers to these desires; Henry wants to be a star just like his dead siblings. He wants to live up to them, especially to his older brother, who is also called Henry. From his point of view, his mother gave all her love to the dead children and not to those who were alive, thus Henry hates his dead siblings. This aspect accompanies the reader throughout the story. Whenever Henry is watching the stars he says “My name is Henry Smart! The one and only Henry Smart!” (p. 43 l.30). Furthermore, Henry is not religious because he feels betrayed by God. This aspect becomes obvious when Henry states “And religion. I already hated It. [...] That was one good thing that came out of all the neglect: we’d no religion. (p.87 ll.17-21)”

Due to Henry’s interpretation of his mother’s stories about his dead brothers and sisters, he has become very similar to his mother. That is, he has a special relationship with the stars. He treats them almost as if they were human beings, and from his point of view they most certainly are: These stars are his siblings and one particular star is his enemy, the other Henry. This is the difference between his mother and him; she loves all these stars because they are her lost little babies. Henry on the other hand just wants to get rid of them because they received the love of his mother that he never had.

Henry’s actions stand in complete contrast to his inner emotional turmoil. He tries to act straight, to be tough. Henry wants to convey a picture of himself that shows a man who does not care about others, a man who “fuck[s] the nations of the world (p.122 l.28)”.

Nevertheless, he is the only one who really cares about others, who lives for the ideals of the revolution. His behaviour differs from the behaviour of the other IRA members who cash in on their newly acquired power. Thus, it can be stated that Henry Smart is in the end a kind of hero; he just isn’t given any credit for it (cf. pp. 110-111 and pp.122-123).

Henry describes himself as “the glowing baby” who has come to “tickle their misery”. Due to the fact that Henry is also the narrator, he is not very reliable when he describes himself. However, we can derive from this description his wish to be that hero, that glowing baby; a person no one will ever forget. In the end Henry, is a kind of tragic character that will never be acknowledged by others. In addition, he is exploited by those he trusted like Jack Dalton. His marriage to Miss O’Shea can be seen as a demonstration of his “mother complex”, due to his feelings of being neglected by his own mother.