Alexander Jackson’s Growth in the Novel “Forbidden City” What if you had a one in a lifetime chance to look at the world from a whole new angle? Would you take the opportunity to look at things in a new way, or would you simply accept things as you see them now? Alexander Jackson is a seventeen year old Canadian, whose view of the world has been drastically changed. My novel study presentation on the book “Forbidden City”, will be about the protagonist Alex Jackson and how he grows and changes throughout the novel.
The beginning of the book introduces a responsible, organized Alex who is a history nut, and who is fascinated with everything to do with the military. He even made three dozen miniature soldiers and one war chariot with four horses, just for fun. He fashioned all the soldiers with lead then hand-painted each one cautiously until they were perfect. Alex was always a little outgoing and adventurous. “Come on, Dad, I’ll be all right. I’m not a baby, you know. ” (Bell, 36) and “This is just an excuse to keep me here, right? Because you think it will be too dangerous, right? (Bell, 97) are quotes that show how Alex is outgoing . Alex and his Dad travel to China where they meet Eddie. Eddie did not seem pleased to meet Alex, and said, “Well, we’ll try and find a spot for you. ” (Bell, 16). Afterwards their relationship grew friendlier. Alex also met another friend, Lao Xu. Lao Xu loved history and seemed to know everything about China. When Alex asked Eddie why Lao Xu did not just become a history teacher if he loved it so much, Eddie answered saying Chinese people do not get to pick their job and that Lao Xu was basically a spy sent by the government.
This made Alex feel a little uncomfortable and upset because he wasn’t sure if Lao Xu was really his friend or not. “Maybe Lao Xu and I could still be friends, but now I knew there would always be a wall between us. ” (Bell, 31) Alex’s feelings towards Lao Xu changed for the better as the story continued. “Eddie might be right about him being a spy, but Lao Xu had stuck with us for more reasons than surveillance. I was convinced of that now. It was as if he wanted to help explain what was happening so that we wouldn’t get the wrong idea… It suddenly struck me how much I liked him. (Bell, 108) When Alex finds himself trapped in the chaos of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) shooting on the university students, his friend, Lao Xu was shot and killed. Alex had to try and find his father by staying calm and being smart about what he was doing. Alex’s thoughts during this time were clear and precise, “…took the tape recorder out of my pocket. I talked into it for a few moments, calmly… I know this sounds crazy, but I just sat there on the steps and looked around. ” (Bell, 115) During the chaos in Tian An Men Square, Alex was shot in the leg.
He was with some Chinese people, and they carried him to their home where he stayed for a few days. This was a very emotional time for Alex. He had many questions…Where was his Dad? Was he safe? Did the PLA have him? Was he shot? Was he alive? He had also seen his innocent friend get killed right in front of him, and he was overcome with emotion. “I felt overwhelmed, as if I had been swept away by a tidal wave. I felt like I was drowning. Tears coursed down my face, dripping off my chin and onto the quilt. ” (Bell, 123) Xin-hua was another one of Alex’s friends who he met when he stayed at her home.
The two of them set off to find Alex’s father. Their relationship grew quite a lot during their time together. It was dangerous for Xin-hua to be helping a foreigner, and if she was caught she would be arrested and possibly killed. Alex knew this as he thought, “what I wanted to do was separate from her right there… She’d be safe on her own as long as she was careful. ” (Bell, 179) Sadly, Xin-hua did not go back and she was caught by the PLA then killed trying to protect Alex. Alex was in a state of shock and disbelief at what had happened.
Alex finds his Dad and they fly home. Alex was traumatized and changed. He destroyed every bit of his army men and war chariot with four horses. He throws away all those hours on working on every individual piece until it was perfection. He did this because he did not see the army men as heroes who would fight for their country. He saw them as murderers and people who killed his friends. He realized Xin-hua and Lao Xu were heroes. They were simple people who did not need a uniform to make a difference. Alex realized a lot of things during his trip to China.
He saw that having a simple washing machine was a status symbol, while in Canada everyone had a television, a comfortable bed, and everyone got their own rooms. Some people even had swimming pools in their back yard. It really opened Alex’s eyes to what really mattered and changed the way he viewed the world. “Nothing will be the same now, will it, Dad? Everything will be different, and we will too. ” (Bell, 197) Would you now take that opportunity to see the world differently? I hope you learned something from the protagonist Alexander Jackson. Thank you.