By Aileen Campbell
Smith by Leon Garfield is an exciting book that’s hard to put down. It is a book about a young pick pocket who is brought up by his two sisters; Miss Fanny, Miss Bridget and his best friend Lord Tom. The twelve year olds name is Smith and the book is set in 19th century London. He pickpockets an old man in an alleyway, and instead of retrieving money, he takes a document. Straight after he pickpockets the old man, he is brutally murdered by two men in brown looking for the document. This novel by Leon Garfield is full of exhilarating twists and turns.
The reader struggles to see Smith as a hero because he is a pick pocket and thief.
In the opening chapter of the novel, Leon Garfield writes:
“A rat was like a snail beside Smith, and the most his thousand victims ever got of him was the powerful whiff of his passing and a cold draught in their dexterously emptied pockets.”
The writer compares Smith’s presence to a ‘whiff’ of a smell which suggests that he moves so quickly that passersby barely see him. The writer uses the word ‘dexterously’ to describe the way Smith emptied their pockets. This suggests that he has great skill in the way he manages to empty pockets without the person noticing. The word also brings connotations of carelessness suggesting that Smith was able to steal their money effortlessly. At this early stage in the novel it is difficult to see how this thieving character could also be a hero.
Another example of Smith being an evil character is when Smith creeps into a booksellers to try and find someone to teach him to read, but when the bookseller refuses, Smith topples over all the book shelves. Leon Garfield writes:
“Smith, capering wider and wider, struck first against one and then against the other of the two tottering shelves… The two walls of the shelves had collapsed and, with them, brought down in a mighty thunderous torrent, every last item in the whole of the ramshackle shop!” This quote shows that Smith is a very mischievous and naughty character. The writer uses the word ‘capering’ to show that Smith was laughing and having fun while he knocked into the book shelves of the store. He also uses the word ramshackle to describe the book sellers’ store. This word brings to mind a small building filled to the brim with different things and suggests that the store is quite old and messy. After this incident in the book shop, it is still very hard to see Smith as secretly being a hero.
At one point in the book, Smith helps and old blind man called Mr. Mansfield home to his house in Vine Street. He bumps into Mr. Mansfield when he was running from two men who were after Smith. He knocks over the blind man and