My mind continues to mull over Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, and another thought struck me concerning the end. Obviously, as you have read the book (right? What are you doing here if you haven’t read the book?) you know that Krystal and Robbie both die at the end. There are so many interesting angles to view this from, but the one I want to approach it this time is that of the recurring cycle of poverty.
Krystal, desperate to have a baby in the vain hope it will improve her teenage life and allow her to escape her family and situation, leaves Robbie to himself as she, ahem, gets busy with Fats some distance away. Robbie, being three, then goes too close to the river and falls in.
I think there is an angle were Rowling is clearly commenting on the cyclical nature of poverty. Krystal is recapitulating the same mistakes of her own mother, who had her and Robbie when very young. The point here is that desperation makes people make mistakes, and these mistakes are echoed in their children. Poverty is, of course, only minimally about income, and has much more to do with a mindset of desperation, hopelessness and depression which is the root cause of many exterior problems like low incomes. Barry Fairbrother gave Krystal a taste of what hope felt like. His death threw her back into hopelessness, the result of which was the attempt to get a child from Fats, in the hope that this could somehow fix her situation.
But something interrupted this. Robbie’s death prevented Krystal from becoming pregnant and broke the cycle of poverty. Stopped her from echoing her mother’s own mistakes. Now, that death also pushed Krystal, who blamed herself, into overdosing and dying as well. I see this as Rowling presenting two ways of breaking the cycle – through help and kindness that spurs them out of hopelessness and into hope, or by tragedy and death. The lesson I think she wants us to take away is that without the one who believes in the good in others, who inspires the best in people – Barry Fairbrother – there is no hope for these people. Without the true believers, the world will not change, except for the worse.