Literature / Goodnight Mister Tom

A book by Michelle Magorian, set in the village of Little Weirwold in Britain, during World War II.

In September 1939 operation Pied Piper relocated 1.5 million people out of major cities. Among them is one William Beech, who is evacuated to live with Mr Thomas Oakley, a sour and gruff man who never really got over the loss of his wife and son. As the book progresses the abused and perpetually terrified William grows into a confident and well rounded young boy, whereas Mr Tom begins to open up again and becomes an active part of the community as well as caring deeply for William, helping him to stop wetting the bed, learn to read and helping him investigate his creative side: even going into an art shop, a place he had never been in since his wife, an artist, had died.

Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Will's mother.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Sammy
  • Blitz Evacuees
  • The Chain of Harm: A policeman blames Will's abuse at his mother's hands on her having been a victim of her late husband.
  • City Mouse
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Poor Zach. Not, as one might have thought, Sammy.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Will is locked in the coalroom with his baby sister for at least a week with no food, and when he's found she's been dead in his arms for God knows how long.
  • During the War
  • Foreshadowing: When one of Mrs Beech's neighbours is asked where she went, the lady states she said she was "going to the coast. A few chapters later, it is revealed she committed suicide.
  • Fish out of Water: Tom in London.
  • Film of the Book: A TV movie was made in the early 2000s, and was quite loyal to the book.
  • The Fundamentalist: Will's mother threatens him with Hell for even the slightest offence, and sees alcohol and sex as inherently sinful.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Tom, of course.
  • The Hermit: Tom.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted with Tom's baby son William and Will's baby sister.
  • Jerk Ass: Will's mother.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: Tom became misanthropic and reclusive as a result of losing his wife and baby son, 40 years before.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In addition to being The Fundamentalist, Will's mother is also an anti-Semite and flies into a rage when she finds out that her son is friends with a Jew.
  • Pride: Will's mother refuses the clothes and gifts he brings back from Little Weirwold, offended at the thought of taking "charity".
  • Promotion to Parent: Tom. "He called me dad."
  • Rage Against the Heavens: William's reaction when learning of the death of Zach.
  • Sex Is Evil: Will's mother taught him this.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Zach's use of the words delumptious and scrumplicious, two portmanteaux (delicious+scrumptious) coined by Enid Blyton.
    • Although it's more specifically called out (because Tom read the story to Willie) also Rudyard Kipling's language from the Just So Stories.
  • Survivor Guilt: Will blames himself for his sister's death because he wasn't able to escape.
  • Title Drop
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl Carrie and Ginnie.
  • Wham Episode: (Or rather chapter). There are two. The first, where William returns to London to find his mother insane and is left to die with his newborn sister (who does) is more predictable than the second — after a series of "everything's all right again" chapters, Zach is suddenly called back to London and killed in an air raid.
  • You Are What You Hate: One possible interpretation of one of Will's mother's neighbours mentioning a lot of banging sounds at night as if the furniture were being moved around is that Will's mother is a prostitute. Her fanatic hatred of sex could be a result of this.
    • Almost certainly. Will's mother's neighbour also mentions that Mrs Beech takes in lodgers, who have her bedroom and she sleeps downstairs - "or, that's what she says". It's also how she would have fell pregnant with Trudy.

Alternative Title(s): Goodnight Mr Tom