Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Goodnight Mister Tom

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

September 1939 saw over 1.5 million evacuees sent out of Britain's major cities, and into the countryside. Among them is William Beech, a shy and easily startled boy who ends up having to live with Mr Thomas Oakley, a sour and gruff man who has little time for anyone outside of his dog, Sammy.

As the book progresses, the abused and perpetually terrified William grows into a confident and well-rounded young man, while "Mister Tom", as William calls him, also begins to open up again, and becomes an active part of the local community. William and Tom become extremely close, to the point where William sees the old man as the father figure he never had, and Tom grows to love the boy as his son.

A film was made in 1998, starring the late John Thaw as Mr Tom.


Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Will's mother is mentally and physically abusive to him, to the extent where William is starved and beaten so badly he has welts, bruises and scars on his back. She ends up leaving William alone for days on end with his baby sister, who ends up dying from starvation in her big brother's arms despite his best efforts.
  • Asshole Victim: Even though it was suicide none of us felt a need to shed a tear or pity Will's horrible excuse of a mother.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Sammy. While William is scared of him at first, Sammy quickly becomes a loyal companion to him.
  • Blitz Evacuees: The story starts with a group of evacuees being sent to Little Weirwold. William and Zach are two of the more notable ones.
  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • City Mouse: William initially struggles to cope with moving from London to the countryside.
  • 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: Goodnight Mister Tom is set during World War II.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Tom is absolutely disgusted when he discovers the bruises and welts on William's back, that he immediately throws the belt provided by William's mother in the garden.
  • 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.
  • Film of the Book: A TV movie was made in 1998 and was fairly loyal to the book while missing out a lot of the emotion which made it great.
  • Fish out of Water: Both Tom in London, and William in Little Weirwold.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Will's mother.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tom, of course. Yes, he is grumpy, reclusive and initially not too happy about taking in William. However, he quickly warms to the boy when he realises how badly William suffered at the hands of his mother. He also warms to other people in general.
  • 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


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: