The Theme of “Immortal”
Right from the start, children have been taught to make friends. As they slowly grow up, people begin to really treasure and appreciate their friends, and understand the true meanings of friendship. In the novel Immortal by Gillian Shields, Evelyn “Evie” Johnson arrives at a boarding school convinced that she didn’t need anyone. However, as the story moves on and Evie becomes hopelessly entangled in a confusing web of lies, secrets, and mysteries, she realizes that she had friends who were with her all along. Throughout the book, it is clear that one main theme the story revolves around is friendship.
Initially, when Evie first arrives at Wyldcliffe Abbey School, she meets Sarah Fitzalan and Helen Black, two girls who each shows kindness and support to Evie. Sarah’s kindness can be seen after everyone else seems to reject Evie: “The students stared back in silence, all two hundred of them, judging, assessing, rejecting. The faintest snicker of laughter rippled around their polished ranks…The curly-haired girl who had called me over gave me an encouraging smile… ‘Hi, Evie,’ she said across the table. ‘I’m Sarah. Sarah Fitzalan'” (Shields, pg. 19, ¶1, 5-6). In this quote, Sarah welcomes Evie when every other girl turns away with disgust at Evie’s modest appearance. Through this simple act of kindness, the reader can infer that Sarah has made Evie feel less alone and more accepted, even if it is just one person. Helen shows her kindness when Celeste, a popular girl, makes fun of Evie: “I looked at her in surprise. I hadn’t expected Helen to show me any support. Gratefully I followed her out of the room…I saw a dim, secret landing where some twist wooden steps snaked down into total darkness… ‘[This way] we don’t have to bump into Celeste and her crew'” (Shields, pg.40, ¶3-4). Here, the reader notes that Helen tries to protect Evie from Celeste and her snobby friends by showing Evie another way they could go in order to avoid them. In her own way, Helen has shown kindness to Evie, perhaps making Evie feel better after Celeste’s rude comments. Ultimately, Sarah and Helen’s simple acts of kindness gave hints to Evie that they welcome her and are willing to be her friends.
As the story progresses, Evie realizes that Helen and Sarah were always there, watching out for her. For example, when Sarah asks Evie what’s really on her mind, she reveals Helen’s concern for Evie: “‘I went to see Helen in the infirmary last night. She told me that you’ve been sneaking out night after night. She’s been watching you. And she’s worried about you'” (Shields, pg. 183, ¶ 5). That is to say, Helen, because she is Evie’s friend, has been quietly observing and worrying about Evie’s “midnight meetings.” Whether or not Evie considers Helen her friend, Helen has been watching out for Evie, in the way how friends have each other’s backs. When Sarah leaves after visiting Evie, who had a fever, in the infirmary, Evie reflects on what had happened: “I watched [Sarah] go, feeling better. My friend had done me good. I glanced down at the little flower that Helen had given me. Perhaps Helen, in her own strange way, wanted to be friends too” (Shields, pg. 203, ¶ 10). At this point in the story, Evie finally picks up on the hint that both Sarah and Helen are her friends. Perhaps now, Evie is finally feeling like someone’s out there to support her, and that she’s not utterly alone. All in all, friendship has become a part of Evie’s life, even if she has just became aware of it.
At the end of the book, Evie, Sarah, and Helen form a special bond as they deepen their friendship and form the Circle. A piece of evidence to show this friendship is after they complete the ritual for the first time, and Helen turns to smile at Sarah and Evie, “ ‘So now we are complete. Four friends, four elements, four corners of the Circle'” (Shields, pg. 326, ¶ 6). The fourth friend is Agnes, Evie’s ancestor/Mystic Sister, who appears to Evie in a vision-like form. However, Agnes joins their Circle, as they are using her Talisman in which she has “left” her powers, and completes the Circle. At this point in the story, Helen’s words imply that they, Sarah and Helen and Evie, are officially friends and acknowledge that bond. In the end, Evie changes from being an outcast in the beginning to having friends that will support her: “Yes, I had friends. Yes, I needed to get back to Wyldcliffe. My friends would be waiting” (Shields, pg. 360, ¶ 6). Here the reader notes that Evie fully accepts Sarah and Helen as her friends. Given what has happened in the book, the reader can infer that the three of them will stand by each other no matter what. In conclusion, by the end of the story, Evie finds herself with two loyal friends who will help her through any difficult time ahead.
Upon examination, the theme that the book is centered around is friendship. In the beginning, Evie believes she didn’t need anyone, and does not know that Sarah and Helen were secretly looking out for her. Evie realizes after a while that both Sarah and Helen are her friends; they always were. Soon, they share not only the bond of friendship, but also come together as Mystic Sisters, followers of the Mystic Way. This book is the type of book where after it is finished, some of it will linger and hang there in readers’ consciences, causing readers to really think about it. Sometimes, people have to open themselves up to the possibilities. Many people will often believe that they don’t need anyone, that they’re strong enough to handle anything. That’s not true, no matter what reasons they may come up with. It’s too much of a burden for any one person to handle all the problems they have over a lifetime by themselves; people need others who can be empathetic and help them out in those dark times. People want to be friends; they may have been leaving clues since the day you met. You only have to accept their friendship, and then perhaps one day, you will look back and be really grateful you two became friends. Friends are people who understand you, who will stick with you through thick and thin. A friend can simply brighten your day, or they may one day save your life. They might be a really good listener and secret-keeper. Most will have your back no matter what. They can do simple things like lending a hand when you’re overloaded with errands to bigger things like rescuing you from a potential death. You never know. That’s what friends are for.
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