Has a sheltered upbringing
As the novel progresses…….
Realist & pragmatic
Courageous- not afraid to challenge the status quo
Persephone Hadley is one of the novel’s protagonists. In many respects, this character develops and evolves over the course of the novel. Initially, Sephy is conveyed as an affluent Cross kid, whose father holds an esteem position in the government. Her family are seen as stalwarts in socially elite circles. In turn, Sephy is expected to conform to certain social norms as many people look up to the Hadleys. In many ways, this is extremely difficult for Sephy who is by nature a very tomboyish girl. As a result, she can at times appear querulous, challenging her parents and quarrelling with her sister Minnie. Sephy has had a very sheltered existence and at the beginning of the novel, she is quite oblivious to the disparity between noughts and crosses.
From her friendship with Callum, we learn that she is a caring, empathetic friend. She assiduously helps her friend Callum with his revision for the Heathcroft entrance exam, constantly supporting him and encouraging him not to give up. However, Sephy’s character is one that experiences a lot of trauma throughout the novel and as a result, we see the character of Sephy evolving into a very resilient, self-reliant and courageous young woman. Sephy is extremely naïve on her first day back at Heathcroft and not at all clued into the social norms and bigotries that separate noughts and crosses.
In the canteen she must choose her loyalties between Callum, her nought friend or her cross friends. Sephy chooses to sit beside Callum in a show of solidarity. However, he is unhappy that she is drawing unwanted attention to him and his nought friends. Her cross friends are none too happy either and begin to label her a ‘blanker lover’. As a result, Sephy finds herself ostracised. She becomes a social pariah because of the divisive nature of society. Sephy becomes the victim of bullying in the toilets by a group of girls in Heathcroft.
Sephy struggles to keep up her friendship with Callum at Heathcroft and this devastates her immensely.
We see the solicitous aspect of Sephy’s character when Ryan McGregor is wrongfully accused of the Dundale bombing. She is incredulous to the events as they unfold, remarking ‘Ryan McGregor just had to be found not guilty. It was only right and proper. It was only just. It was only justice.’ But by now we see a more discerning Sephy as she is more aware of the disparity that exists between noughts and crosses. She knows intuitively that Ryan McGregor is doomed. She declares that ‘Ryan McGregor wasn’t guilty. So why did I feel like I was the only Cross in the world- to believe that?’
After Callum’s expulsion from Heathcroft, Sephy begins to emulate her mother’s self-harming tendencies by turning to alcohol. For Sephy, drinking is cathartic. It is a means of escapism, allowing her to forget all her worries. She describes how ‘a couple of drinks and I don’t mind about anything. Isn’t that cool?’ Sephy describes how she ‘limits’ herself to one glass per night, thinking she is in control but it is clearly evident that she is spiralling out of control. It is only when she begins Chivers boarding school that she realises the extent of her problem:
‘I didn’t really believe I was drinking that much and I certainly wasn’t an alcoholic, but after the second day of feeling wretched and wrung out, I finally realised, I was suffering from alcohol withdrawal pains’. She describes how she had to ‘fight hard against the sudden cravings’ she got from a couple of glasses of wine or cider, and how she had to bury herself in schoolwork and activities as a sort of distraction. Callum disparagingly labels Sephy as a ‘drunk. A lush. An alcy’. This retort by Callum has the desired effect as Sephy cannot bear Callum’s disapproval: ‘I covered my ears. ‘Don’t say that. That’s enough’.
Chivers proves to be a very wise decision on Sephy’s behalf. It is at Chivers that she develops and matures into an inspirational young woman. She becomes more resilient after her struggle with alcohol. She becomes more self-reliant and independent, immersing herself in a wide variety of activities offered at Chivers. She becomes an extremely articulate character as a result of joining a dissident group who believed in the ‘true integration between noughts and crosses’. Sephy describes how this dissident group as the ‘one thing that kept me focused……… it was my reason for doing well’.
She becomes even more of a non-conformist in that she challenges the injustice of the status quo describing how they were ‘trying to do something about it-albeit from behind the scenes. We moved quietly but irrevocably, like a relentless army of tiny termites eating away at the rotten fabric of a house’. We see her solicitous nature in her decision to become a lawyer:
‘I’ve decided to be a lawyer. But I’m only going to work on those cases that I believe in. I’m going to be another Kelani Adams. I’m going to stand up and speak out’.
As the novel progresses, Sephy becomes more of a realist and a pragmatist declaring that she has ‘stopped brooding and I’ve stopped yearning for the impossible’. She is quite resigned to the fact that her and Callum are over and it would never have worked in the first place because of the divisive nature of their society: ‘Maybe in another lifetime or in a parallel universe somewhere Callum and I could be together the way we should be. But not here’.
She appreciates that her family are a negative element in her life and she makes the very tough decision to distance herself from them in order for her to retain her sanity. This is no easy decision for any young person to make. She describes how trapped and confined poor Minnie feels by their needy, over-dependent mother. She describes how her ‘mother cries or throws a tantrum’ when Minnie raises the subject of her going to university. Sephy is discerning in that she recognises that her mother is an emotional parasite and she feels happy about her decision to leave home and attend Chivers boarding school: ‘I’m glad I got out before her. Selfish but true’.
Sephy emerges as a very brave and defiant character in that she has to fight both of her parents on the issue of her having an abortion: ‘I’m going to keep my baby….. It’s my body and my baby, and I’m keeping it’.
She repeatedly states over and over that Callum didn’t rape her. When she refuses to comply with her father’s wishes to have an abortion, her father assaults her: ‘Dad slapped me so hard he knocked me off my feet’. Horrifically, Kalmal Hadley, so call pillar of society disowns his daughter because she refuses to have an abortion: ‘You are no longer my daughter’. He derogatorily labels her a ‘blanker’s slut’ and declares that she will have an abortion before he allows her to ‘embarrass’ him any further. She describes how she feels at this moment ‘Alone’.
Her father’s derisive words really wounded her as she buries her face in her hands and cries, feeling utterly alone and devastated. We see the resilient nature of Sephy when her father tries one last time to coerce her into having an abortion. Kamal Hadley employs emotional blackmail over his daughter, claiming that she alone has the power to save Callum’s life. We see her strength of character shine in what is an impossible situation: ‘Callum’s life or our baby’s? That was the choice’. We see how Sephy remains loyal to Callum to the very end by repeatedly shouting at him: ‘I love you Callum. And our chid will love you. I love you Callum, I’ll always love you’. Sephy remains loyal to Callum’s memory by naming her baby daughter after Callum, Callie Rose McGregor.