Flipping Fantastic is a story presented in a form of diary entries. It conveys the thoughts of twin brothers, Tristan and James and their mother. The story starts with the last day of primary school at Peter Hill where the twin brothers both acted parts in a school play. Tristan gets to play the leading character as Tom Sawyer, whereas James only got a tiny role, and still he did not do well. The twin boys have always been together and for the first time they have to go to two different schools. Tristan who is a disabled and wheel-chair bound will be going to Chesterlea Grange, a residential school for special children. His brother James will be going to Highfields, a normal secondary school. Since James and Tristan have always been together, both James and their mother are worried about Tristan’s well being in the new school. Tristan on the other hand was experiencing mixed feelings about leaving the familiar Peter Hill Primary and starting at Chesterlea Grange. In the end, both Tristan and James decide that they would make it on their own if they set their mind to it.
Exploring a Short Story
It is useful to look for these elements when attempting to read a short story:
- Point of View
- Moral value
Point of View
The story is set out in the form of diary entries by twin brothers, James and Tristan and their mother. The story starts with the last day of primary school at Peter Hill where the twin brothers took parts in a school play. The diary pages reflected the thoughts of both the twin brothers, Tristan and James on the new schools they will be attending shortly. The diary pages of the mother reflect her thoughts on the behavioral aspects of her twin sons.
The main characters are Tristan and James. They are twins. Tristan is physically challenged and is wheel-chair bound. Tristan has developed a very positive spirit and he is very confident for a person who needs help to get around. Tristan is smart. He is good in mathematics. He has a great memory and thus doing homework is easy for him. Tristan found his element in acting in dramas and stage plays.
James, on the other hand, is shy. He is the exact opposite of Tristan, needing words of encouragement to get going. He is very good in football but he hates drama. James is more inward looking; shy, nervous and lacked confidence. When he gets a tiny role in the play, he feels very nervous until he forgets his line.
The Minor Character
The mother is the minor character. She is sensitive to her sons’ needs. Although she is not a major character in the story but she is instrumental in providing relevant information so that we can understand the twins better. She is positive minded and very optimistic. She would not want Tristan to think lowly of his disability. She wants Tristan to be brave and have a positive outlook in life despite his physical shortcomings. This can be gathered from the words,” I ‘m only interested in what you can do.” She is observant and understanding. During the summer holidays, she could observe the unhappiness of both of her boys. James is normally quiet by nature but not Tristan. She feels that she is making a wrong decision by sending them to different schools.
Exposition -This is where the story begins and we are introduced to the characters.
Tristan and James are just about finishing their primary education. Although they are twins, they are very different in many ways. It is the last day in Peter Hill Primary for the twins. A play is always held on the last day. Both of the boys are involved in it. Tristan has the lead role while James took a small part. The play was ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’. Tristan was selected for the role of Tom. While Tristan took to the role like fish to water, James was ill at ease. On the big night, among the parents watching, sitting in the front row was their mother. She was so happy that her two boys were acting in the play. She marvelled at how well Tristan delivered his lines. She was also pleased with James even though she senses he had stammered a little bit. For Tristan, he was definitely very delighted with the way the whole play turned out. The stage and prop were all in place. As for his acting, he felt he did a good job. James, on the other hand, felt he stumbled on his line that comprised only seven words and did notice Jessica Parker laughing at him from the audience.
Conflict-This is the part of the story that causes a tension.
It is the beginning of their summer holidays but the boys are not excited. The two boys will be going to different schools in the new school term. Tristan will be going to a special residential school for the disabled while James will be going to a normal day school. Tristan will be staying at the school hostel and return home only on weekends. James, on the other hand, will be travelling to school from home. Tristan depends on James for physical support like pushing him around in his wheelchair while James needs Tristan for moral support. In short, they cannot do without each other. Both were concerned about the other’s feelings but did not want to talk about it.
Climax- In this part of the story, the tension is at its highest.
Mum notices the boys being unusually quiet. She has a talk with Tristan about going to a Chesterlea Grange. Tristan tells his mum that he does not want to go there but later he regrets saying that to mum. James was happy to hear of Tristan’s decision though he thought that Tristan will learn to be independent if he goes to the school. He talks to Tristan and convinced him to go to Chesterlea Grange.
This part of the story presents the outcome of the attempt to clear the tension.
Tristan finally decides to go to Chesterlea Grange and it was an excellent place for him. He found it ‘flipping fantastic’. James, meanwhile goes to Highfields and he is also happy as his special friend Kiara Jones is there. Both the boys have decided that they could manage on their own, in the absence of each other.
Place : The place setting where the story revolves around is the home of Tristan and James, where James has a talk with Tristan about the school. It is a happy and pleasant place to be. The other places mentioned are Peter Hill Primary where the play was staged. This is a place of fond memories and friendship. Then comes, Chesterlea Grange. Chesterlea Grange is a fully residential school for special children. It is fully equipped with facilities for the physically challenged to acquire knowledge and survival skills. It is Tristan’s new school, an exciting and fun place. Finally, there is Highfields, James’ new school.
Time: Present Day
Responsibility- James feels responsible for his brother, Tristan who uses the wheelchair. In one of the diary entries, James stated that he can help him with his wheelchair, he can hold back the automatic doors, he can make sure that Tristan gets to the toilet when he needs to and he also can tell the teacher what Tristan can and cannot do during Physical Education class.
Self-reliance- Tristan had been dependent on James to do things for him. When Tristan goes to Chesterlea Grange he will have to be independent. In the story the mother says, “I know you’re clever and confident, but you still rely on other people to do too much for you and it’s time you stood on your own two feet!”
Love that keeps members of a family together- The twins are very close to each other. They are closely related as they are always together. James helps to push Tristan around in his wheel chair. They provide comfort and support to each other. They feel they need each other. Due to their close relationship, they feel very sad about the fact that they’ll be separated into different school.
v We should focus on our strengths
v Positive thoughts give us confidence
v Members of a family should always support each other
v It is good to be independent
v Our talents and abilities should be nurtured
The title “Flipping Fantastic”. ‘Fantastic’, means that something is extraordinary or superb. ‘Flipping’ in the context of this short story means ‘to react strongly and especially enthusiastically’. So the title, “Flipping Fantastic” implies ‘extraordinarily superb’.
Although the language is simple, the reader will need to tie up the character traits and the story as the story is built up from the diary pages of three persons.
The literary devices used in this story include mainly figurative language, imagery, irony and alliteration.
The figurative language include:
Similes- ” Like a tyre that has burst, totally deflated“
Metaphors- “James is such a pest“.
Personification-”Time could have stopped still“.
As for imagery, it was used in the following manner-” We’re very much stuck together“.
An example of alliteration:-”Flipping Fantastic!”
The use of irony is exhibited in such sentence as- “…. looking as if they have won the lottery, and then lost the lottery down the drain”.