Who are the main characters in Bonecrack? What would be typical questions for a test on this book?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The main characters in Dick Francis's Bonecrack are the protagonist Neil Griffon, his character foil Alessandro Rivera, and the antagonist Enso Rivera, Alessandro's father. Below are more details about each.

Neil Griffon is both the story's narrator and the protagonist. He has matured to become an extremely independent character, starting out after graduating from Eton as a successful antiques dealer and then becoming a financial consultant.  He also begins to tutor Alessandro Rivera, the source of conflict in the story and Neil's character foil, in how to be a jockey. At the beginning of the story, Neil is kidnapped from the Rowley Lodge racing stable by Enso Rivera, the story's antagonist and an international fence, who blackmails Neil by warning he'll destroy the stable if Neil does not allow Enso's son Alessandro to ride the stable's top horse, Archangle, as a jockey in the upcoming important derby.

A character foil is a character that is the exact opposite of another character. Because they are exact opposites, character foils tend to bring out each others' characteristics, and Neil and Alessandro are each others' foils. Alessandro Rivera was raised to be extremely spoiled and to use violence to get what he wants, just like his father. In contrast to Neil, he believes that getting what he wants also equates to being independent. However, Neil sees the truth in his character foil, that Alessandro's father, Enso, is really corrupting his son and his true abilities to be independent by making him reliant on his father. Despite being spoiled, Neil quickly sees that Alessandro actually has talent as a jockey and begins training him. However, Neil also helps dissolve Alessandro's ego problem by denying he ride Archangel and instead dictating he ride other horses, like Traffic, the feistiest horse in the stable. Alessandro also has his ego knocked down a notch when he falls off Traffic. As the training continues, Enso and Neil continue battling; Enso even sends his thugs to disable horse after horse, sending the signal that Alessandro will ride only Archangle or no one will ride any horses. However, Neil eventually catches a thug in the act and even uncovers Enso's plot to murder Archangel's typical jockey, Tommy Hoylake. Ironically, Neil has been assigned to exercise Archangel for the upcoming derby and allows Alessandro to do it; so, Enso has really, unknowingly, sent his thugs to murder his own son. Because Neil saves Alessandro's life and his own father threatens it, by the end of the story, Alessandro realizes just how corrupt his own father is and how his father actually takes away his freedom and independence rather than gives him freedom and independence.

To prepare for a test, it's very important to understand the main theme of a book. One possible test question mostly likely may be, what is the main theme in Bonecrack? And, as we've seen through the interplay of both independent Neil and his dependent foil Alessandro, one of the main themes is independence vs. dependence or even independence vs. imprisonment. The book also centers around corruption, so corruption is another main theme.

You will probably also be asked questions about the characters, such as, how does Neil demonstrate his independence? How does Neil show himself to be a stronger person than Alessandro? What happens to make Alessandro see that he is actually dependent on his father? In what ways does Alessandro function as Neil's character foil?

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Neil Griffon is the main character.  He runs Rowley Lodge Stables and is blackmailed by Enso Rivera to make his son Alessandro a jockey.

If you take a test on this book, you will likely be asked about the main characters, their motivations, and the basic plot.  This is not a common book to teach, so these are the questions you can expect.  The book takes place at Rowley Lodge, a horse stable.  The head of the stable is one of your characters.  His name is Neil Griffon.  He is kidnapped and then blackmailed by Enso Rivera, a truly bad guy.  Enso first kidnaps Griffon and then blackmails him into getting his son Alessandro into serving as a jockey.  Alessandro is obnoxious, so Griffon would never keep him employed in his own right if Rivera didn’t threaten to destroy the stable or kill the horses.  Rivera wants his son to ride the champion horse, Archangel, or else.

I was taking his father’s threats seriously.  [That] abduction last week had not been a playful joke, and until I was certain Enso would not let loose a thunderbolt it was more prudent to go along with his son. (Ch. 6, p. 112)

However, it turns out that Alessandro actually has skill, even if he is a spoiled brat.  The trainers complain about his attitude, but Griffon knows that he has to keep the boy on and he tries to do his best to be a mentor.

On an exam, you might be asked about motivations.  What was Enso Rivera’s motivation?  Pride?  To see his son succeed?  What was Alessandro’s?  At first, he was just a spoiled brat, but he was able to develop his talent.  At first, Griffon’s only motivation was not to earn Rivera’s wrath.  However, he saw something worth developing in Alessandro, and tried to influence him to a life of talent rather than crime.  In the end, Alessandro chooses Griffon’s influence over his criminal father.

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