Ickabog

Ickabog Summary and Analysis of Chapters 22 - 28

Summary:

Chapter 22: The House with No Flags

Cornucopia changes greatly now that Lord Spittleworth has all but taken control. Tax collectors roam the streets seeking the two ducat tax from every household, people of Chouxville regularly place flowers at the foot of a statue of Nobby Buttons, and the Ickabog Defense Brigade parades throughout the kingdom. Nobody is able to publicly question whether the Ickabog is real because Lord Spittleworth has put up signs saying that it is treason to question the Ickabog's existence or the necessity of the Ickabog tax.

To keep King Fred occupied, Lord Spittleworth hires a painter to do a portrait of Kind Fred fighting the Ickabog, and replicas of these portraits are put up all over Cornucopia. Many citizens decorate the outside of their homes with the painting as well as signs with sayings like "PROUD TO PAY THE ICKABOG TAX" so that they will be seen as loyal to the king.

The narrator points out that the reader might wonder why King Fred's other advisors did not take action after Herringbone was killed and replaced by Lord Spittleworth. The narrator answers that the advisors were afraid to be accused of treason themselves, which would mean they would have to give up the comforts of their roles as advisors and probably be jailed or killed.

At the school in Chouxville, Bert and Daisy still have not made up. Daisy spends school breaks alone, while Bert and the school bully Roderick Roach talk about joining the Ickabog Defense Force one day. Daisy's house is also the only one in Chouxville that isn't decorated with paintings, flags, and signs. This is noticed by Lord Spittleworth, who thinks to himself that he might use this information one day.

Chapter 23: The Trial

The three Royal Guard members who opposed Lord Spittleworth are still locked in the dungeon. Lord Spittleworth thinks about killing them somehow, and he is just contemplating what poison to use when Lady Eslanda and a few relatives of the soldiers turn up at the palace demanding a trial for their loved ones. Lord Spittleworth has an idea, and he quickly tells them that the soldiers will have a trial the next day in the largest public square in Chouxville.

After the relatives leave, Lord Spittleworth goes to the dungeons and tells the soldiers about the trial. He tells the soldiers that if they don't admit to treason, he will hurt their relatives and make it look like an accident. He threatens Private Wagstaff's mother and Private Ogden's brother, and for Captain Goodfellow he threatens Lady Eslanda. This confuses Captain Goodfellow because he would never think Lady Eslanda would fall in love with someone of such low social status. By the time Lord Spittleworth leaves the dungeon, all three soldiers have been convinced to admit to treason.

Lord Spittleworth has notices pinned up all over Chouxville announcing the trial, and the next day there is a packed crowd. As expected, all three soldiers admit to treason. The crowd boos them and throws vegetables at them and their family members. However, Lady Eslanda and Captain Goodfellow share a look that communicates that Captain Goodfellow is innocent. Mr. Dovetail, who attended the trial but did not bring Daisy, does not boo the soldiers and even chooses to defend Private Wagstaff's mother from harassment.

Chapter 24: The Bandalore

Daisy is turning 8 years old, and for her birthday she requests to invite Bert Beamish and Mrs. Beamish over for tea. Though the Dovetails have been financially burdened by the Ickabog Tax, Mr. Dovetail brings out a bottle of wine and Daisy spends her own savings on two of Bert's favorite pastry. The birthday tea has its ups and downs. It starts off awkwardly with Mrs. Beamish crying because Mr. Dovetail suggests a toast to Major Beamish, but once Bert gives Daisy her birthday present of a yo-yo (which is called a bandalore in Cornucopia), everyone becomes much more comfortable. Bert and Daisy play together happily while Mr. Dovetail and Mrs. Beamish sip wine and chat.

The good mood of the birthday celebration is interrupted when Mr. Dovetail, who has had a good deal to drink, starts to argue with Mrs. Beamish about whether the Ickabog is real. Mr. Dovetail thinks that there is no proof, while Mrs. Beamish believes the Ickabog must be real because her husband is dead. Mr. Dovetail suggests that Major Beamish could have died falling off his horse, which offends Mrs. Beamish so much that she tells Mr. Dovetail that he has committed treason and storms out of the house with Bert. Daisy tries to give Bert the pastry that she bought for him before he leaves, not knowing that the pastry reminds him of the day he found out his father was dead. Bert is so upset that he knocks the pastry onto the ground accidentally, which causes Daisy to cry. Bert yells at Daisy and then he and his mother leave.

Chapter 25: Lord Spittleworth’s Problem

As time goes on, some people start to voice doubts about the existence of the Ickabog, especially in Baronstown where the people tend to be honest. A citizen of Baronstown named Tubby Tenderloin holds a meeting of about two hundred people where everyone was invited to sign a petition asking for evidence that the Ickabog Tax is necessary. Lord Spittleworth has spies in every city of Cornucopia, and his spy in Baronstown attends the meeting and then rides his horse swiftly to the palace.

The spy tells Lord Spittleworth, Lord Flapoon, and Major Roach what he has witnessed. They argue about whether to jail all of the people at the meeting or shoot all of them, but they decide that it would be impossible to get away with jailing or killing that many people. Lord Spittleworth decides that he needs to focus on convincing the people of Cornucopia that the Ickabog is real.

Spittleworth stays up late into the night trying to think of a plan. His footman, Cankerby, comes to him and tells him that he overheard Mrs. Beamish saying that Mr. Dovetail committed treason against the king. Lord Spittleworth asks Cankerby what Mr. Dovetail does as a profession, and Cankerby responds that Mr. Dovetail is a carpenter. This gives Lord Spittleworth a great idea.

Chapter 26: A Job for Mr. Dovetail

One day while Daisy is at school, Major Roach appears at Mr. Dovetail's house. He tells Mr. Dovetail that he is needed at the palace to repair a carriage, but when they arrive at the palace he is kidnapped by soldiers and taken to the dungeon. Lord Spittleworth meets the soldiers and Mr. Dovetail in the dungeon and reveals his plan: Mr. Dovetail has to carve a giant foot out of wood, which the soldiers will use to make Ickabog footprints all over Cornucopia. Lord Spittleworth tells Mr. Dovetail that if he does this task well, he will be released from the dungeon and get to see his daughter again. Lord Spittleworth provides Mr. Dovetail with carpentry tools to make the foot, but they are taken out of the dungeon at night so that he cannot escape. Mr. Dovetail agrees to make the foot as long as he is released afterwards and his daughter is not harmed.

Chapter 27: Kidnapped

When Daisy gets home after school, she finds her father gone and the house completely empty of furniture. Suddenly, a bag is put over her head and someone tells her that they will kill her father if she makes a noise. She is thrown into a wagon which makes its way out of Chouxville. The wagon is driven by a man named Private Prodd who had been hired by Lord Spittleworth to kill Daisy. However, Private Prodd thinks about his niece who is about Daisy's age, and he realizes he can't kill the young girl. Instead, he takes her to the house of a woman named Ma Grunter who lives on the outskirts of Jeroboam. Ma Grunter is a drunk, aggressive woman who takes care of orphan children to make money. Private Prodd pays Ma Grunter and leaves Daisy locked up in the house.

Chapter 28: Ma Grunter

Daisy, who has been left at Ma Grunter's house, is immediately frightened and angry. Ma Grunter is shown to be mean and even violent toward the many children in her home, who are described as pale and undernourished. Ma Grunter makes all of the girls in the house call themselves Jane and all of the boys call themselves John, and she also makes the children all say that their parents are dead. Daisy does not want to say that her name is Jane and her father is dead, so she runs away from Ma Grunter and hides in the attic.

Ma Grunter makes a boy stand by the attic and make sure that Daisy doesn't come back. Then the woman comes back every hour and asks Daisy what her name is. Daisy hasn't had any food or drink since leaving school, so she starts to feel faint. After many hours, she finally tells Ma Grunter that her name is Jane and her father is dead, though she crosses her fingers while saying it. She is given a bowl of disgusting soup and a thin mattress in a bedroom with many other young girls. Before going to sleep, she asks the girl next to her for her real name. The girl tells her, and Daisy tells the girl that her name is Daisy and her father is alive.

Analysis:

The Dovetail family symbolizes individuals, families, and communities who stand up against corrupt governments. Lord Spittleworth identified the Dovetails as potential targets for punishment when he saw that Mr. Dovetail had not decorated the house with positive statements about the king and the Ickabog tax. Even though other people agree with Mr. Dovetail that the king should provide proof. Unfortunately, as Rowling depicts, when only a small number of people go against the grain and speak out against corruption, they are easily identified and often punished. Even though many people in Cornucopia want the king to provide proof that the Ickabog exists, in Chouxville only Mr. Dovetail was brave and honest enough to not decorate his house, so he was the only one put in jail.

Daisy's birthday in Chapter 24 allows the reader to understand how much time has passed in the story. In Chapter 7: The Fight in the Courtyard, Rowling writes, "One day, shortly after Bert and Daisy’s seventh birthdays." Now, in Chapter 24, Daisy is turning eight, so a year has passed. It is also fitting that Daisy and Bert stop fighting at Daisy's birthday celebration, since their fight began in Chapter 7 when their age was first mentioned. This makes it all the more surprising when they begin fighting again so soon after making up.

A moral Rowling instills in young readers in this section of The Ickabog are the dangers of drinking or even becoming addicted to alcohol. Rowling first shows this moral in Chapter 24 when Mr. Dovetail ruins Daisy's birthday party by getting drunk and starting an argument with Mrs. Beamish. Mr. Dovetail does not seem able to de-escalate the situation due to his drunkenness, and he ends up hurting Mrs. Beamish, Bert, and his own daughter with his behavior. Rowling continues instilling this moral when the character of Ma Grunter is introduced in Chapter 27. She writes that, "The more children she packed into her tumbledown hovel, the more wine she could afford, which was really all she cared about." Ma Grunter is depicted as a cruel, violent, and abusive woman, and it is implied that this is because all she cares about is drinking alcohol.

In this section of The Ickabog, Rowling shows how out of touch rich people can be regarding the financial strain faced by middle class or poor people. Lord Spittleworth sets the Ickabog Tax at two ducats per month, most of which he steals. Then, in Chapter 27, after Private Prodd pays Ma Grunter five ducats, he thinks to himself, "Even if it had cost him half his month’s pay, Prodd was glad to have got rid of the problem of Daisy Dovetail." From Private Prodd's title, it is clear that he has a respectable job, and even so, he only makes ten ducats per month. For him, the Ickabog Tax would be 20% of his salary, and for many other servants and laborers in Cornucopia, the tax would be an even larger percentage. Later in the story, Lord Spittleworth will even increase the Ickabog Tax. Besides showing how callous and indifferent Lord Spittleworth is, this also foreshadows that the people of Cornucopia will not be able to put up with the tax forever.

Rowling's use of accents is notable in this section of The Ickabog. Accents have been mentioned earlier in the story when Rowling notes that Marshlanders are made fun of for their accents which others in Cornucopia say makes them sound like sheep. However, in this section of The Ickabog that Rowling writes dialogue for multiple characters that clearly reflects a particular type of British accent. For example, when Lord Spittleworth's footman says, "I ’appened to over’ear Mrs Beamish telling the scullery maid what ’e said." Dropping the "h" sound occurs in the dialects of much of the central region of England, and these accents are often stigmatized because they are seen as lower class. This explains why Rowling uses this accent when writing the dialogue of lower class characters.