“Stone Cold” by Robert Swindells is a book exploring the issue of homelessness in society. It follows the story of Link, a young boy who after experiencing his parents divorce and the neglect and abuse from Mum’s new boyfriend, leaves his hometown of Bradford to begin his new life on the bustling streets of London. “Stone Cold” also features the daily accounts of Shelter, an Ex-serjeant Major who plots to remove all the dirty homeless dossers off London’s streets. Throughout this essay, I will be exploring how Swindells portrays the issue of homelessness using characterisation, setting and narrative structure.
Through the setting of time and place, Swindells highlights the hardships homeless people must face. As we turn the first few pages of the novel, we are transported to the midst of a Baltic winter in 1990’s Bradford, a city situated in the county of North Yorkshire. Link’s Hometown. After seeing too many people he knew, Link left his past behind to start life on London’s pavements and life as one of them. The dossers who people avoided with matted hair and bruised backs. “It was 9 o’clock and cold.” This is the first bit of information Link tells us about living on the streets of London. Throughout the novel, Swindells portrays London to be a gloomy place, always cold, always rainy. Swindells uses the weather to change how the reader feels about Link, so when he comes face to face with a stone-cold killer, we ourselves fear for him. Swindells also uses this to make us hate Shelter. Swindells also uses the seasons to dictate how we feel. When Link first sets out for London, winter is upon us. This encourages again the reader to feel sympathetic toward Link. The blisteringly cold nights are unimaginable, as Link describes how hard it is to sleep. “you’re going to be half frozen before you even start.” Then suddenly, Link meets Gail and the sun starts to shine. “it was a warm sunny day” This is a stark contrast to his first impression of London. Swindells also moves the season to Spring. Spring is a time of new beginnings, with the cold nights getting shorter, warm days getting longer and buds beginning to appear. It’s like Link is getting a second chance at life. Until the rain comes again. Right at the end of novel, Gail and Link have an argument, Shelter gets his chance to murder Link and the torrential rain begins again. Swindells uses a medium outside of Links control to express how he is feeling or what is happening.
Swindells cleverly juxtaposes the two narratives of Link and Shelter to create a contrast between the two voices. We first meet Link as a troubled teen, his father has run off with the secretary and his mother falls for a sleezy drunkard who can’t do anything better then to make life as hard for Link as possible. Life becomes so difficult for Link that the only way he sees fit to escape is to run away from home, eventually landing himself on the streets of London. As Link takes his first steps in London, the reader begins to get to know him as a vulnerable, naïve youth. He repeats phrases like “But like I said, I didn’t know.”

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