The Jumping Boy is a unique and probably the most memorable character in the novel The Staff. The Jumping Boy plays a strange and often comforting role in the novel. He first appears around the church when a meeting happens, and while it explained that the Jumping Boy was always around, it was never clear which family he came from. He is just a runt. This shows that even in a small village, there is a sense of casting out things that people don’t want. And the child lives feral. In this small hamlet it is better to not claim this daft young man than embarrass a family name.
“There was a boy in the village that nobody spoke to because they all knew he was an imbecile. He never spoke or laughed when someone would try to amuse him. He would wander the village and do things that seemed like that of a curious child, but he wasn’t playing as the other children did. He would never go and explore the woods, or walk around the rocks and look for crabs by the ocean. The only thing he truly seemed to enjoy was jumping up and down.”
The second time he appears, it is a meeting with Philip and Emmit concerning a box. Philip watches the Jumping Boy as he plots his next move concerning his political and personal relationship with Emmit.
The next time we see the Jumping Boy is when he shows up around Taska’s cottage. This scene is intentionally created to play Cain’s blank mind to that of a feeble mind. Cain is weary of this child and perhaps looks down on the silly boy. But the child’s behavior is contagious. And seeing how much fun he brings to the three of them, even Cain can’t help but join in, even if he doesn’t understand why.
“She hadn’t felt this light and easy for years and year. So many difficult and tragic events had belabored her sense of happiness. It had been so long.”
And the scene ends with the boy jumping out of the doorway and into the darkness.
“Taska let out one final laugh as he disappeared into the falling twilight. For a long time they sat in silence. Words would have only interrupted and trampled the ardent happiness that the heart held captive for the rest of the night.”
After the Grounding of the Fleet, he is there, standing with Taska, reminding her to be brave and face the village head on. He becomes a tailsman for Cain and Taska. He reaches out for her hand and holds it while they wait on the Grounding of the Fleet. It is noticed that he is calm, he is just a boy. When Taska push the child away and ignores him, Cain shows emotions. Something that has been vacant in his life.
“He saw the boy’s reaction. Watching the child’s face wounded Cain greatly with a pain that he felt through his chest and down to his legs. Not like the pain of the glass triangle, piercing into his hand, but that of something incomprehensible. It was a deeper pain that emerged from the pit of his chest and spread all over his body, dissipating into numbness at his fingertips. The concussion of his feeling broke him. It was cold.”
Clearly, this symbol of innocence shows up as freedom, simplicity, and happiness. But Cain now realizes that this feeling of togetherness, their past fun, now feels like something broken and changing in him.
He shows up when Sophia tries to stop Taska from going to Old Lady Gertrude’s house. When that scene ends, the Jumping Boy is just spinning around like a wild animal. “The jumping boy ran after Taska and Cain, laughing and spinning in a surreal dance, mocking the severity of the wounded souls.”
Just before the Annual Visit, it is mentioned that on cold nights, the jumping boy would sleep at the base of the blacksmith forge. He takes the men from the boat to the door of Philip and his family.
Finally, it is Cain who tells the Jumping Boy to “Jump!” and the boy smiles and laughs at him has he is marched up to the tree at the end of the novel.
It is not clear when this strange kid was born in the novel, but I wanted to add more complexity, more depth to the village. Looking at the length of this article, he played a significant role in the book. The boy is Cain’s alter-ego. He is innocence born from guilt and neglect. And while Cain knows his fate at the end, he still thinks that the jumping boy should be jumping.