by Mary Norton
Oh Pod. He's really a good guy, but sometimes his parenting leaves a bit to be desired. He loves Arrietty, and he's a good husband to Homily, sure. But he's also more than a little overprotective. So he spends much of the book trying to walk the line between loving dad and total control freak.
And what a fine line it is. See, in Pod's mind, he faces the dangers of borrowing upstairs to ensure a life of safety for his family. As the narrator tells us, "His wife and child led more sheltered lives in homelike apartments under the kitchen, far removed from the risks and dangers of the dreaded house above" (2.2).
But because only Pod knows how to open the many gates that create a barrier between their home and the outside world, he winds up controlling how much freedom his family has, which is not the fairest thing in the world:
"Strong gates," said Pod, "gates you can't open. What are they there for?"
"Against the mice?" said Arrietty.
"Yes," agreed Pod uncertainly, as though he gave her half a mark, "but mice never hurt no one. What else?"
"Cats?" echoed Arrietty, surprised.
"Or to keep you in?" suggested Pod. (6.17-19, 22-23)
Yikes. Once Arrietty realizes the gates are not just to keep dangerous things out, but also to keep her imprisoned, her true feelings of being cooped up are released, and she rebels. After all, she has basically no control of where she can go. And we all know what kids do when their parents have strict-on-strict rules…
Pod and Homily
It's his relationship with Homily that brings out the softer side of Pod:
"You see, Pod," went on Homily, "it was different for you and me. There was other families, other children […] we had more, as you might say, freedom."
"Ah, yes," said Pod, "in a way. But where does freedom take you?" He looked up uncertainly. "Where are they all now?" (6.63).
Okay, we know he's all annoyingly overprotective and everything, but Pod does have a point. Borrowing is a dangerous business. And he really loves his family, so it's no wonder he wouldn't want to put those two in danger.
It's only thanks to Homily's soothing understanding that Pod is able to express his true feelings about freedom—that it is a scary thing, especially for borrowers. Luckily, Homily totally gets it. That makes it easier for her to eventually change his mind and take Arrietty borrowing. She shares his concerns, but she manages to soften him up a bit, and to get him to back off the helicopter parenting.
Oh, and before we forget, we should mention that Pod's interactions with homily bring up a good point—where are all the other borrowers in the novel? This very question becomes the driving force for much of Arrietty's adventuring throughout the novel. And it becomes the key to her friendship with the boy, too.
On humans, Pod has only this to say: "Steer clear of them—that's what I've always been told. No good never really came to no one from any human bean" (14.51). Plus, he totally freaks out when he sees Arrietty hanging out with the Boy.
Pod may have his family's best interests at heart, but that really doesn't excuse the fact that, at the end of the day, he's prejudiced. Of course that prejudice has everything to do with the fact that he has his family's best interests at heart. These two main qualities Pod possesses are totally linked.
Humans, he thinks, pose a danger to borrowers, so it's no wonder he wants to stay as far away from them as possible. But he does come around eventually, when he realizes the boy ain't so bad after all. For one thing, he sees how much the boy's friendship makes his daughter happy, and for another, the boy's a bit of a borrower, himself.