Study Guide

How I Live Now Innocence

By Meg Rosoff

Innocence

She showed me a tiny black and white goat with square eyes and little stubbly horns and a bell around its neck on a red collar and said his name was Ding and he was her goat but I could have him if I wanted and then I did hug her because Piper and the sweet baby goat were exactly as nice as each other. (1.4.12)

Well, if this isn't the sweetest thing ever: Piper personifies innocence and sweetness and her baby goat serves the same purpose. Unfortunately, this touching moment foreshadows that neither Piper nor her goat will get to remain innocent for long.

Then Edmond and Piper came and lay down on the blanket, one on either side of me with Piper holding my hand as usual and Isaac still standing in the water looking peaceful and they started arguing about what flies trout liked best in a quiet lazy sort of way. (1.5.12)

If this isn't the picture of innocence, we don't know what is. With not a care in the world and nothing to concern themselves with but the worm preferences of trout, this moment is the sort of perfect frolic that appears in a novel right before a dastardly situation takes shape.

The sort of thing we'd hear, all in low hushed tones especially when us Children were around. (1.9.14)

This is probably the only moment in the book that Daisy acknowledges her own innocence. She generally takes on a been-there, done-that sort of attitude, and it's easy to forget that she's just a fifteen-year-old kid who has largely grown up without a support system. But to those who don't know her, like the adults of England, she's just another child who needs to be protected from harsh truths.

Piper, because she was so good and pure that when she was confused about what was going on she just stood and stared at your face until you either told her the truth or ran away and hid. (1.10.7)

Piper's got mad skills at getting confessions from people—we should all take a page from her book. Of course, we could never match Piper's innocent intentions. This girl is innocence and purity and sweetness and all things good personified, and we'd bet she's pretty much impossible not to fall in love with and want to take care of.

If anyone feels like arresting me for corrupting an innocent kid then all I can say is that Edmond was not corruptible. (1.10.13)

Defensive much? It's funny, right up until this point, Daisy was all about how sweet and innocent her cousins were, but once you start boinking one of them it's hard to keep talking about how innocent he is without coming off like a terrible force of corruption.

The birds were happier with the invasion than they'd been in years since no one was driving cars or farming or doing anything much to disturb them, so all they did was lay eggs and sing and try to avoid getting eaten by foxes. (1.11.9)

There's a lot of talk about innocent animals in How I Live Now, and here we see that early in the war, things are fine and dandy for the sweet animals, who are mostly left to their own devices. Doing nothing but singing and avoiding getting eaten? Downright pastoral.

Piper suddenly stopped reading and looked at me in her solemn way and said Are you in love with Edmond? […] and then she said Well I'm glad you love him because I do too. (1.13.5)

Bam—Piper gets it. She knows about Daisy and Edmond. And in a beautiful line, she demonstrates both that she isn't as innocent as she looks—girl totally picked up on the not-so-subtle sexual tension there—and that maybe she's even more innocent than she looks, since her only response is that she loves Edmond, too. Does she actually get that what Daisy and Edmond are doing is a little different than friendly brother-sister love? Over to you, Shmoopers.

[…] it was pretty strange to find myself suddenly overwhelmed with attention from the world's biggest warehouse of magical misfits.

And just to complicate matters perfectly, I was starting to feel responsible for their safety and happiness. (1.16.23-24)

This isn't the first time Daisy's described her cousins as magical or given them a somewhat ethereal and fairy-like description. Their lack of corruption by the outside world is almost unreal and fairy tale-like, and given all that Daisy's seen and been through, she feels an overwhelming desire to protect and preserve that.

[…] the presence of Piper with her big eyes and pure soul made him feel like all he wanted was a chance to die to protect her. (1.22.15)

And this is the part of the book where Piper meets a lot of people and every single one of them falls in love with her sweetness and innocence and wants nothing more than to protect her and make her happy. Not that we blame them, because it's totally heartbreaking when Piper's sad, but come on now.

Ding. He was too weak to stand up and too sick to care about the water Piper brought him.

So I covered him with a grain sack and shot him in the head. (1.26.27-28)

Remember Ding, that baby goat from nine quotes ago that personified innocence? What could indicate that there is no innocence left in the English countryside more than finding Ding weak, starving, and struggling? Oh, when Daisy has to shoot him in the head to put him out of his misery. See you, innocence—wouldn't want to be you.

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