Jay He was actually afraid of saying anything to her because of the reputation that Hannah had in the school. Asher’s novel Thirteen Reasons Why has two protagonists; one is Hannah Baker, whose story is narrated through the tapes and eventually the reason of suicide is revealed. Another protagonist is Clay Jenson who is also a narrator of the story and he deeply influenced by the death of Hannah Baker.
Hannah Baker makes 12 tapes, each one of them dedicated for one person who has been the reason because of her death. Clay Jenson is the ninth person, to whom the tape is dedicated, but it is found that he is not blamed by Hannah; instead she just wanted him to know what she went through in her time at school and what led her to take such a rash decision as her suicide. In fact Clay had a crush on Hannah which is why he was so affected by her death.
Hannah in her tapes, described Clay as a shy and reserved guy; due to this nature of Clay, he was never able to express his feelings to Hannah. He was actually afraid of saying anything to her because of the reputation that Hannah had in the school. It made Clay think that she was way out of his league. Jay Asher made Clay’s character independent; he describes his emotions and feelings revolving the incidents that happened around Hannah Baker and acts accordingly.
He showed his independence in many circumstances, especially when everyone else thought wrong about Hannah, he was the only one who went on his way and regretted that he could not help the girl whom he liked so much. Although he was influenced by the rumors that circled around about Hannah, and he accepts that due to these rumors his perception of Hannah was overshadowed, yet when he realized the whole thing, it was very late.
Apart from being the narrator who guides the reader through the story, Clay Jenson as a person is a “genuinely good guy” as stated by Hannah Baker posthumously in her tapes. Clay has a good reputation among the teachers and also his classmates. He is an ideal student who is always sincere and polite and kind; Hannah describes him as a person who could not even hurt a fly.
Hannah even admits that it was too good to believe that Clay Jenson was such a good guy; yet apart from being such a good guy, Clay was also introverted, shy and reserved. He did not like to stand out from the crowd and get all the attention to himself. This is why he pretends not to notice Bryce Walker even when he is very angry with him due to his deeds. This shows that Clay is passive and does not react actively to things that are happening around him; instead he minds his own business.
In spite of being such a nice guy, the passive nature of Clay is what brigs flaw to his personality. He minds his own business and never likes to speak unless it is extremely needed. The fact that he is so preoccupied with the reputation that he has and so concerned about what people will say about him, prevents him from helping Hannah, even when his instinct urged him to go and help her.
If Clay would have been active and bothered less about people’s opinions around him, the story would have gone down a different path to such an extent that it would have potentially prevented Hannah from committing suicide. It is however, by the end of the story that Clay becomes active and realizes his mistake of not stepping up to help the girl he liked so much. His guilt drives him mad and compels him to do things that would seem impossible for a guy like Clay to do.
The beginning of the novel shows Clay as a scared kid who is mostly clueless about the doldrums happening around him; however a single incident turns his whole upside down when he started listening to the tapes left by his friend Hannah. When he realized the contents of the tape and the motive behind leaving them behind by Hannah, he continuously questioned himself what was his fault that led Hannah to take her own life.
Initially, he was very concerned about being in the list of Hannah Baker’s reason list and was preoccupied by the fact that what would the people say when they get to know that he was one of the thirteen reasons why Hannah Baker had to take her life and leave the world. It does not make him comfortable that people will judge him based on this fact and say bad things about him.
Changed Clay Jenson:
Later in the story, as the plot develops and Clay gets to know why Hannah included him in the tapes, the readers can visibly see the change that occurs in the character of Clay Jenson. Although he did not hurt her like the other persons on the tapes did, but his passive nature did push her to the edge of an emotional breakdown.
The story faces a turning point when Clay Jenson realizes that he would have saved her if he had not been so consumed by his passiveness and fear. The feeling of guilt completely overwhelms him and he starts to do things that he never even thought that he was capable of doing.
Asher created two protagonists like Hannah and Clay intentionally, whose personalities were contrasting to each other. Both of the characters had the responsibility of imparting certain social message to the readers. Clay Jenson’s character teaches the audience that it is not appropriate to blindly regarding the opinions of people; he also shows that how important it is to take action by oneself and express one’s own feelings. Clay has to learn the lessons in a harsh manner, but he did change by the end of the story; the change is evident when the readers see him trying to help out a potentially suicidal girl Skye Miller.
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