THE FOLLOWING IS A PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF ANALYSIS:

INTRO:

The Lightning Thief has the best hook in all of fiction. I may be biased, but I seriously can’t think of a better first page in any book I’ve ever read. 

Characterizing your main character well makes or breaks a book. You have to make them likable, while also making them flawed, so that they can grow throughout your series. So, how did Riorden characterize Percy in The Lightning Thief.  In a feat of writing I have not seen replicated, Rioden tells us everything we need to know about Percy in the first page of the novel. Let me just read the first page for you.

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.
If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom and dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.

Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.

If you’re a normal kid, reading this because you think it’s fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened.

But if you recognize yourself in these pages - if you feel something stirring inside - stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it’s only a matter of time before they sense it too, and they’ll come for you.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief; Page 1)


There are three things I notice when reading this passage.

  1. Percy is sarcastic

  2. Percy is smart and 

  3. Percy is honest

The tone of this passage screams sarcasm to me. Especially the part where he is speaking to the audience directly, “If you’re a normal kid, reading this because you think it’s fiction, great. Read on.” Percy doesn’t like the fact that people would read his life or death adventures as mere fiction, but knows this will be the only way this book would be read. The way he deals with that fact is through his sarcasm. Throughout the rest of his tenure as a half-blood, Percy oozes with sarcasm with anyone he dislikes even an inch. He even tells Hades, the lord of the underworld, that one of his employee’s wants a pay raise (pg. 312). Sarcasm is one of the ways Percy learns to deal with the fact that he is a half-blood in a world filled with Greek gods and monsters. It’s also just really funny that a 12 year-old is one upping these ancient beings with just his wit.

Percy knows what will happen when a half-blood reads this book, and is smart enough to warn them about it. I never remembered Percy being as smart as he was in this book. He figures out pretty quickly that Hades is not the one who stole the Lightning Bolt, and even tells Zeus that Ares was being manipulated by someone much more ancient than the Big Three. When it’s confirmed that Kronos is the big bad behind everything, it’s Percy who reveals this fact to us when he finally meets his father at the end of the book (pg. 344).    

I feel like brutally honest would best describe this trait. When addressing other half-bloods, he straight up tells them to close the book. Percy knows that there are half-bloods that can lead a normal life and don’t have to go through what he went through. He shows this selflessness through this first passage by being brutally honest. Percy does this a lot throughout the series. When someone is being a jerk to him, he tells them straight on, god or not, that they are being a jerk. But when someone is kind to him, he gives up everything for them. When both Annabeth and Grover offer to stay in the underworld so that Percy can save his mother, he leaves his mother behind and saves them instead. His last words before his story begins is “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” The last thing that is on his mind is whether or not those that could be hurt by reading this book heed his warning.

And this is just the first page of this book. Just letting you know, the last time I read this book, I was barely older than Percy was in this book. And yet this passage was still fresh in my mind every time I thought about this series. And the fact that it still held up all these years later just amazes me. And the rest of the book is written just as well. This video will analyze why The Lightning Thief is the perfect first book to the five book series known as Percy Jackson and the Olympian's


GREEK ORIGINS:

The way that Riordan incorporates the Greek Myths into modern interpretation is masterful. The monsters that the gang encounter camouflage themselves in the mortal world on a spectrum. Sometimes they are serious like Medusa, who calls herself Aunty M, covers her face in a black veil, and lures people into her garden of statues using really good fast food. Then there are monsters like Procrustes, who calls himself Crusty to get more business, and lures people into his waterbed store. If they are not long enough for the 6-foot bed, he stretches out his victims. And if they are too long for the bed… well lets just say his saw is not there to fix bed frames.  

These monsters have already been defeated before, Medusa by Persus (ironic right) and Crusty by Theseus. All the gang needs to do is remember the weakness of each monster from their respective myth, and take advantage of that. However, just because you know the weakness of each monster, doesn’t mean you can defeat them. Luke himself got a scar from a monster from one of Hercules’s trials, despite knowing his quest was a carbon copy of the myth he still got hurt. Riordan doesn’t make it easy for our heroes to defeat these monsters. Grover had to distract Medusa for a long time before Percy could take her out. Percy had to act like a customer to trick Crusty into going on to one of his own traps to defeat him (pg. 281). 

The modern twist of the monsters' camouflaging and the way the monsters are defeated allows the story to retain its own distinct identity while respecting the source material it is borrowing from.


FAMILY DYNAMICS:

The Myths don’t really detail the relationship status between demi-gods and their mighty parents. Did Bellerophon ever explore the fact that his horse (Pegasus) was also his half-brother? Did Perseus ever get mad at Zeus for leaving his mom in a cage by herself? Those are things that aren’t really explained in the myths. And how important are they really?

Well, Riordan looked at these questions and decided to incorporate them into his story telling. From the bizarre questions of being related to nymph’s to the serious ones of being abandoned by your parents. It’s the whole reason why Luke becomes evil and starts working for Kronos. He doesn’t think the god’s helped him or his friends in the slightest. Zeus' solution to his dying daughter is to turn her into a tree. And even when Hermes gave him a quest to prove himself, it felt empty and void. It was a quest that was already done before, and what about after the quest was done? What did he prove? That he could almost be killed?

Annabeth has a complex as well. Because her relationship with her mortal family is strenuous at best, she goes full frontal into her godly side. Staying year-round at camp and training until she can go on a quest and prove herself to her mother Athena. However, this cross-country trip to the underworld has shown her that she misses her mortal family more than anything. When faced with Cerberus, she uses what she learned in Obedience school when she was with her father to calm the beast and get past it. Nothing at Camp-Half Blood could have prepared her for this encounter. And Percy sees her crying at the end of the encounter, when she has to leave the dog behind. As if leaving her mortal family behind made her feel the same way.

With Percy hating on Poseidon most of the book, one would think that he would end up like Luke. But unlike Luke, Percy has his mother Sally Jackson to keep him morally in line. Sally teaches Percy the value of being patient and kind. To look for the best in people. She also teaches him that she needs to take care of herself. She even mentions that Poseidon offered her a throne in his palace. But she realized that this wasn’t going to be beneficial to her. She even goes through her own character arc of finally being able to stand up to her abusive husband and pursuing her own career.          


MYSTERY:

The mystery of who stole the lightning bolt perplexes the audience until its revelation of being in Percy's backpack happens. We have to use all our knowledge of past and current events to realize who was pulling the strings, and it’s not until the end of the book where we realize all the pieces fell into place. Percy slowly putting all the pieces together himself at the end was also fun. It felt reminiscent of the Harry Potter books, how there was a prevailing mystery that plagued every book, and it was only when Harry put all the pieces together was the mystery untangled. One of the reasons why Riordan wrote this series was for kids who loved Harry Potter to have something new to enjoy. And like Harry Potter, this mystery aspect is prevalent through every book in this series.

Re-reading it, I enjoyed the reveal and how all the pieces I had forgotten had come into place. I especially liked the emphasis on the winter solstice field trip the camp took that Percy himself never went on. Showing us this conflict in Luke has been going on long before Percy joined the camp. 

CHARACTERS:

Since we already talked about Percy, let’s explore Annabeth, Grovers, and Lukes characters throughout the story and how their relationship to Percy juxtaposes each character development.

Annabeth should have been our protagonist. She is the most knowledgeable about the world that Percy has found himself in, and has wanted to go on a quest since she was very young. However, she needs to learn that being a daughter of Athena is all she has to offer. She also has a family that she hasn’t seen in years and hasn’t solved her issues with them. While Annabeth has to accept her mortal family, Percy has to accept his godly one. Even if they both weren’t there for them.

Grover has confidence issues. He blames himself for what happened to Thalia, and thinks that he’s always screwing up. Percy lets him know that if it wasn’t for Grover and Chiron he wouldn’t have survived his last year of junior high. And to be fair, Grover’s nervousness has saved Percy from more than one dangerous encounter (recalling that Grover was the one who discovered who Medusa really was). Grover has to gain confidence, while Percy has to learn humility.

Luke might be the most like Percy. They are both talented swordsmen. Both abandoned by their fathers. Both are intelligent. Like I said earlier, if Percy didn’t have his mother, he probably would have ended up like Luke. But that's the difference. Percy understands that his father can screw up. Luke doesn’t. He blames all of his issues and problems on others while Percy takes responsibility for them.

And this is why side characters are important. Side characters show the different aspects of the main character, whether the characters are similar or not. If both are written well, not only will they show each other's characteristics by interacting, they will build a realistic relationship that the audience can believe in.


CONCLUSION:

When I was in middle school, I never thought in a million years that a book like this would captivate my heart. Yet here I am doing an analysis on a children's book I read almost a decade ago. This book inspired me to read more, which in turn inspired me to write more from my perspective. And I will never be able to show how grateful I am to this story. 

Thank you Rick Riordan for creating this world so that I could get lost in it. And thank you Percy, for teaching me to always say what's on my mind.