Kes (1969)

Brief Intro

🎥 Kes (1969), directed by Ken Loach, is a poignant British film that chronicles the life of a young boy, Billy Casper, in a working-class Yorkshire town. Struggling with a bleak home and school life, Billy finds solace and a sense of freedom in training a kestrel he names Kes. The film is a heart-wrenching portrayal of youthful dreams amidst harsh realities.

Literary Devices Used in Kes

1. Symbolism

Movie SceneDevice Example
Billy discovering and training KesKes symbolizes hope and freedom for Billy.
School scenes with Mr. SugdenThe football match symbolizes the societal hierarchy.

2. Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
Billy’s mother disregards his passion for KesThe irony lies in her ignorance of his unique talent.
The headmaster’s harsh punishment of BillyThe irony of adults failing to understand Billy’s needs.

3. Foreshadowing

Movie SceneDevice Example
Early scenes of Billy being bulliedForeshadows his ongoing struggles throughout the film.
Billy’s growing attachment to KesForeshadows the eventual tragic climax.

4. Metaphor

Movie SceneDevice Example
Billy’s care for KesRepresents his yearning for care and attention.
The oppressive school environmentMetaphor for societal constraints and lack of opportunity.

5. Pathos

Movie SceneDevice Example
Billy’s isolation in school and at homeElicits deep empathy and sorrow from the audience.
The tragic end of KesEvokes profound sadness and frustration.

6. Hyperbole

Movie SceneDevice Example
Mr. Sugden’s exaggerated football match behaviorHighlights his absurdity and the farcical nature of authority.
The headmaster’s extreme punishmentsEmphasizes the harshness and unfairness of the school system.

7. Juxtaposition

Movie SceneDevice Example
Billy’s solitary moments with Kes vs. chaotic home lifeContrasts peace and chaos, emphasizing his need for escape.
Scenes of nature vs. industrial townscapeHighlights the stark difference between freedom and entrapment.

8. Dialogue

Movie SceneDevice Example
Conversations between Billy and his brother JudReveals the family dynamics and underlying tensions.
Billy’s interactions with Mr. FarthingShowcases Billy’s intelligence and hidden potential.

9. Setting

Movie SceneDevice Example
The rundown town and bleak schoolEstablishes the oppressive atmosphere of Billy’s life.
The open fields where Billy trains KesRepresents freedom and the possibility of escape.

10. Mood

Movie SceneDevice Example
The dreary scenes at Billy’s home and schoolCreates a mood of despair and hopelessness.
The uplifting moments with KesProvides a temporary mood of hope and joy.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Billy Casper

Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismBilly’s relationship with Kes symbolizes his desire for freedom and escape from his oppressive environment.
DialogueHis conversations with Mr. Farthing reveal his intelligence and potential, contrasting with how others perceive him.

Mr. Farthing

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyDespite being a teacher, Mr. Farthing shows genuine care and understanding, unlike his colleagues.
DialogueHis encouraging words to Billy highlight his role as a mentor and a figure of hope.

Jud Casper

Literary DeviceExplanation
HyperboleHis extreme behavior towards Billy underscores the toxic family dynamics.
JuxtapositionHis harshness contrasts with Billy’s tenderness towards Kes, emphasizing their differing outlooks on life.

Mrs. Casper

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyHer neglect of Billy’s talents and interests highlights the irony of a parent’s role.
SettingHer presence in the bleak home environment emphasizes the lack of nurturing in Billy’s life.

Character Dynamics

Billy’s relationships with other characters are central to the narrative and themes. His bond with Mr. Farthing contrasts with his strained interactions with his family, particularly Jud. These dynamics drive the story, illustrating the stark differences in the support and understanding Billy receives.

Thematic Analysis

Oppression and Freedom

Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismKes represents the freedom Billy yearns for, contrasting with his oppressive life.
SettingThe industrial town setting emphasizes the confinement and lack of opportunities.

Isolation and Connection

Literary DeviceExplanation
PathosBilly’s isolation elicits empathy, highlighting his need for connection.
DialogueHis interactions with Kes and Mr. Farthing showcase his ability to form meaningful connections.

Hope and Despair

Literary DeviceExplanation
MoodThe alternating moods of despair at home/school and hope with Kes reflect Billy’s inner turmoil.
ForeshadowingEarly signs of Billy’s attachment to Kes foreshadow the tragic end, underscoring the fleeting nature of hope.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismClose-up shotsFocus on Kes highlights its symbolic significance to Billy.
MoodSound designThe use of ambient sounds enhances the film’s melancholic mood.
JuxtapositionContrast lightingDifferences in lighting between scenes with Kes and other settings emphasize emotional contrasts.
PathosMusic scoreThe sparse, emotive score underlines the emotional weight of key scenes.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene: Billy Trains Kes

YouTube Link

  • Breakdown: This scene is a pivotal moment where Billy finds joy and purpose. The use of close-up shots on Kes and Billy’s face emphasizes the bond they share. The serene music contrasts with the otherwise harsh soundscape of his daily life, highlighting the peace Billy finds in this activity.

Scene: The Football Match

YouTube Link

  • Breakdown: The football match is both humorous and tragic. Mr. Sugden’s exaggerated behavior is a critique of authority figures, and the chaotic cinematography mirrors Billy’s internal turmoil and the absurdity of his circumstances.

Scene: The Tragic Climax

YouTube Link

  • Breakdown: The heartbreaking scene where Billy discovers Kes’s fate is filmed with raw, emotional intensity. The silence and close-up shots on Billy’s devastated expression amplify the sense of loss and despair. This moment is a culmination of the film’s exploration of hope and its destruction.


To wrap up, here’s a fun and interactive quiz to test your understanding of the literary devices in Kes (1969). Click on the correct answer to see how well you grasped the analysis!


  1. What does Kes symbolize for Billy?
    • A) Friendship
    • B) Freedom
    • C) Power
  2. Which literary device is used to highlight the harshness of the school environment?
  3. How does Mr. Farthing’s role contrast with other authority figures in the film?
  4. What mood is created by the scenes with Kes?
    • A) Joy and hope
    • B) Anger and frustration
    • C) Fear and anxiety