How I Learned to Drive

The Line Symbol Analysis

The Line Symbol Icon

Both Peck and Li’l Bit make frequent references to “the line.” Borrowed from the world of driving—as in, the lines marking out the road—the line represents limits. In driving, lines on the road allow for people to move around safely; they are an agreed-upon code that everybody follows for mutual benefit. With regard to the uncle-niece relationship, the line should represent the limits of their interactions. That is, there’s nothing wrong with Peck acting paternally or affectionately to Li’l Bit, but he crosses a moral line when he approaches her sexually. Li’l Bit, fully aware of Peck’s attraction to her (which to an extent is reciprocated), tries to draw the lines over which Peck must not travel. For example, when Li’l Bit is thirteen years old, Peck photographs her in his basement. She insists on the “line” that there be no frontal nudity—though for most of the audience, the moral line here is in fact crossed by the photography session itself. Though Peck is always insisting that he won’t cross “the line,” he is frequently trying to redefine what the line is in an attempt to coerce consent out of Li’l Bit for behaviors that he knows, deep down, transgress society’s lines of acceptability.

The Line Quotes in How I Learned to Drive

The How I Learned to Drive quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Line. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Theater Communications Group edition of How I Learned to Drive published in 2018.
How I Learned to Drive Quotes

PECK. Don’t change the subject. I was talking about how good I am. (Beat.) Are you ever gonna let me show you how good I am?

LI’L BIT. Don’t go over the line now.

PECK. I won’t. I’m not gonna do anything you don’t want me

to do.

LI’L BIT. That’s right.

PECK. And I’ve been good all week.

LI’L BIT. You have?

PECK. Yes. All week. Not a single drink.

LI’L BIT. Good boy.

PECK. Do I get a reward? For not drinking?

LI’L BIT. A small one. It’s getting late.

Related Characters: Li’l Bit (speaker), Uncle Peck (speaker)
Related Symbols: Driving/Cars, The Line
Page Number: 10-11
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Line Symbol Timeline in How I Learned to Drive

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Line appears in How I Learned to Drive. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
How I Learned to Drive
Family and Abuse Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
...to show Li’l Bit how good he is. She tells him not to “go over the line ” and then calls him a “good boy” when he tells her that he hasn’t... (full context)
Family and Abuse Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
...one is going to come down to the basement and that he won’t cross “ the line .” Li’l Bit says, “that’s right. No frontal nudity.” Peck is surprised at her candid... (full context)
Family and Abuse Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
...to know. It has to be in public, she says: “You’ve got to let me—draw the line . And once it’s drawn, you mustn’t cross it.” Peck is clearly moved and accepts... (full context)
Family and Abuse Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
...isn’t happening.” She tells him to go home, and that he has gone “way over the line .” Li’l Bit leaves, and moments later Peck is depicted ordering shot after shot of... (full context)