My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Not long after the family moves into the pink villa, Mother decides it's time for Gerry to receive education. The entire family offers opinions as to what should be done: Leslie offers to teach Gerry to shoot and sail; Margo insists that Gerry must learn to dance; and Larry declares that Gerry must receive a good grounding in literature. Mother urges her children to accept that Gerry needs someone who will encourage his interests, but Larry bitterly mentions that a bee flew out of a matchbox at him that morning and Gerry's "interest" in bugs is just a revolting phase.
The suggestions of Gerry's siblings show that they all have fairly skewed ideas of what makes a well-rounded and successful adult, but notice too that they all insist that Gerry needs some kind of education. This positions education as being one way that someone truly comes of age and becomes an adult.
Themes
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Larry suggests that one of his friends, George, should teach Gerry, and this idea delights Mother. Gerry decides to head outside to escape the "imminent danger of being educated," though he meets George for the first time days later. George teaches Gerry French, math, and English, though his favorite subject is natural history. George teaches Gerry to record observations in a diary, which Gerry discovers focuses his love of the natural world and makes it easier to understand.
Here, it's important to keep in mind that even if Gerry does hold more conventional education in low regard, he doesn't dislike all education: marrying it with his interests in the natural world allows him to better engage with nature. This is early evidence that adulthood doesn't have to be stodgy and boring.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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George and Gerry spend their days shut inside. George gives Gerry math problems and practices his fencing steps while Gerry struggles. Gerry never does learn much math, as George is far too distracting. They have better luck with geography, as George explains what animals come from different parts of the world. They create luxurious maps sprinkled with animal life. History only becomes a successful subject when George discovers that by sprinkling in irrelevant zoological details, Gerry becomes interested. Gerry learns about Hannibal's trek over the Alps only because he also learns the name of every war elephant.
George is clearly doing whatever he can to keep Gerry even nominally engaged, as evidenced by the irrelevant zoological details. The names of Hannibal's elephants aren't something historians know much about, which suggests that George made all the names up in an effort to capture Gerry's attention. The fact that this is successful, however, points to how young and gullible Gerry still is.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Roger finds the whole business of education boring, but he spends his mornings under the table nonetheless. Quasimodo tries to join in for a while, but she is eventually banished. Some mornings, George conducts his lessons outside. They swim in the sea while George points out interesting fauna. George and Gerry devise a game with sea slugs and then they sit in the shallows while George tells Gerry about various historical happenings, all of which have a distinctly zoological flair to them.
Again, the fact that Roger is successful in keeping Gerry company (while Quasimodo makes valiant attempts) shows that the animals are just as loyal to Gerry as he is to them. With Roger in particular, he's clearly choosing to give up his outside romps in favor of spending time with Gerry, reinforcing the strength of their friendship.
Themes
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
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