My Family and Other Animals

by

Gerald Durrell

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My Family and Other Animals: Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When fall arrives, Gerry is delighted that Peter isn't doing much tutoring. Mother insists that Peter and Margo are much too fond of each other. The family agrees that they don't want Margo and Peter to marry, so Mother fires Peter. Margo is distraught and "plays the part" perfectly, while Leslie takes on the role of the outraged brother and threatens to shoot Peter should he return to Corfu. Spiro enjoys all of this and cries with Margo in sympathy. Just as Margo seems to be recovering, she receives a note from Peter promising to come back for her. She shows the note to Mother, and everyone doubles down on their efforts to keep Peter away. Larry at one point insults Margo, which leads Margo to lock herself in the attic.
Notice that Gerry interprets what happens after Mother fires Peter as being, essentially, the family latching onto this ready-made opportunity for drama and milking it for all it's worth. This again shows that adults can be just as dramatic and silly as children, while Spiro's thrilled involvement suggests that practices like this fit in with the overall culture of Corfu.
Themes
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Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
After discovering several items missing from the Sea Cow, Leslie arranges a series of guns in his window that he can fire with the pull of a string. He neglects to tell the family about this. One night, the guns go off. Mother fears that Margo committed suicide, while Margo believes that Leslie is murdering Peter. In the ensuing melee, Widdle and Puke tug on Mother's nightgown, Larry yells about being disturbed, while Margo tries to let herself out of the locked attic without success. Finally, Mother and Margo get the attic door open and discover what exactly happened. Leslie is perturbed when the family asks that he warn them before shooting at burglars, but the debacle does get Margo out of the attic.
When Leslie decides to not tell anyone about his guns, it again suggests that both he and Larry tend to think of themselves before they even consider thinking about others. In this way, both behave childishly—especially when Larry's first complaint about the whole thing is that he's being disturbed, not concern for someone's wellbeing. The way that Widdle and Puke engage with the situation as though it's all a grand romp shows that they, like Gerry, are still very young.
Themes
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Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Margo still wants to nurse her broken heart in private so one day, she loads Roger, Widdle, and Puke into the Bootle-Bumtrinket and takes it out to a small island to lie in the sun. Gerry is annoyed beyond belief that Margo took his boat and tells Mother about it. A storm begins to blow in, and Mother and Lugaretzia hang out of the attic windows with binoculars watching Margo. Lugaretzia tells Mother a tragic story about an uncle that drowned in a storm like this, but Mother fortunately can't understand.
Mother's inability to understand Lugaretzia's story shows that there are some upsides to not learning the language—here, it saves Mother from worrying even more as Lugaretzia dramatizes the situation. Gerry, like Larry and Leslie, thinks only of himself and not of Margo's safety, suggesting that he's still very self-centered and immature.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
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Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Finally, Margo decides it's time to head home. However, she walks strangely and acts as though she's lost the boat. Widdle and Puke put up a fight about getting in the boat in inclement weather but finally, she gets all the dogs in. Margo's steering is peculiar as well and once she's close, the rest of the family goes down to the shore to hail her. When she finally reaches shore, they realize that she fell asleep in the sun and her eyes suffered a sunburn that left them puffy and hard to see out of.
Margo's sunburn shows that even though Margo respects the natural world in a way that's generally more positive than the way that Larry or Leslie do, she's still at the mercy of its dangers. This shows that nature always has the power to dictate how one interacts with it and can be very dangerous when not treated with caution.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
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Winter comes slowly and gently to Corfu. The wind picks up slowly and then, suddenly, the mountains are covered in snow. The sky turns gray and the wind and rain whistle through the dry trees. Leslie loves the winter, as it's shooting season. He takes several trips to the mainland to hunt boar, ducks, and rabbits. He regales the family with tales of the hunt upon his return, though they take little notice until Mother decides to inspect a boar one day.
Leslie's hunting habit is, notably, a way for Leslie to interact with nature, though hunting is a way for humans to exert control over the natural world and try to tame it. Though Gerry never passes judgment on Leslie's hunting, the novel overwhelmingly suggests that Gerry's way of dealing with nature is superior.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Mother is concerned about how large the boar is, though Leslie assures her there's little danger unless a boar bursts out of the underbrush right underfoot. Larry imperiously insists that that isn't dangerous, as a hunter could just leap over the boar. When Leslie explains why that's impossible, Larry accuses "hunting blokes" of having no imagination, but refuses to come hunting and try out his idea himself. Gerry explains that this is normal for Larry; he believes if one uses their brain, they can do anything.
Larry shows here that he believes the natural world is something that one can simply outsmart. This shows that Larry absolutely places humans and human civilization far above the natural world and in doing so, likely underestimates the power of the natural world.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
One evening, Leslie returns from a trip and explains in detail how he pulled off his first "left-and-right," which entails shooting two birds in quick succession. Larry doesn't understand why this is such an accomplishment. Annoyed, Leslie invites Larry to go hunting to show everyone how easy it is, and Margo agrees that it's time for Larry to show them that he's actually capable of carrying out his suggestions.
By now, the reader understands that Larry is being set up for failure here—his assertions are ridiculous and his inflated sense of self is misguided. Taken together, this tells the reader that the natural world is finally going to be able to get back at Larry for being so derisive.
Themes
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Margo and Gerry follow Larry and Leslie down to the swampy valley where the birds congregate. Larry complains the whole way, especially when they reach the muddy ditches that must be crossed using narrow bridges. While Larry is standing on one of these bridges, two birds fly up from the grass. Larry fires, misses the birds, and tumbles into the ditch. The mud is close to ten feet deep and despite Leslie's yells of anguish, Larry tries to use the gun to push himself out. Finally, they manage to pull him out.
Again, when Leslie is far more upset about getting mud in the gun than the fact that Larry might be in serious trouble of sinking into the mud, it shows that Leslie and Larry aren't so different: both believe wholeheartedly that their interests outweigh the health and safety of others. The mud here also shows that nature is capable of acting as a very powerful force, regardless of how Larry thinks of it.
Themes
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Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
By the time Larry limps home, he's convinced the family plotted to embarrass or kill him. He snaps at Mother when she asks if he fell in, and he takes a bottle of brandy upstairs and asks Lugaretzia to build a huge fire in his bedroom. Two bottles and several hours later, Mother sends Margo to check on Larry. She finds Larry drunk and delirious, and Mother decides they should just build up the fire and leave him be. The next morning, however, Margo discovers that a coal from the fire slipped through the floor and set a supporting beam on fire. She dramatically yells for everyone to get out. Mother tries to put her corset on and screams that Larry is on fire.
When Larry refuses to take any responsibility for what happened, it suggests that he'll never come around and develop a sense of respect for either the natural world or others' hobbies that require more than logical thought. Mother's strange insistence on getting her corset on before leaving the house illustrates again how much she relies on looking the part and seeming as though her family isn't eccentric.
Themes
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Gerry and Leslie race to Larry's room, which is full of smoke. Larry is fast asleep. Margo follows Leslie's instructions to pour something on the fire by pouring the leftover bottle of brandy on it. Leslie hauls all of Larry's blankets off the bed to smother the fire, which angers Larry. From bed, Larry indignantly directs his family in putting out the fire and once it's out, claims responsibility for saving the family from burning.
By allowing Larry this one victory, Gerry allows that Larry's way of thinking about the world isn't always wrong or bad. It has its place and its uses, though it's important to recognize that it's successful in the manmade house, not in the uncontrollable natural world.
Themes
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