My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The new villa is tall, square, and yellow, and the house and grounds are unkempt and decaying. It overlooks the sea and is surrounded by groves of olive, lemon, and orange trees. Mother soon hires the gardener's wife, Lugaretzia, to help at the villa. Lugaretzia proves to be oversensitive to criticism and an over-sharer about her many ailments—her descriptions of her indigestion become legendary, and Larry grouses about getting rid of her despite Mother's insistence that they need help.
While Larry is perfectly fine complaining about his own indigestion, the fact that he takes issue when someone else is just as open with their ailments again shows that Larry is self-centered. Larry's self-centeredness is one of the reasons he has such a hard time with Gerry's animals: he struggles to accept that animals are just as interesting as he is.
Themes
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
The furniture that came with the villa is old and promptly begins falling apart. Finally, Mother decides that they need to buy new furniture to prepare for Larry's guests. The next morning, Spiro drives Mother, Margo, and Gerry into town to buy furniture. The town is crowded and boisterous, and after they buy furniture, they get swept up in the crowd heading away from the car. An elderly woman explains to Gerry that everyone is heading to the church to kiss the feet of Saint Spiridion, the patron saint of the island whose mummified body is brought out once per year. Everyone on the island worships him, and every second son is named Spiro in his honor. Today is extra special, as anyone can kiss the saint's feet and make requests.
This mention of celebrations in honor of Saint Spiridion is, notably, the first time Gerry mentions any events that center on humans instead of nature. In this way, Gerry's narration (what he chooses to tell the reader) reinforces his belief that the natural world is far more important than anything humans might think of to guide their lives—and further, that nature has a much more noticeable effect on people's lives than human activity. However, just as the seasons dictate what people do, Gerry and his family are equally at the mercy of this human event and can't opt out.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mother, Margo, and Gerry are soon caught up in the crowd, unable to escape. Margo ends up entering the church first of the three, and Gerry observes the priest waving people into a line in front of the coffin. Gerry realizes they're all going to kiss the saint's feet, regardless of their feelings on the matter. He looks back to see Mother gesturing wildly, and she finally hisses at Gerry to tell Margo to not actually kiss the saint's feet. When Gerry turns forward to Margo, it's too late: she's already bent over the saint's feet. Gerry kisses the air, and Mother does the same.
Mother's insistence that they not follow the local custom to the letter shows again that she's much less willing to integrate into the local community than her children are—she thinks that her beliefs and her customs are far superior to the locals', and she therefore has a much harder time adjusting to life on Corfu. Gerry's willingness to obey Mother suggests he wants to please her more than he wants to fit in.
Themes
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
When they finally meet outside the church, Mother exclaims over how unsanitary it is for everyone in the village to kiss the same thing, and she's distraught to learn that Margo actually kissed the saint's feet. Margo explains she hoped the saint could cure her acne. The next day, Margo comes down with the flu and Spiro fetches Dr. Androuchelli. He visits every few days for the next three weeks as the rest of the Durrells settle into the villa.
Here, the fact that Margo apparently thinks it's worth trying out local customs to accomplish her goals shows that she's perfectly happy to take on local customs where it suits her. When she becomes sick, however, it suggests that she is still a foreigner, especially since Gerry never mentions if any locals also became ill.
Themes
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Because George left the island, Gerry spends his days exploring the 15 acres of gardens that came with the villa. He discovers scorpions that live on the crumbling walls, as well as pairs of swallows building mud nests. Gerry observes their nest building closely, particularly since the two male birds seem unable to take their task of fetching nesting material seriously. After the babies hatch, one male begins bringing ridiculously unsuitable creatures back to try to feed to his young. Gerry is thrilled, as he is able to collect most of the large beetles, butterflies, and dragonflies that the bird eventually rejects for his own collection.
Here, Gerry assigns the birds personalities and reasoning for their actions so that he can form a bond and a friendship of sorts with them, even though they're never real pets. This shows that Gerry isn't just interested in bringing the natural world in; he's just as interested in engaging with nature out and about with the sole purpose of understanding it better.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Gerry checks under the nests twice per day for new specimens and, one day, finds a very large and strange-looking beetle. The beetle leaves an oily and smelly residue on Gerry's fingers and the scent makes Roger sneeze. The following Thursday, Theodore comes for tea and identifies the insect as a flightless female oil beetle. He happily explains that the beetles' larvae are parasitic to a certain species of bee.
The very clear excitement and interest that Theodore shows in regards to the natural world illustrates again that being an adult doesn't have to mean giving up on one's sense of childhood curiosity and wonder, especially since Theodore seems just as entranced as Gerry does.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Blue quotation bubble icon linking to an important quote associated with this summary and analysis.
At this, Theodore launches into a story about a white horse he had the misfortune of riding in a Greek parade during the First World War. The horse behaved itself until someone threw eau-de-Cologne at it—which is customary—but the scent splashed into the poor animal's eye. The horse was so upset, Theodore had to withdraw from the parade and ride the horse along back streets, stinking of the scent.
This story shows that as charming and idiosyncratic as many of the Greek customs are, they don't all yield positive results. This in turn suggests that the absurdity of Corfu isn't always a good thing, though per Theodore's understanding, it still makes for a compelling story.
Themes
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon