My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals Part 3, Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gerry learns that Mother found another tutor, a man named Kralefsky. She informs Gerry that Kralefsky loves birds, which doesn't impress Gerry: he's found that most "bird enthusiasts" know nothing about birds. He sets off for his first lesson at Kralefsky's mansion in a dark mood. Gerry is shocked when Kralefsky opens the door, as he looks like a gnome. Kralefsky leads Gerry to a room where they'll work and declares that they must become friends. Gerry tries hard not to smile, and Kralefsky explains he's an aviculturist. He invites Gerry to see his birds before they begin work.
Gerry's reasoning about Kralefsky suggests not just that others aren't real ornithologists; it also shows that his family members are also ill informed about birds, and thus he's less willing to trust what they have to say about supposed bird lovers. Again, the way that Gerry describes Kralefsky suggests that Kralefsky's appearance fits right in with the general absurdity of Corfu.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Absurdity and Storytelling 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.
Kralefsky leads Gerry upstairs. Behind a locked door, Gerry sees dozens of birdcages lining the walls of the bright attic. He inspects the cages and discovers two large aviaries on a balcony containing larger birds. After Gerry looks at them, he helps Kralefsky fill water dishes for the birds. Kralefsky talks to both Gerry and the birds as he works. Finally, an alarm sounds and Kralefsky, disgusted, discovers that it's already noon and Gerry is set to leave in a half hour. They pick flowers for the birds until it's time for Gerry to leave. Gerry later informs his family that he like Kralefsky very much.
This initial meeting suggests that Kralefsky might eventually occupy a similar place in Gerry's heart that Theodore does, given that he clearly is a real aviculturist. Kralefsky also stands as another example of what an adult can be. Though he does go on to tutor Gerry, he also continues to pursue his love of birds and other animals in a manner that Gerry has thus far considered unique to children and youth.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Despite their unorthodox first "lesson," Kralefsky proves to be a stickler when it comes to tutoring. He drills Gerry on history and the primary exports of English counties. Gerry retains none of it. They spend one morning per week reading out of a French bird book, though Kralefsky can barely stand listening to Gerry struggle so they go for walks to practice conversational French. Inevitably they wind up in Corfu's bird market, forget all about French, and Kralefsky purchases birds until his alarm goes off at noon.
Even as Kralefsky seems charmingly absurd, his very particular interest in teaching Gerry about England suggests that like Mother, Kralefsky holds English culture above all others. This opens up the possibility that Kralefsky might not be as much a part of Corfu as his other mannerisms might lead Gerry to believe.
Themes
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
At odd intervals during the morning, Kralefsky excuses himself to see his mother. Gerry believes that Kralefsky is far too old to have a living mother, so he decides it must be Kralefsky's way of referring to the bathroom. One morning, Gerry needs to use the bathroom himself and decides to adopt Kralefsky's term for the bathroom. Kralefsky is confused when Gerry asks to visit his mother, but he goes to check to make sure "she" is accepting visitors. Gerry assures him that he doesn't mind, as his "mother" is often a mess. This garners a strange look.
Gerry's reasoning here shows one consequence of youth: Gerry is unable to reasonably evaluate how old Kralefsky is. This may be because of his own mother's age relative to the other Durrell children, but more than anything it reminds the reader that Gerry is still very young. However, his willingness to adapt to Kralefsky's "way of doing things" shows that his youth also makes him more adaptable.
Themes
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Get the entire My Family and Other Animals LitChart as a printable PDF.
My family and other animals.pdf.medium
Kralefsky leads Gerry down a hallway and into a bedroom filled to the brim with flowers. A tiny old figure lies in the bed. She has rich auburn hair that cascades halfway down the bed. Gerry is shocked as Kralefsky introduces him to his mother, Mrs. Kralefsky. She explains that her hair is her one remaining vanity and says she believes that her hair is self-sufficient and almost separate from her.
Though Mrs. Kralefsky is otherwise described as being quite old, her hair color suggests that she's not what Gerry presumably thinks of when he thinks of elderly people. In this way, Mrs. Kralefsky becomes yet another example of adulthood taking many different unexpected forms.
Themes
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Kralefsky excuses himself to go check on some eggs that are due to hatch, leaving Gerry with Mrs. Kralefsky. She tells Gerry that she believes that when one gets old, the world slows down to meet you. This allows her to see all manner of delightful things, most notably that flowers talk. She assures Gerry that flowers have conversations among themselves, but then sharply asks if Gerry finds her strange. He assures her truthfully that he doesn't and explains that he can hear bat squeaks, which elderly people cannot hear. This delights Mrs. Kralefsky.
It's worth noting that in the case of Mrs. Kralefsky, she mentions a greater sense of connectedness to the natural world as being a consequence of age. This is surely a delightful thing for Gerry to hear, as it shows him that there's no reason for being elderly to mean that the natural world is less important.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Blue quotation bubble icon linking to an important quote associated with this summary and analysis.
Mrs. Kralefsky says that flowers also have personalities. She gestures at a gorgeous dark red rose in a vase and explains that she's had "him" for two weeks and when he arrived, he was nearly dead in a vase with daisies. Daisies are cruel and once the rose was removed to his own vase, he flourished. She smiles and says that flowers are just like people: mixing certain kinds creates class struggle. At this, Kralefsky returns, gleeful at his new hatch of baby birds. He leads Gerry back to continue their work.
Mrs. Kralefsky's decision to call the flower "him" instead of "it" shows that like Gerry, she also anthropomorphizes the natural world so that she can better understand it. Again, this shows Gerry that there are adults in the world who feel just as warmly about nature as he does, and they seek to respect and properly care for it in a variety of ways.
Themes
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon