My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals Part 3, Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In September, the family decides to throw a Christmas party. They invite everyone they know for lunch, tea, and dinner. Larry sleeps as everyone else prepares, and Gerry, Roger, Widdle, and Puke help where they can. Gerry explains that it's fortunate that his family was used to their parties going awry, as this party ends up being taken over by animals.
The statement that the party is taken over by animals brings the novel's assertion that the natural world is all-powerful full circle. Now, this suggests that by bringing animals into the home, the Durrell house and their events are unable to compete with the natural world.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
It begins with goldfish. Gerry finally catches Old Plop and sets about creating a fantastic tank for him, the other terrapins, and the water snakes. Gerry decides, however, that he needs goldfish as a final touch. Gerry painstakingly describes what goldfish are to Spiro, and finally, the day before the party, Spiro conspiratorially tells Gerry to come with when he takes Mother to the hairdresser's and to bring a container. That night, Spiro drops off Mother and drives across town to a set of huge gates. He takes Gerry's cans, follows a man inside, and returns with five goldfish. He refuses to tell Gerry who owns the house, but Theodore later explains that the "house" is actually the palace where royalty stay when they visit.
Spiro's willingness to steal from the local palace only adds to the absurdity of the novel. Though Spiro is clearly concerned that he might be caught, he also doesn't seem to have an issue with the fish being on view at the party, which suggests that this theft may be greeted in a similar way as all the rest of Corfu's absurdity. To that end, it's also telling that the final touch Gerry desires comes from this place of absurdity, as it shows that the island truly does add necessary interest to life.
Themes
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On the morning of the party, Mother is annoyed to discover that Dodo is in season. She hires a peasant girl to beat off the canine suitors. As Gerry walks past his pond, he discovers two of the goldfish are dead and half-eaten. Distraught, he remembers that both terrapins and snakes will eat goldfish on occasion. He moves the reptiles into cans and cleans the Magenpies' and Alecko's cage while he tries to come up with a solution before guests arrive.
This tragic mistake shows that even Gerry can get caught up in the aesthetics of nature and, in doing so, forget what's actually best for his animals. However, the mistake also ensures that Gerry will probably never make this mistake again, especially since he seems to put so much thought into figuring out how to fix the problem.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
When Gerry returns to his pond he finds that someone moved the tin containing the snakes into the sun. They look almost dead. He races to Mother and asks to put the snakes in the bathtub, and she agrees as long as he disinfects it. The snakes perk up after being immersed, so Gerry leaves them.
Here, Gerry's first and only thought is for the care of his animals, which shows how seriously takes his responsibility of caring for them. Leaving the snakes shows that Gerry trusts them to behave, and others to not take issue. 
Themes
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
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When Gerry goes to look at the lunch table, he discovers the Magenpies escaped. The table is covered in butter, and the Magenpies also got into a bottle of beer. They act drunk and unbalanced as Gerry catches them. Mother walks in as Gerry stands with the birds, but she only tells Gerry to be careful of the cage door. She reasons that the Magenpies weren't really responsible since they were drunk.
Mother's willingness to empathize with the Magenpies again shows that she has a soft spot for animals and the natural world. Unlike Larry, she understands that the Magenpies are naturally inclined to get into things like this and the fact that they did so, given the chance, isn't their fault.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Gerry puts the Magenpies in their cage and finds that Alecko took the opportunity to escape. Gerry searches for him but can't find him, so he joins the arriving guests. Leslie appears out of the olive groves, carrying a bag full of game. He goes into the house to bathe and Mother and Dodo come out to socialize. Mother waves a stick at the male dogs assembled in the front yard and when fights break out, the family yells at the dogs and scares the guests.
Gerry's tone when he describes the family yelling at the dogs suggests that this is a normal occurrence, even though it seems weird and strange for the guests. This suggests that in many ways, the Durrells have now become the absurd ones on the island—a sign that they've finally taken the atmosphere of the island to heart.
Themes
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Suddenly, everyone hears a bellow from in the house. Leslie promptly appears, wrapped in a tiny towel, yelling about Gerry and snakes in the bathtub. The guests who know the Durrells follow the exchange with interest; the others aren't sure what to do. Mother soothes Leslie and explains the snakes had sunstroke, and Larry makes sure to insert himself in the argument. Finally, Gerry borrows a saucepan and takes his fully revived snakes outside. He returns to the party to hear Larry explaining to guests that the house is a death trap, filled with all manner of hideous and evil beasts. Mother hurriedly invites the guests to sit for lunch to change the subject.
Larry's passionate monologue about the evil creatures in the Durrell house shows once again that he finds nature as a whole to be totally in opposition to civilized human life. When Mother then tries to change the subject, it suggests, for one, that she doesn't feel the same and further, that she recognizes that guests might also not share Larry's distaste for the natural world. This leaves it open to the possibility that more people agree with Gerry than he realizes.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
Moments after everyone is seated, two guests leap up, yelling in pain. Theodore looks under the table and with interest, explains there's a big bird under there. Larry exclaims that it's an albatross, but Theodore says he thinks it's a gull. Larry tells everyone to sit calmly so they don't get bitten, but this only makes everyone get up, terrified. Kralefsky offers to help Gerry capture Alecko and seems relieved when Gerry turns down his offer. Finally, Gerry catches the gull as Theodore drops several puns on the groaning guests.
The fact that even Kralefsky is unwilling to really interact with Alecko provides more evidence for the fact that Alecko is a difficult and maybe even downright dangerous animal to live with. Gerry's willingness to work with him is a testament to how much Gerry respects the natural world and wants the chance to engage with it on his terms.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
At lunch, Kralefsky tells a story about a friend who was attacked by a gull, and Theodore makes an absurd gull pun. Larry tells the guests about an incident involving an aunt who was a beekeeper, and Theodore tells the table about the modernization of the Corfu Fire Brigade. First, the fire chief decided they needed a pole to slide down, but he forgot to install the pole and two firemen broke legs jumping through the hole. Then, the fire engine they purchased was the biggest and best, but too large to fit through the streets of Corfu.
This particular story of Theodore's suggests that some of Corfu's inherent absurdity comes from its liminal state between being undeveloped and modern. This mimics Gerry's liminal state between being a child an adult, as well as Mother being in-between existing within and outside of Greek culture. Taken together, this suggests that these in-between states bring about absurdity.
Themes
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The chief also sent away for an alarm and installed it on the fire station, but was annoyed when someone set off the single-use alarm after only a week. When the engine finally arrived at the fire, the brigade looked impressive until the firefighters realized that Yani, who was off duty, had the key to unlock the hose. They finally found him in the gathered crowd of rapt onlookers, the key in his pocket. By this time, there was nothing left to put out.
With this story, the hilarity and absurdity comes from the fact that the trappings of modernity aren't yet normal on the island. Eventually, the island will have electricity and a better-organized fire brigade, which shows that the absurdity Theodore talks about isn't just specific to Corfu; it's specific to this point in history.
Themes
Absurdity and Storytelling Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
After lunch, some guests have Spiro drive them down to the sea to swim, and everyone reconvenes later for tea. Several hours later, Spiro drives up the driveway, blaring the car horn. He trundles out of the car holding a huge and heavy package. Larry dramatically laments that his manuscript has been returned, but Spiro explains that the packages contain turkeys for dinner.
Again, Larry believes that everything revolves around him and his writing. At this point in the novel, this shows that Larry hasn't changed much if at all over the course of the novel and will continue to go through life acting as though he's the star of every show.
Themes
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Dodo decides to step outside and comes face to face with a terrifying, belligerent pack of male dogs. She races back inside, screaming in fear, and the pack pursues her. The noise brings Roger, Puke, and Widdle racing out of the kitchen, and they throw themselves on Dodo's suitors. Theodore and Kralefsky offer suggestions as to how to break up the roiling dogfight, and Spiro finally steps in with a tub of water. He throws it over the dogs and they all race outside in terror and surprise. Mother waves everyone outside for dinner and the party continues.
Though the dogfight isn't normal at all, Mother's ability to move the guests outside and continue the party regardless shows that she's finally come to a point where she too can handle the ridiculousness and absurdity of Corfu. Now she can roll with the punches and Gerry, in telling the story, is able to step into Theodore's role of the storyteller to relate this to the reader, where it now seems even more absurd.
Themes
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