Playing Beatie Bow

by

Ruth Park

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Playing Beatie Bow: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is a long, wretched boat ride home. Beatie sits with her hands over her ears the whole time, but Judah assures Abigail that Beatie has always been stubborn this way, and her fits have grown worse since her fever. Judah muses aloud at how trusting and tender Dovey is in contrast to Beatie, and admits that he does not want to give her any more suffering. Beatie uncovers her ears and exclaims that Dovey would never want Judah now that he has been untrue to her, before covering them right back up again.
Beatie is clearly spitting mad over what has transpired between Judah and Abigail. Beatie is devoted to the sweet, frail Dovey, and sees any threat to Dovey as a threat to their entire family. The dark, volatile, irrational side of Beatie’s personality emerges in this passage as she excoriates Judah and Abigail for their behavior, despite not knowing the full extent of what transpired between them.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail assures Judah that Beatie won’t say anything to Dovey, as Beatie does not want to hurt her either, but Judah says he knows his sister, and knows that in this kind of mood, she would do anything. Judah pulls the boat back into shore and tells Beatie and Abigail to head for the house while he ties the boat up. Beatie takes off running.
Judah is afraid of the power Beatie now holds. With one word, she could bring his betrothal to Dovey, and perhaps even the trust between the members of their family—not to mention the inheritance of the Gift—crashing down.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail chases Beatie, calling after her not to tell Dovey, but Beatie only calls Abigail “Judas” and tells her to shut up. As the girls hurry down the road, they encounter a great commotion—Mr. Bow is in the street, holding his sword above his head and screaming unintelligibly. A passing constable, chasing Mr. Bow down, warns Beatie that her father has set the shop on fire, and tells her to go get the brigade.
Beatie’s plans to expose Judah and Abigail are waylaid by another of Mr. Bow’s spells. Abigail had thought Mr. Bow seemed off when she left for the shore, and now sees that her suspicions were right. This demonstrates how well Abigail knows the Bows now, after living with them so long, but also sets off the climactic action of the novel.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail runs toward the shop, and Beatie follows her. The inside is full of smoke, and Granny is beating at the flames with a wet sack. Beatie yells for a group of street children hanging near the doorway to go get the fire brigade. Abigail and Beatie help Granny try to smother the flames, and Granny explains that Mr. Bow had been hiding a bottle of rum, which he drank most of this morning before throwing the rest into the fireplace. Abigail realizes there’s no chance of putting out the fire. She asks where Dovey is—Granny says Dovey went upstairs to fetch her bridal chest.
The chaos and wild spread of the fire symbolically mirror the chaos Beatie had threatened to unleash upon the family. Though Judah and Abigail’s secret has not been revealed, a different kind of turmoil has overtaken the family, and threatens their legacy in a very different way than Beatie’s reveal would have threatened the longevity of the Gift.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
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Abigail tells Beatie to help Granny outside—Abigail herself will go up and save Dovey. She finds Dovey trying to drag the chest down the stairs, but Abigail says there’s no time. Together, the girls bring the chest over to the window and shove it out. Dovey warns Abigail that if the chest burns, her dress will go with it, and she will never be able to go home again, but Abigail ignores her, focusing only on getting Dovey out safely. Dovey struggles, frightened and overwhelmed, but Abigail implores her to keep going, “for Judah’s sake.” Abigail shoves Dovey down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out into the yard. Then Dovey pales, and exclaims that they have forgotten Gibbie.
This passage shows how much Abigail has matured over the course of her time with the Bows, and also how much she loves them, and thus is willing to uphold her duty to them—even when it comes to Dovey, who she has lately seen as a rival. Abigail risks incinerating the only point of connection she has with the future in favor of saving Dovey, even though she knows that Judah is going to choose Dovey over her.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Abigail wraps a wet quilt around her head and goes back inside to get Gibbie. Though the banister is now ablaze, Abigail leaps up past the first two stairs and goes to the attic. She enters—the room is free of smoke, but Gibbie is screaming. She tells the boy they’ll have to go through the window, and she quickly kicks out the glass. Gibbie is frightened, but Abigail assures him that they’ll be able to scramble down with ease. Gibbie refuses to move, but Abigail grabs him up and shoves him out the window and onto the roof. Out there, Abigail can hear the sounds of the fire brigade approaching. She sees that Dovey’s bride chest is stuck on the roof, and pushes it down into the yard of the Chinese laundry below.
Abigail so loves the Bows—and is so resolute in her commitment to her duty to them—that she risks her own life to go up and save even the annoying, sickly Gibbie. Abigail has been transformed by the power of love, and she saves Dovey’s bridal chest—and, by proxy, her connection back home—as only a second thought after first ensuring that the Bows, and the Gift, are preserved and safe.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
One of the Chinese men uses a pallet to make a safe landing for Gibbie and Abigail to jump down onto, and though Gibbie once again refuses to go, Abigail pushes him off into the waiting arms of the laundry man. Abigail then jumps down herself, and shepherds Gibbie around the corner to the street.
Abigail saves Gibbie before she saves herself, demonstrating again her commitment to saving even the least-liked member of the Bow-Tallisker clan.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Out on the street, the fire is under control, but the shop is gone. Abigail feels weak and faint. She spots Granny, Dovey, and Beatie across the street and urges Gibbie to run to them. Abigail then sees Judah running down the lane—he goes straight to Dovey and wraps her in his arms. Abigail watches the two of them embrace, knowing that it is Dovey whom Judah loves, and not her. Abigail says goodbye to Judah, silently, in her heart.
As Abigail realizes that Judah does indeed love Dovey truly and deeply, she feels a sadness overtake her. The image of her watching the Bows stand together across the street highlights the degree of removal she has, and will always have, from their family.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon