Playing Beatie Bow

by

Ruth Park

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Playing Beatie Bow can help.

Playing Beatie Bow: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Tallisker-Bows are taken in by the butcher and his wife. Abigail is fussed over and acclaimed for her bravery in saving everyone from the fire. The constables bring back Mr. Bow, and tell Granny that though they won’t write him up this time, his spells and violent episodes need to stop or he will soon end up in the madhouse.
Abigail is shown to be again at a distance from the Bows in the aftermath of the fire. She was right that the day at the shore would be her last day in 1873, demonstrating how her own sense of wisdom and even clairvoyance has developed.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Granny tells Abigail that she has at last done what she was sent to do—she saved Dovey for Judah, and now the Gift has double the chance of survival. Dovey begs Abigail to stay even though her task is done, but Abigail says she must return home. Dovey retrieves the green dress from the bride chest, and Abigail finds that it now looks strange and foreign to her. Nevertheless, she puts the dress on, and finds that it fits her more tightly—her figure is at last coming in.
Abigail knows that it is time to go home. She has, over the course of her time with the Bows, been tempted to stay by many different factors—but now that Judah is revealed to be in love with Dovey, Abigail feels that there is nothing more holding her to this time. Abigail’s physical growth here is a metaphor for her internal growth as well.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Granny tells Abigail that it must be Beatie alone who accompanies her back to the place where she first entered the past, and that it must be nearly dark, as it was on the night she first came. Abigail says her painful goodbyes to Dovey and JudahGibbie is asleep and Mr. Bow is in a kind of trance. Last of all, Abigail bids Granny farewell, and tells her that she wishes Granny were her real grandmother. Beatie angrily says it’s time to go, and the two set off for the lane.
Abigail’s goodbyes with the Bows are, for the most part, deeply emotional. As she sets off for the way back with Beatie, though, the little girl is markedly cold and impatient towards Abigail, demonstrating that she has still not gotten over her anger about Abigail’s dalliance with Judah.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail tells Beatie there’s no reason for Beatie to still be angry at her, but Beatie insists that Abigail should not have kissed Judah. Abigail vindictively tells Beatie that she is going to burn the green dress as soon as she gets home so that she can never return, and the two grumpily and silently walk down the street.
Abigail and Beatie have a fiery, contentious exchange as they approach the lane where Abigail will return to the present. When Abigail threatens to burn her dress, she is essentially telling Beatie that she doesn’t care about seeing her any more.
Themes
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Get the entire Playing Beatie Bow LitChart as a printable PDF.
Playing Beatie Bow PDF
At the end of the lane, Abigail tells Beatie that she should go to her teacher and ask to be tutored privately. Beatie replies that her father would not like for her to approach a man. Abigail tells her not to worry about what her father thinks, and instead look out for herself.
Despite the anger between them, Abigail still wants Beatie to succeed and find fulfillment, and attempts to encourage the younger girl to pursue her dreams.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail asks Beatie to stop hating her—Judah doesn’t love her after all, and Abigail did end up saving Dovey for him. Beatie says Abigail was only doing what she was “sent for.” Abigail, incensed, tells Beatie that she knows nothing about love, and will have to experience it to understand how powerful it is. She is then shocked to find that she is repeating the same words her mother once said to her—words she’d once thought were so foolish.
Abigail at last seeks absolution from Beatie, but Beatie is true to her steadfast, headstrong personality, and does not grant Abigail even an inch of relief. Abigail is so frustrated that she finds herself lashing out emotionally at Beatie, and attempting to impress upon the girl the same thing her own mother, not so long ago, tried to impress upon her when she herself was being impetuous and naïve.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Beatie does not answer Abigail, and so Abigail bids her a glum goodbye before continuing down the stairs to the lower part of the lane. She looks back over her shoulder and sees Beatie growing transparent. She thinks she can see Beatie waving her goodbye, but by the time she calls out Beatie’s name, it is too late—she is back in her own time.
Abigail will never know if Beatie softened, in the end, and wished her a proper goodbye, or if it was all a trick of the eye—the moment is lost forever in time.
Themes
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Abigail sees the Mitchell building, and hears the bells of the Town Hall clock. She wonders if it could be possible that no time at all has passed—it is, after all, still winter, as it was when she first passed into 1873. Abigail nervously approaches her apartment building, afraid that in fact a full year has passed, and her mother will have moved on without her. As she enters the lobby, she realizes that she is still wearing Dovey’s wool stockings and Granny’s shoes. The key to her own apartment is pinned inside her green dress, and she rushes inside, grateful for the sounds of the noisy Crown family next door.
Abigail is back in the present, but still bears the talismans of the past. Clothing, as it has always been throughout the novel, remains the point of connection between different people, different places, and different times. Abigail’s clothing from two different worlds—this one, and the one of 1873—shows that she is returning to the present a more whole person, with a greater respect for history and for the power of time itself.
Themes
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Abigail picks up a nearby newspaper and is relieved to see that the date is the 10th of May—the same day she left. So much has passed, she thinks, between just two clock strikes. Abigail longs to fall into the recliner and cry and rest for days—she will never see Judah again—but knows that she has little time before her mother will arrive home. Abigail runs to her bedroom and removes her old-timey clothes, stuffing them in a drawer. She catches sight of herself in the mirror and realizes how different she looks—most noticeably of all, her hair has grown nearly to her waist. She uses a pair of scissors to hack it off to her shoulders, and then jumps in the shower to wash herself.
Abigail is excited to be back in the present, but also devastated by thoughts of all she has left behind. The fact that she sheds her clothes—her connection to the past—but still keeps them close to her and safe in her dresser drawer shows that though she may be back in the present, she will not forget the lessons learned, connections made, or emotions felt during her journey to the past.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
When Abigail gets out of the bath, her mother is home. Despite the fact that they have “just” had a fight, Abigail cannot help grinning at her beloved mother. Her mother asks what she is smiling about, and how she could have run away without a word. Abigail apologizes for having been childish. Kathy then does a double-take, noticing that Abigail looks older. Kathy chides herself for not having paid enough attention to Abigail lately, and apologizes for going about in a fog.
Though Abigail has in truth matured externally as well as internally, her mother Kathy takes the visible change in her daughter as a sign that she has been ignoring her, a fact which speaks to the desire both women have for a deeper, more constant connection with one another.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Abigail and Kathy apologize to each other, and resolve to say not another word about Weyland that night. Abigail tries not to think of Judah, but as the night goes on, she has a hard time keeping him—and her jealous feelings toward Dovey—out of her head. She wonders if she has become just like all her lovesick classmates, but eventually decides that she is different than the others—Judah filled the empty place inside of her. Abigail resolves to try and forget as much as she can about everyone and everything in 1873,and puts herself to sleep.
As Abigail settles back into her life in the present, she uses the skills she harnessed for so many years to keep a calm exterior and betray none of the emotional or logistical chaos going on inside of her. Despite her happiness at being reunited with her mother, Abigail is still deeply saddened by the loss of the Bows, and specifically Judah. The memories are so painful that she attempts to sever herself from them to dull the hurt.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
In her dreams, Abigail has horrible visions of Samuel Bow chained up in an asylum. She sees Beatie, older and studious, bent over a leather-bound book. Beatie is dressed in black mourning clothes, and Abigail wonders whether Granny or Gibbie has died. The dream shifts again, and Abigail is on a ship—she sees Judah, the same age he was when she left 1873, whittling a small wooden figure of Abigail herself. He throws the figurine overboard, and Abigail wakes up crying and screaming. Her mother is at her side, comforting her—Abigail cannot stop moaning that Judah threw her away.
It is unclear whether Abigail’s dreams are fictions or visions. Her portentous dream in the first chapter, in which she could smell the confectionery before she’d ever visited it and see the yellow fever rag tied to the door, set up the fact that Abigail herself has a touch of clairvoyance, but these present dreams are possibly just representative of her greatest anxieties about the fate of the Bow family.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
In the morning, Abigail goes with her mother to work at Magpies, the vintage shop. As Kathy sets to work cleaning up a set of Victorian portraits, she marvels at how colorful their clothing was. Abigail corrects her, stating that most people wore drab woolen things and striped stockings.
Abigail, fresh from the Victorian era, displays her newfound knowledge of the customs of the past, showing up even her mother, who has a deep reverence for and familiarity with history.
Themes
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail tells her mother that she is going to take a walk around the Rocks. Before she goes, she hugs her mother and tells her that they can go to Norway with Weyland—she apologizes for making such a fuss. Kathy is stunned, but visibly excited.
Abigail shows that she has learned a lot and matured deeply in this passage as she accepts that her mother is motivated by love, and at last upholds her duty to keeping her family together.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail heads up Argyle Street toward the Rocks, feeling as if she is going home. The street is bright and deserted. She cannot believe that it was only last night that she saw the street teeming with “ragged, grubby, and vital” life and people. Abigail is amazed and terrified that all trace of the Bows and Talliskers has vanished—she feels as if time is a “vast black hole” that swallows up all human joy and suffering. Abigail realizes, sickeningly, that the same thing will happen to herself and her own parents.
As Abigail wanders the vastly different Rocks district, the uncanny difference between the time she has just left and the time she now inhabits overwhelms her. She can see nothing of the world she got to know so well, and wonders if this means that time has no allegiance to anyone at all, and simply swallows up the stories of history and condemns them to obscurity.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Abigail feels as if the empty place inside her is empty once again—she cannot bear to be in the Rocks anymore, so she heads home. Once back in the building, she fetches her cut-off hair and her green dress, and takes the elevator down to the incinerator, where she burns everything. At the last minute, she pulls the crochet yoke out of the flames. She takes it upstairs, where she folds it up and places it in the drawer with Dovey’s stockings and Granny’s shoes. 
Abigail is so upset after her walk through the Rocks that she longs to burn her final remaining connection to the past. At the last minute, however, she realizes that to do such a thing would not only be foolish, but would be a return to her old patterns of aloofness and disconnection. Instead she resolves to keep her clothing from the past—and thus symbolically her connection to it—safe and close at hand.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon