Playing Beatie Bow

by

Ruth Park

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Playing Beatie Bow: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At breakfast, Kathy admires Abigail’s new dress, and chatters on and on happily. When Abigail asks her mother what she’s so happy about, Kathy confesses that she had dinner with Weyland last night. The two had never been officially divorced, and they have seen each other a few times a year each year since their split. Weyland takes Abigail out every once in a while as well, but there is an awkwardness and the lingering memory of rejection between them.
Abigail’s mother has maintained a distant but consistent relationship with her daughter’s father, seemingly for practical purposes rather than romantic ones. Weyland’s attempts to have a similar relationship with Abigail have failed, as she has stewed bitterly every time she has seen him over the years.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail asks her mother if she had just run into Weyland, but Kathy confesses that she has seen her husband quite a few times recently. She apologizes for lying to Abigail, and then tells her daughter that Weyland wants for them all to be a family again. Abigail is filled with a “burning wave of dismay.” She inquires pointedly about “Miss Thingo,” the woman for whom Weyland left Kathy and Abigail behind—Kathy reminds Abigail that Weyland’s mistress, Jan, left him a year ago. Kathy begs Abigail to take the situation seriously, and really consider letting Weyland back into their lives.
Abigail’s mother admits that she has “betrayed” her daughter in favor of her husband. The power of romantic love, a major theme throughout the novel, is shown for the first time as Kathy’s love of her husband at least momentarily seems to outweigh her allegiance and duty to her daughter.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail is shocked and disappointed to realize that her mother is considering Weyland’s proposal in earnest, but Kathy insists that Abigail cannot understand love yet—she has not experienced it, and does not know how powerful it can be. Abigail accuses her mother of having no self-respect. Kathy insists that she has always loved Weyland, despite how he has hurt her and Abigail, and wants to try to make things work. She also reveals to Abigail that Weyland wants the two of them to travel with him to Norway, where he is about to embark on a three-year architectural study.
Abigail believes that her derisive attitude towards love is mature and subversive—she has not seen, up until this moment, how it could be seen as deeply childish and naïve. Abigail thinks that her mother is the childish one, but really Kathy is trying to act out of pure, genuine love, as well as a sense of duty towards keeping her family together.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
This is too much for Abigail—she is seized by jealousy and anger, and tells her mother that even though Kathy might want to put herself in a situation where she could get “dumped” a second time, Abigail herself will not do such a thing. Kathy protests, exclaiming that she could never leave Abigail in Australia at her age—and Abigail is struck by the realization that if it came down to a choice, her mother would choose Weyland. Abigail coolly tells her mother that she would rather live on her own at boarding school than go to Norway, and then she goes to her bedroom and slams the door.
Abigail is hurt by the fact that her mother, seemingly so overwhelmed by love for Weyland, would choose the pursuit of that love over her duty to her own daughter. Abigail acts as she always does in moments such as these, and shuts herself off from her mother both emotionally and physically rather than engage further in a painful discussion.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
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Kathy taps on Abigail’s bedroom door and attempts to get her to come back out, but Abigail ignores her mother’s quiet pleas. After she hears her mother leave for work, Abigail dons her new green dress, and instantly feels a little bit better. The more she thinks about her sappy mother, though, the angrier she gets—she can’t believe her mother would abandon Abigail and the shop for love. Abigail rages and sulks throughout the house, unable to picture herself living in Norway, but fighting off the sinking feeling that her mother is going to move there no matter what.
Abigail’s dress is the only thing that brings her comfort at this time of pain, confusion, and hurt. As clothing symbolizes connection to the past, Abigail’s drawing comfort from the garment perhaps symbolizes her desire to retreat to an earlier time, before this argument with her mother—or perhaps escape the demands of her present situation altogether.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Later that afternoon, Abigail heads over to the Crowns’. She tells Justine she is bored, and offers to take the children to the playground. Justine tells her to just take NatalieVincent is ill with a sore throat. When Justine notices Abigail’s dress, she asks her if it is the old rag—the family lace—that she has sewn to the yoke, but their conversation is interrupted by Vincent’s moaning.
As she tends to do in moments of unstable connection to her own family, Abigail seeks connection with the Crown family instead, a choice that allows her to feel a semblance of familial love without having to face the difficulties that come along with it.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
On the way down to the playground, Natalie tells Abigail that she was able to see the little furry girl on the playground from all the way up in the apartment. Natalie is a much happier child without her brother around, but still is drawn to watching the frightening games of Beatie Bow. As the game begins, Natalie points out the little furry girl to Abigail—Abigail notices the little girl, who is pale and dressed in a pinafore, with close-clipped hair that looks like cat’s fur.
The little furry girl at the playground has some kind of connection to the game of Beatie Bow—it entrances her, but she will not play it, very similarly to Natalie’s own reaction to the game. The little furry girl’s antiquated pinafore symbolizes her connection to another time.
Themes
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Natalie suggests they go speak to the little girl. As they approach her, Abigail notices that she is probably eleven, but small for her age—she is barefoot, and the skin on her feet is cracking and peeling. Natalie says hello to the child, who is instantly startled; the furry girl flees down the alleyway. Natalie instantly begins to cry. Abigail returns Natalie to her apartment, and as she hugs Abigail goodbye, Natalie tells her that the little furry girl has known much unhappiness. Abigail asks Natalie how she knows—Natalie says she just does.
Natalie has a strange and confusing connection to the little furry girl—she is drawn to her, and seems to understand her feelings intimately and profoundly. Nevertheless, the little furry girl also upsets Natalie—just like the game Beatie Bow does.
Themes
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Abigail returns to her own apartment, where she argues some more with her mother about Weyland’s proposition. Kathy berates Abigail for never once having considered how her mother might feel about things, and only ever focusing on her own emotions. Kathy tells Abigail that she will not let her daughter stand in the way of her own happiness, and then hurries off to the bathroom and locks herself in.
As Abigail and her mother fight, Kathy rightfully points out how self-centered Abigail is being. However, Kathy also mirrors her daughter’s immature and escapist behavior by shutting herself in the bathroom at the argument’s highest emotional point.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
In the morning, there is a stony coldness between Kathy and Abigail, but Abigail nonetheless agrees to help out at the shop for the weekend. As the days go by, the two exchange barely a word. Abigail is deeply upset, and the only thing that makes her feel a little bit better is her new green dress. When Kathy yells at Abigail for constantly stroking the fabric, Abigail grabs an old shawl, throws it around her shoulders, and runs away from the shop. As Abigail rides the bus home, she realizes how cruel and thoughtless she has been toward her mother, and begins crying.
Still pained by her contentious relationship with her mother, Abigail again turns to the green dress for comfort. Though one would think that Kathy would be happy to see her daughter embracing a connection to history, Kathy instead lashes out at Abigail—perhaps for avoiding the situation at hand—and winds up driving her daughter away.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
When Abigail gets off the bus, she passes the playground. Darkness is falling, and many children are being called in for supper. Abigail again sees the little furry girl in the corner of the playground, and thinks that she does look rather forlorn; the way Abigail feels on the inside. As she watches the little girl, she is reminded of Natalie. She approaches the little girl and startles her with a “Boo.” The little girl shouts at Abigail in a hoarse Scottish accent, claiming that she wasn’t doing anything, she was only watching the children play. She says something about not wanting “it” to be true, and then hurriedly runs away.
In the absence of a connection to her mother, Abigail attempts to connect to the odd little girl in the corner of the playground. The little girl responds strangely by attempting to escape, piquing Abigail’s interest. Abigail seeks out others in moments of disrupted connection with her own family, so as the little furry girl rejects Abigail’s attempt at connection, it follows that Abigail will continue to pursue the girl despite her protestations.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Abigail follows the little girl down an unfamiliar alleyway, calling after her, promising that all she wants to do is talk. Abigail catches up with the little girl as the alleyway opens up into a road. Down in the city, the Town Hall clock chimes six. Abigail follows the girl into the road, and is amazed when suddenly she hears horse’s hooves and sees that the street lights have been replaced with lamps holding candles. A horse-drawn cab nearly hits the stunned Abigail, who believes she is dreaming. Abigail observes strange, foreign-looking women and dirty, ragged children as she runs through the streets; one child throws a half-decayed rabbit’s head at her feet. Though Abigail is disoriented and unsure of where she is, she knows one thing—the little furry girl, whoever she is, will be able to tell her.
This scene is the book’s first explicit and major shift into the realm of the supernatural or fantastical. Abigail’s pursuit of connection to and information from the little furry girl has led her somewhere strange and foreign. Abigail knows that something is wrong, but also has no way of going back that she can see, and so follows the furry girl further and further into the night. Abigail is now reliant on the wisdom—and, seemingly, the power—that she believes the little girl possesses.
Themes
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon