Playing Beatie Bow

Playing Beatie Bow Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Gibbie and Abigail sit by the fire, Gibbie tells Abigail that he is not long for the world—his doctors have all given up on him. Dovey brings Gibbie and Abigail two bowls of broth and a box of dominoes to play with, but Gibbie forlornly says he must “turn away from the things of this world.” Abigail chides Gibbie for “lying around like an old granny,” but Dovey reverently explains that Gibbie has been near death. Gibbie proudly states that he still is, and that perhaps by his birthday, he will be able to join his mother in heaven.
As Abigail observes the strange mannerisms and affectations of the sickly Gibbie, she understands that the young boy has an ardent obsession with death and decay. He longs to depart this world, and seems to be trying as hard as he can to hasten the process of ascending to heaven.
Themes
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Abigail is well aware of the morbidity and fascination with death typical of the Victorian era due to the “kilos” of mourning outfits, brooches, and jewelry that have passed through her mother’s shop, and finds it all exasperating. So much of this time is foreign to Abigail—she does not understand the macabre fascination with death, or the lax bathing schedule, or the way people dress.
Abigail’s knowledge of the past, however cursory, allows her to understand that Gibbie’s proclivities are in large part a product of his environment. Even though Abigail understands this in theory, seeing it in person is something totally different, and Gibbie’s attitude bewilders and repels her.
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Gibbie begins speaking aloud about the extravagant plans he has for his own funeral. Abigail warns Gibbie not to fixate on death, because if he actually died, he’d be leaving behind all his family—Gibbie, however, seems thrilled by the prospect of his family mourning his loss. Abigail is shocked that she has encountered a child even more repellent than Vincent Crown.
Abigail is shocked and repulsed to find that despite the significant differences in the two time periods, there are many similarities—mainly, the fact that her pet peeve, a whiny and self-absorbed child, has found a way to follow her a hundred years into the past.
Themes
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Gibbie does not want to play dominoes, so to pass the time, Abigail opens the window curtains and looks out on the dingy but bustling street. She is distracted, though, by a commotion in the adjacent confectionery shop. Mr. Bow storms into the parlor and pulls a rusty sword down from the mantel, screaming about approaching Russian troops. Mr. Bow runs into the street, and Abigail watches as he goes down the lane. Abigail goes into the shop, where a frightened Dovey tells Granny that she doesn’t know how Mr. Bow got his hands on the rum. Abigail realizes that Mr. Bow is timid until he drinks, but as soon as he imbibes liquor, he becomes wild.
As Abigail begins to understand Mr. Bow’s situation a little bit better, she is both bemused and sympathetic. Mr. Bow’s situation is disturbing, but the fact that Abigail can see a clear pattern to his “spells” gives her some feeling of wisdom, and even control, regarding the situation. At the same time, the recognition of his trigger means that whenever he might drink in the future, something terrible is bound to happen soon after.
Themes
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Granny tells Dovey she is going to go after Samuel, and asks Dovey to help clean up in the shop, as Mr. Bow has made a mess there. Abigail looks out into the street and realizes that she knows exactly where in the Rocks she is, despite how different everything looks. She has traveled far in time, but not in space, and she’s happy to know that she doesn’t need Beatie’s help getting back after all—though she resolves to wait until her wounds have healed before attempting to get home, lest she worry her mother.
Abigail had felt slightly hopeless up to this point, but as she realizes that she is not in some foreign, inscrutable place—she is in her own backyard, essentially—she is filled with a renewed sense of determination and capability.
Themes
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Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Dovey and Granny bring Mr. Bow inside and help him to a bench. The shop is still a mess, and Abigail offers to help get things in order. Mr. Bow sits in the corner as if in a trance while the women work. Gibbie appears in the door and asks why no one is paying attention to him, sick as he is—Dovey feels Gibbie’s head and tells him he actually feels all right, but that he should go up to bed if he’s ill. Gibbie insists on waiting for someone to carry him. Abigail is incensed that Gibbie is faking illness.
Having seen how difficult and often dire things are for the Bows—and how there is a member of their family who is truly suffering from an illness no one can fix—Abigail’s patience for Gibbie’s attention-grubbing playacting dwindles to nothing very quickly.
Themes
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The women salvage what they can of the ruined treats throughout the shop, and Dovey shows Abigail the many different kinds of candy Mr. Bow makes. Gibbie laments that no one will carry him upstairs, and that his own father is too ill to care for him. Mr. Bow breaks down in tears, calling for his dead wife Amelia. Abigail pinches Gibbie on the back of the neck and he runs up the stairs. Granny chides her for doing so, but Abigail offers that at least her method worked.
In a moment of total chaos in the Bow family, Abigail uses her unlikely methods to introduce a bit of innovation into the way they do things. She does not have patience for Gibbie, and shows the Bows that there are other ways of handling issues. She thus shows that she has a kind of wisdom to offer them as well.
Themes
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Granny helps Abigail back into bed and applies a healing poultice to her ankle. Over the course of the next few days, the bruise fades. Abigail, realizing that the opportune moment for her escape is drawing near, begins observing the Bows and the Talliskers more carefully. She’s afraid that there will be many problems with her return to the future—her parents’ anxieties about her being missing, returning to the present in such odd clothes—but resolves to deal with those problems when she gets to them.
Abigail is the recipient of kindness, care, and love from the Bows—but still only sees their attention to her as a way to further her own goal of getting home. Abigail is still self-absorbed and wary of connection, able to think only of herself and what she has told herself she wants and needs.
Themes
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Abigail is amazed by the kindness not just of the family that has taken her in, but of the community in general—she knows that even her own kind mother would never have taken in a strange girl off the streets. Abigail realizes, in the light of this kindness, how unkind she herself has been to her own parents.
Abigail is learning about kindness, love, and duty—even though all she wants is to get back to her own world, this place has things to teach her, and lessons from which she can learn and grow.
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Related Quotes
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Though the Victorian world is dangerous, rife with disease, war, and subpar education and social security, Abigail concedes that it is in many ways “a more human world” than Abigail’s own. Against all odds, she finds herself wishing she could stay awhile and observe more, but soon pushes the thought from her head and resolves to focus on planning her journey home.
Abigail is having some conflicting feelings. She wants to escape this strange and largely undesirable time she has found herself in—but even so, she concedes that there are things about it which fascinate and even comfort her. She pushes back against these feelings, though, afraid of what they mean, and reluctant to delay her return any longer.
Themes
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The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon