Playing Beatie Bow

Playing Beatie Bow Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Abigail feels slightly like she did when her father first left her and her mother. She feels afraid, angry, and helpless, but tells herself that she will not let herself be “beat”—she plans to search high and low for her dress, or bribe or coax either Beatie or Judah into telling her where it is hidden. Though she is full of despair, Abigail considers how much she has learned about herself in “this rough new world,” and about real life as well.
A recurring motif throughout this section of the novel is the deep tension Abigail feels between her desire to get home and back to her “real life,” and her fascination with the past and increasing allegiance to the Bows. Abigail is caught between a sense of duty and her desire to disconnect herself, and in this chapter she will struggle greatly with her competing instincts and impulses.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail decides to not grow silent and distraught, and asks Granny how she can help around the house and the shop. Granny embraces Abigail and confesses that though her heart aches for Abigail, she knows her service to the Bows and Talliskers will be worth it. Granny confesses that it is her own duty to preserve the Gift, and she can do nothing against that singular mission. Granny adds slyly that if Abigail is planning on searching for her “gown,” it’s hidden where Abigail will never look for it.
This passage shows that Granny, too, has conflicting emotions about the entire situation. Granny’s allegiance is to her family, and to the Gift, but it breaks her heart to hurt Abigail and to keep her bound to a place she does not want to be.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail inserts herself into the household routine, scrubbing and dusting the house and raking the shop fire. Abigail approaches Beatie about the dress, but Beatie tells Abigail that she has no idea where it is—and even if she did, she confesses, she would not tell Abigail. Abigail tries to bribe Beatie by promising to take her along to the future so that she can pursue an education, and though Beatie is tempted, she tells Abigail that she could never leave Dovey.
Abigail makes herself more helpful to the Bows while at the same time trying to outmaneuver them. This passage displays her competing desires, and her way of being aloof and self-serving while still doing the minimum to uphold her “duty,” just as she did back in her old life.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Abigail often works in the shop, and finds that Mr. Bow, despite his spells, is a timid and mild companion. The two of them discuss Abigail’s being the Stranger—Abigail insists that as an Englishman, Mr. Bow can’t possibly believe the silly Orkney tale of elves and Gifts, but Mr. Bow resignedly assures Abigail that he does believe. Before he married his wife Amelia, she told him that she would die before him, leaving him a widower, and that did come to pass.
Even as Abigail is continually searching for a way out of the past and away from the Bows, she finds herself connecting with each of them—even the strange, disturbed Mr. Bow—more deeply every day.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Get the entire Playing Beatie Bow LitChart as a printable PDF.
Playing beatie bow.pdf.medium
Abigail asks Mr. Bow about his time in the Crimean War, but he tells her he does not remember much—his wound and resulting illness marred his memory, and he confesses that without Granny and Dovey he does not want to think about what would become of him. Abigail realizes that Mr. Bow will never cross Granny to help her find her dress. Abigail does not give up, though, and searches surreptitiously for the gown whenever she can. Granny catches her once, and tells Abigail that such behavior is not “worthy” of her—before confessing that the dress is in Dovey’s bride chest, which is locked. Abigail tells Granny that she just wants to go home. Granny assures her that it won’t be long before she can.
Abigail disappoints Granny by continuing to look for the dress, and this displays that she has not yet matured enough to commit fully to her duty to the Bow family. Granny decides to put Abigail to the test by telling her exactly where the dress is, and seeing if Abigail will continue attempting to serve her own interests, or will honor and respect Dovey, and thus the Bow-Talliskers more generally, by submitting to her duty on their behalf. Notably, the idea of Dovey’s future wedding also becomes important later.
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
Blue quotation bubble icon linking to an important quote associated with this summary and analysis.
Abigail has noticed a change in Granny—she has become older and smaller in the weeks since Abigail’s attempt at escape. She sits most often in the parlor with Gibbie now, rather than working in the shop or around the house. Granny knows that it was sending out her mind to search for Abigail that weakened her. Granny tells Abigail that if she could do what she did for Abigail, it’s only fair that Abigail does something for Granny in return. Abigail begrudgingly agrees. Still, Abigail sometimes sits longingly in front of Dovey’s bride chest—she knows that from the age of seven, every Orkney girl begins collecting household linen towards a dowry, and though she would never break into the chest and betray Dovey, she wants her dress badly.
As Abigail realizes that Granny has sacrificed not only time and energy but her own personal health and well-being on Abigail’s behalf, Abigail realizes that she must commit to doing the same for Granny. However, she cannot fully stamp out her desire to serve her own interests and return to her own time. Despite her childish behavior of sitting in front of the bridal chest, Abigail does display a little bit of growth in that she respects the role that has been thrust upon her and does not try to get her dress or escape again.
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
Abigail begins noticing how Judah, a seaman who is often away, blusters in and out of the house like the tide; moreover, Abigail realizes that everyone in the family draws strength from Judah and his sunny personality. Though only eighteen, Judah is a man in earnest, unlike eighteen-year-old boys in the future who are so aimless and undisciplined. Abigail often regales Judah with tales of the ships of the future, but Judah is completely uninterested in all Abigail has to share about the future of government, travel, and science—even news of the moon landing does not move Judah. Unable to connect with Judah about the future, Abigail tries to discuss his past with him, but he says plainly that the past is “dead and gone,” and he is only concerned with being alive “at this minute.”
So many members of the Bow family are obsessed with either the past or the future. Granny is preoccupied with the future, and with preserving the Gift; Gibbie is simultaneously focused on the past and his mother’s death, as well as the future and his own impending demise. Beatie wants to know more about the future, but is fearful of actually being able to see it on her own. Judah, then, is an outlier, as he is only concerned with the present moment. This makes him seem like a very healthy and “normal” character, and in some ways as much of an outsider in the Bow family as Abigail herself.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Blue quotation bubble icon linking to an important quote associated with this summary and analysis.
Whenever Judah is home from his travels, the house is always noisy and lively. Judah dreams of having his own ship one day, and shares his hopes with Abigail. During one of these conversations, as the two of them joke back and forth, Abigail says that she’ll miss Judah when she goes home, and all of a sudden it hits her—she is in love with Judah. Abigail quickly bids Judah goodnight and returns to her room.
As Abigail experiences the strange and shocking realization that against all odds, she has fallen victim to love, she leans on her oldest instinct—to immediately remove herself from the point of connection and isolate herself, denying her feelings.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Dovey is in bed and asleep when Abigail gets to the room—she undresses quickly and gets into her own bed, burying her face in her pillow. She cannot believe she has been “pierced” by love, just like all the other girls she ridiculed back in her own time—just like her foolish, lovesick mother, who often told Abigail the tale of the love at first sight she experienced with Weyland. Though Abigail can “scarcely admit it to herself,” she knows deep down that it is true—she loves Judah, and has loved him all along. Abigail cannot sleep, she is so happy, and when Gibbie stirs upstairs, Abigail whispers to Dovey that she herself will go see to him.
Despite all her best efforts to hide herself away from her feelings, Abigail has at last become the victim of romantic love. The power of her feelings for Judah has begun to transform her already—she feels a deep, profound joy within her, and when Gibbie cries in the night she volunteers to go to him, demonstrating how her love for Judah has affected her sense of duty to all of the Bows, even the one she likes least.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
When Abigail arrives in Gibbie’s room, he whines that he wants Dovey—he is scared of the lightning and thunder outside. Abigail sits beside Gibbie and realizes how sickly he looks and smells. Though it is a cruel thought, Abigail is relieved that it will be Gibbie who dies, thus saving Dovey and Judah. Abigail remembers her mother telling her how powerful love can be, and realizes that it is true—her love for Judah is so overwhelming that she does not care if Gibbie lives or dies.
The transformative power of love is shown to have a cruel side, as well, as in this passage Abigail openly longs for the death of anyone other than Judah. She is still being selfish, but now the idea of her own happiness includes Judah’s wellbeing as well.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Blue quotation bubble icon linking to an important quote associated with this summary and analysis.
Abigail asks Gibbie if he wants to hear more Treasure Island, but Gibbie is asleep in moments. The storm recedes, and Abigail watches it calm down. She wonders if the rain will keep Judah from going back out to sea tomorrow, and wishes he could stay a whole week.
All of Abigail’s thoughts now eventually trail back to Judah—this demonstrates, again, how transformative and powerful the feelings of love Abigail has are.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Indeed, the heavy rain means that Judah is home more often. Though Dovey worries that a season of so much rain will bring sickness, Abigail is “filled with richness”—the enchanting calm of love has completely overtaken her. Just looking at and listening to Judah is enough for her—she cannot even imagine the unbearable joy of actually being with him.
Abigail’s life has been completely transformed by her new feelings. Just a few days ago she was practically itching to get away from the Bows, but now she is so happy just to be around Judah that she only thinks of how she can grow closer to the family rather than remove herself from them.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Dovey’s bad leg acts up in the rain, so she moves upstairs to Granny’s room where Granny—who still has a bit of the healing touch—can attend to her. Beatie takes Dovey’s bed, and as Beatie sleeps like a log through the night, it is most often Abigail who now attends Gibbie when he cannot sleep at nights. Abigail realizes that Gibbie is faking his illness out of an “insatiable desire for sympathy and attention” borne of the loss of his mother, but knows she cannot possibly begin to explain this to any of the Bows, who have never heard of psychology.
As Abigail’s love for Judah fills her with light and calm, she finds herself growing closer to the other members of the Bow family as well, and relating to and empathizing with them on a whole new level.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
One afternoon, after running home to escape a rain storm, Beatie tells Abigail that she has to talk to her. Abigail has noticed that Beatie has been more difficult recently, experiencing more tantrums and sulking more often. Beatie now accuses Abigail of being “stuck” on Judah. Abigail feels a shock run through her, and knows that her private bliss has been breached. She tries to deflect, but Beatie says that Abigail cannot deny it—Beatie can see it in her face. Abigail asks what would be the matter with that even if it were true. Beatie replies that not only does Judah see Abigail as a child, but he is promised to another. Abigail asks who, and Beatie says that Judah is promised to Dovey, and always has been.
The one member of the family to whom Abigail is not brought closer by her love for Judah is the fiery Beatie. Beatie is fiercely protective of her family, and when she sees that Abigail poses a threat to her family’s order and their happiness, she reveals a terrible truth that wounds Abigail deeply. Dovey’s wedding chest, which contains Abigail’s dress, is now an even more fraught object for Abigail than it was before.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail is shocked and hurt. Beatie goes on to explain that because it was Judah who caused the accident that crippled Dovey, he promised to marry her, as not every man wants a lame wife. Beatie says that Judah will marry Dovey as soon as his time as a seaman is over. Beatie tells Abigail that she will not allow her to come between Judah and Dovey, and will break her head before she lets Abigail infiltrate their partnership. Beatie adds that Granny would let the two of them split up if it meant saving the Gift, but the Gift does not come first to Beatie—Dovey and Judah do.
Beatie has had a fascination with and even a fondness for Abigail, but Abigail’s feelings for Judah now render her repellent to Beatie. Beatie reveals that her duty is not to the Gift, but to the immediate members of her family, and her fierce loyalty to her brother and her cousin far outweigh whatever dim connection she felt to Abigail. It is after this exchange that Beatie becomes more of an antagonistic character to Abigail.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail leaps up, seizes Beatie by the shoulders, and shakes her before dropping her on the floor. Abigail accuses the shocked Beatie of being a “stirrer,” and threatens her that if she breathes a word of Abigail’s affections to Dovey, Abigail will be the one to break Beatie’s head. Beatie vindictively tells Abigail that no matter what, Granny, with her Gift, will know. Abigail says she’s going to see Granny right away.
Abigail finds that the power of her love for Judah is so strong that she turns to actual violence when those feelings are threatened or called into question. Yet it’s also important to remember that she is a teenager experiencing her first strong romantic desire, and her emotions are a rollercoaster.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon