Playing Beatie Bow

by

Ruth Park

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Playing Beatie Bow: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Abigail enters Granny’s room, where Granny is sitting in a chair. Granny puts aside her knitting and tells Abigail that she has been expecting her. As Abigail sits at Granny’s feet and puts her head in the old woman’s lap, Granny rightly tells Abigail that something frail and precious “like a china cup” has been chipped or cracked. Abigail says that she doesn’t feel like anything has been spoiled, though she didn’t want Beatie to know her secret. Abigail humbly says that perhaps she’s too young to know anything about love after all, but Granny tells Abigail that she herself was just fifteen when she was wed. Granny tells Abigail to look into her eyes.
Granny’s connection to the Gift is clearly still be viable—she knows exactly what has happened to Abigail without Abigail even having to tell her the details. Granny sees this painful moment as an opportunity to connect with Abigail, and to be kind and tender to the girl of whom she is asking so very much. Duty is shown to be a reciprocal thing to Granny, as she approaches Abigail with love and empathy.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail looks into Granny’s eyes and hears Granny’s voice, far away—when she looks down at herself, she is in the body of someone else. Granny’s voice explains that she is showing Abigail herself at eighteen, newly widowed. Abigail-as-Granny is poised on the edge of a cliff, longing to throw herself off but knowing that she can’t—she must live on in spite of the pain, for her children and her parents. Abigail tells Granny that she can’t bear to see any more, and is instantly thrown back into the parlor.
Granny shares a new aspect of the Gift with Abigail—one that is powerful, frightening, and illuminating. Granny wants Abigail to see that she is not alone in the intensity of her feelings, and also wants to reveal how the transformative powers of love took hold of Granny herself when she was a girl not much older than Abigail.
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
Granny tells Abigail that she must know now, through the vision, that the young can experience true love—and true sorrow. Abigail confesses to Granny that she shook Beatie violently, wishing that it were actually Dovey she was harming. She is afraid, she says, to be nasty to Dovey out of jealousy, though she does not want to be. Granny assures Abigail that she will be all right, and sends her from the room, telling her to ask Beatie to come in.
In this passage, Park uses Granny to communicate that the feelings and ideas young people have are just as valid and worthy as those of adults. Granny’s validation of Abigail’s joy and sorrow shows that young people’s emotions are to be embraced rather than discounted or underestimated.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail sits at the kitchen table washing potatoes. When Beatie comes out of the parlor after speaking with Granny, she is sniveling, and tells Abigail that Granny has charged her with being kind to Abigail—but she says any kindness she shows Abigail from now on is false. Beatie laments that Granny also told her to keep Abigail’s secret from Dovey. Abigail asks why Beatie is so upset, and whether Granny told her something else. Beatie reveals that Granny told her that by Sunday, Judah would decide whom he really loves—and Beatie is afraid that he will choose Abigail. Abigail knows that on Sunday, Judah has promised to take Beatie and Abigail hunting for cockles (a kind of edible mollusk) at the shore. Beatie asks Abigail to promise that she won’t hurt Dovey, but Abigail says she can’t promise such a thing.
Granny’s kindness and empathy towards Abigail is followed up by a sternness with Beatie. Beatie reacts poorly to this, but her anger at Abigail turns to fear that Dovey will be hurt. She wants for Abigail to promise her that no harm, even just emotional harm, will come to her family, but despite her desire to fulfill her duty to the Bows, Abigail cannot influence Judah’s actions—whatever will be will be.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
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On Sunday, Dovey prepares a picnic basket for Judah, Beatie, and Abigail, but as they prepare for the outing, Abigail feels only anxiety. As the three head out through the shop door, Abigail bids Mr. Bow goodbye, but he does not respond. Judah confesses that he is worried about his father, as his spells are more frequent.
Abigail realizes that today is the moment of truth—the course of her life could change forever, depending on what Judah decides.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Beatie runs ahead of Judah and Abigail through the empty streets down to the shore. Judah tells Beatie to slow down, as in the cockling boat, she will have to be still and quiet. Down on the dirty shore, which is strewn with debris from ships and rotten fish and garbage, Judah helps the girls into a little boat. Out on the water, the view is beautiful, and Abigail takes in the sight of the bustling Sydney Harbor, which is even busier than it usually is in her own time.
Since her arrival in 1873, Abigail has felt that the time period as a whole is inferior compared to her own. Judah, though, shows her how beautiful and vibrant the harbor is—and symbolically demonstrates to her that there is more to this world of the past than meets the eye.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Abigail asks what the ships in the harbor transport, and as she and Judah find themselves in yet another discussion about the innovations of the future, Judah laments that so much money is spent on electric trains and trailers when “the sea and the wind are free for all.”
Judah is still completely uninterested in the future of technology, and remains committed to the traditions and trappings of his present moment.
Themes
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Judah pulls the little boat into a craggy cove, and instructs Abigail in how to track the shellfish and dig for them. As Abigail wanders the shore, she feels very strongly that this day is going to be her last in 1873. She knows it has something to do with Judah deciding whom he loves—however the decision comes up, though, Abigail vows that she will not be the one to broach it. Exhausted, Abigail sits on a rock and watches Judah and Beatie hunt. Beatie approaches Abigail after a while and accuses her of gawking at Judah, but Abigail has not been lusting after Judah—she has been considering how difficult his life must be, and how hard he works on behalf of his family.
Abigail wants to be happy and enjoy the beautiful afternoon with Judah, but is plagued by a strong sense of foreboding. Abigail has been shown to have a touch of clairvoyance, or at least a sensitivity to the mystical workings of time, and though her feeling that Judah’s decision will directly impact her journey seems to come from nowhere, it is strong enough that she believes it.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Judah suggests they all get back into the boat and go to another cove, but Beatie insists she wants to climb the rocks. Judah orders Beatie to get in the boat, but Beatie refuses to go. Abigail sides with Beatie, saying she doesn’t mind staying a while longer, but then Beatie turns on her, and tells her that her opinion isn’t asked or valued. Judah asks Beatie why she’s in such a foul mood. Beatie insists that she wants to play Robinson Crusoe, and kicks Judah in the shin. Judah tells Beatie to stay on the shore while he takes Abigail for a boat ride. Judah places a wet sack over the cockles and tells Beatie to mind them, offering her one last chance to join them on the ride—Beatie replies only that she hopes the boat sinks.
Beatie, impetuous and headstrong as always, knows what is going on between Abigail and Judah, and attempts to waylay it in whatever way she can. She is unsuccessful, though, as Judah has little patience for his tempestuous little sister, and does not pay attention to her or heed her veiled warnings that something devastating could happen if he is not careful around Abigail.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Abigail and Judah shove off from the shore. Out on the water, Judah admires the land he knows as New South Wales—he believes humanity has not yet spoiled it. Abigail looks at Judah lovingly. Judah nudges Abigail playfully with his foot and asks why Abigail seems sad. She tearfully says she’s afraid that today is her last day with the Bows. Judah embraces Abigail and begs her not to go. Abigail cries and strokes Judah’s cheek. He pulls away from her and teases her for weeping on such a beautiful day, calling her his “little one.” Judah leans in and kisses Abigail, and her head whirls with pleasure. After the kiss, though, Judah looks bashful, and says that though it was wrong of him to kiss her, he does not regret it.
Abigail and Judah share a genuine and pure moment of romance and connection. Abigail has at last opened herself up fully to love—she has accepted her feelings and made herself vulnerable. Though the moment does not end in true happiness for either Abigail or Judah, the importance of the kiss is palpable—it has allowed Abigail to experience something new and get in touch with a part of herself she’d never allowed to exist before.
Themes
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail tells Judah that she loves him, but he does not answer her. Abigail quickly tells Judah that she knows about Dovey, and that how she feels about him is not for him to worry about. Judah confesses that he is confused, and doesn’t know how he feels. Behind them, there is a sound like a seahawk—they turn toward the shore and sea Beatie up on the rocks, throwing stones at the ocean. Judah realizes she has seen the two of them, and hopes aloud that she will not tell Dovey.
Judah’s sense of duty to Dovey, at least in this moment, ultimately outweighs his burgeoning feelings for Abigail. Despite the fact that Judah has chosen Dovey, Beatie has seen what transpired, and believes that Abigail has gone back on her promise to try and suppress her feelings for Judah and keep Dovey from harm.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Judah rows the boat back into shore, where Beatie meets them in a horrible rage. Judah lifts the tantrum-throwing Beatie into the boat. Beatie threatens to punch Judah “yeller and green” for betraying Dovey, but Judah—either speaking out of truth or simply to calm Beatie—tells her that there is nothing between himself and Abigail at all.
Judah tells Beatie that he feels nothing for Abigail—whether or not this is true, it is what he chooses to say, and Abigail must live with the horrible, crushing weight of this statement.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
In the boat, Abigail attempts to put a hand on Beatie’s shoulder, but Beatie shakes her off, and says that they should have left her in the whorehouse all those weeks ago. Judah leans forward and shakes Beatie, chastising her for speaking so cruelly. Beatie replies only that she is “sick to the belly with disgust” over her brother’s betrayal.
Beatie will not hear any reason—she is totally absorbed in her own anger, and lashes out cruelly against both Judah and Abigail. Beatie, having witnessed their apparent betrayal of Dovey, has a power over the two of them that all three acknowledge uneasily.
Themes
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon