Playing Beatie Bow

by

Ruth Park

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Gibbie Bow Character Analysis

The sickly youngest child of the Bow family, Gibbie is bedridden and ailing from numerous unnamed diseases. As Abigail gets to know him better, she realizes that Gibbie is not actually ill—he is merely pretending, hoping to absorb from the rest of the family the affection and love that he feels he lost when his mother died. Gibbie is petulant, whiny, and needy, and he irks Abigail to no end, but once she realizes the motivations behind Gibbie’s annoying actions she feels a kind of sympathy for him. It is revealed, eventually, that Gibbie—sickly as he was, or pretended to be—was the unlikely member of the Bow family who carried on the family line, carrying through his lineage the precious family Gift.

Gibbie Bow Quotes in Playing Beatie Bow

The Playing Beatie Bow quotes below are all either spoken by Gibbie Bow or refer to Gibbie Bow. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Puffin Books edition of Playing Beatie Bow published in 1980.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Do you have a good or a bad feeling about him, poor bairn?”

Granny sighed. “I hae no clear feelings any more, Dovey. They're as mixed up as folk in fog.”

“But you've no doubt that this little one here is the Stranger?”

The two women spoke in whispers, but Abigail heard them, for the night was almost silent. There was no sound of traffic except a dray's wheels rolling like distant thunder over the cobbles at the docks. She could hear the waves breaking on the rocks of Dawes Point and Walsh Bay.

“Aye, when I first saw her I had a flash, clear as it was when I was a lass. Poor ill-favoured little yellow herring of a thing. But still, it came to me then, she was the Stranger that would save the Gift for the family.”

Abigail was so indignant at the description of herself that she almost opened her eyes.

“And then there was the gown, forebye. I swear, Granny, I almost fainted when I set eyes on it. The very pattern that we worked out between us!”

“And not a needle lifted to it yet,” said Granny.

Related Characters: Granny Tallisker (speaker), Dorcas “Dovey” Tallisker (speaker), Abigail Kirk, Gibbie Bow
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

The first thing was their kindness. How amazingly widespread it was. […] They had taken responsibility for her, nursed and clothed her. Someone had given up her bed, probably Beatie; no one had complained when she was snappish and rude about Dovey's best clothes, about the lack of sanitation; no one had condemned her unsympathetic attitude towards Gibbie.

“I'm not kind,” said Abigail with a sickish surprise. “Look how I went on with Mum when she said she wanted us to get together with Dad again. Look what I did to Dad when I was little, punched him on the nose and made it bleed. Maybe I’ve never been really kind in my life.” […] These Victorians lived in a dangerous world, where a whole family could be wiped out with typhoid fever or smallpox, where a soldier could get a hole in his head that you could put your fist in, where there were no pensions or free hospitals or penicillin or proper education for girls, or even poor boys, probably. Yet, in a way, it was a more human world than the one Abigail called her own.

“I wish I could stay awhile,” she thought, “and find out why all these things are. But I can't think about any of this till I get home. Getting home, that’s what I have to plan.”

Page Number: 75-77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“I just want to go home, you know,” whispered Abigail.

“You're as restless as a robin, child,” said Mrs Tallisker. 'But 'twill not be long now.”

There was a great difference in Mrs. Tallisker. She had, all at once, become older and smaller. Only a few weeks before she had towered, or so it seemed, over Abigail. Now Abigail was almost as tall. Her skin had crumpled more deeply, more extensively, like a slowly withering flower. She could not work as hard as before, but sat more often in the parlour with Gibbie, knitting thick grey socks for Judah.

“Aye,” she said with her sweet smile, as Abigail secretly stared at her, "tis a fearful effort to give out the Power when it has decided to leave. If I could do what I did for you, child, you can give me a little of your time, inna that fair enough?”

“Yes, of course,” said Abigail, but in her heart she was grudging.

Related Characters: Abigail Kirk (speaker), Granny Tallisker (speaker), Judah Bow, Gibbie Bow
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

For an instant she remembered her mother's dark dewdrop eyes, as she said, “You don't know how powerful love can be,” and she thought how strange it was that love had made her both callous and tender. She did not care if this child died. Though she had never liked him, she had not wanted to deprive him of his life. But now, if his death meant that Judah lived, then she did not care a jot if he died. At the same time she did what would have made her skin creep a day or so before: she put her arms around his shivering, bony little body and held him comfortingly.

Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Playing Beatie Bow LitChart as a printable PDF.
Playing Beatie Bow PDF

Gibbie Bow Character Timeline in Playing Beatie Bow

The timeline below shows where the character Gibbie Bow appears in Playing Beatie Bow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
...as the evening fog seems to be lifting. Dovey also tells Granny that she gave Gibbie—the child upstairs—a draught to put him to sleep, but is worried about him, as he... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
...house she’s found herself in. She hears whining from upstairs, which she takes to be Gibbie’s; screams from another room, which she knows are Beatie’s; and lastly she hears Granny’s calming... (full context)
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
...Dovey and Granny are pleasantly surprised that Abigail can read, and lament that Beatie and Gibbie have not been able to have a good education in the colonies. As women of... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
...lamenting that her mother and the baby she lost would still be alive, and that Gibbie wouldn’t be so sick. Abigail lets Beatie cry, feeling very sorry for her. When Beatie... (full context)
Time and the Past Theme Icon
...near the fireplace. On the other side is a small boy, who introduces himself as Gilbert Samuel Bow. He tells Abigail that he is “in decline,” and that if he lives to his... (full context)
Chapter 5
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
As Gibbie and Abigail sit by the fire, Gibbie tells Abigail that he is not long for... (full context)
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Gibbie begins speaking aloud about the extravagant plans he has for his own funeral. Abigail warns... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
Gibbie does not want to play dominoes, so to pass the time, Abigail opens the window... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
A wail comes from upstairs—it’s Gibbie, calling for the chamber-pot. Beatie offers to take it to Gibbie so that Abigail can... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
...the rest of the children is to die—and die young. Dovey assumes it will be Gibbie. (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Gibbie calls out for help again, and this time Abigail volunteers to go see to him.... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
Abigail asks Gibbie if he has ever heard the story of Treasure Island, and volunteers to tell it... (full context)
Chapter 8
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
...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... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
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.... (full context)
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Abigail asks Gibbie if he wants to hear more Treasure Island, but Gibbie is asleep in moments. The... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 10
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
...kitchen, and out into the yard. Then Dovey pales, and exclaims that they have forgotten Gibbie. (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
Abigail wraps a wet quilt around her head and goes back inside to get Gibbie. Though the banister is now ablaze, Abigail leaps up past the first two stairs and... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
One of the Chinese men uses a pallet to make a safe landing for Gibbie and Abigail to jump down onto, and though Gibbie once again refuses to go, Abigail... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
...feels weak and faint. She spots Granny, Dovey, and Beatie across the street and urges Gibbie to run to them. Abigail then sees Judah running down the lane—he goes straight to... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
The Wisdom and Power of Children  Theme Icon
...was on the night she first came. Abigail says her painful goodbyes to Dovey and Judah—Gibbie is asleep and Mr. Bow is in a kind of trance. Last of all, Abigail... (full context)
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
...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... (full context)
Chapter 13
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
...family name, and his great-grandfather’s name was Samuel. Abigail insists that Samuel was Beatie and Gibbie and Judah’s father. Robert points out Gilbert Samuel Bow, who, according to the dates on... (full context)
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
...realizes that Granny’s Prophecy was right in some ways and wrong in others—Granny assumed that Gibbie would die and Beatie would be barren, when really it was “Judah for death, and... (full context)
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
The Transformative Power of Love Theme Icon
Time and the Past Theme Icon
...it died alongside Dovey and Granny during a smallpox outbreak. Abigail marvels aloud that getting Gibbie out of the fire, more than Dovey, was important to carrying on the Bow line.... (full context)