Playing Beatie Bow


Ruth Park

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Playing Beatie Bow, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Family, Duty, and Connection

At the heart of Ruth Park’s Playing Beatie Bow is the question of what it means to be part of a family—what one owes their family and is owed by them, and what one’s role is in continuing family legacies and traditions, however burdensome they might be. Abigail Kirk, saddened and frustrated by the pain and confusion that has marked her own family in recent years, learns through her journey back in time that…

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The Transformative Power of Love

At the beginning of Playing Beatie Bow, fourteen-year-old Abigail Kirk has spent years mourning the dissolution of her parents’ marriage. Abigail’s devastation and feelings of abandonment have so deeply permeated her mind and heart that she closes herself off from friendship and love, and actively looks down on her “love-mad” classmates. It is not only romantic love that Abigail rejects, however—through her cynicism regarding paternal and maternal love, she also finds her relationship with…

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Time and the Past

Abigail’s journey through time takes her to 1873 Sydney, where she sees her hometown as it was over a hundred years ago. It is significant that Abigail Kirk is flung backwards to 1873 specifically, a time during which the colony of New South Wales was in a chaotic infancy. At the start of the novel, Abigail herself is at a crucial beginning-point in her life—she has not yet figured out what she believes, or…

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The Wisdom and Power of Children

Playing Beatie Bow is populated largely by a cast of children and young adults. From the headstrong but cynical teen protagonist Abigail Kirk (who feels “a hundred years older and wiser” than her classmates even before her education and transformative journey to the past takes place) to her fiery foil Beatie Bow (who may or may not be in possession of a mysterious psychic Gift), Park’s young characters are deeply complicated, perceptive, and often wise…

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