The Golden Age


Joan London

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The Golden Age: 28. The Hunch Summary & Analysis

On a hunch, Meyer drives out to the beach after making a delivery nearby. He feels like he’s driving into a story that’s already been written and wants to know what will happen. True to his intuition, he sees Sister Penny’s car parked across the road from the ocean. She’s standing on the curb in a bathing suit, toweling off.
It’s important that Meyer meets Sister Penny by the sea. The ocean was the site of Meyer’s experience of profound isolation when he first arrived in Australia; but when Sister Penny described it to him later, he redefined it as a place of peaceful reflection.
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Meyer and Sister Penny smile at each other without saying anything. To Meyer, she looks like a “big, strong sports-playing girl” even though he notices the slight signs of aging in her wide feet and the veins in her legs. He can easily imagine sitting with her in a café on Lake Balaton, surrounded by his brothers and their girlfriends, everyone peaceful and sensual.
Here, Sister Penny emerges not as conventionally beautiful but wonderfully healthy and strong. Her physical attributes reflect her manifest capability and the tranquility she imbues in those around her, especially Meyer.
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Sister Penny informs Meyer that she’s moving to Darwin to accept a new position. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Ann is engaged to be married. Even though Sister Penny knows her daughter has always wanted to be part of a “big, respectable family,” she’s apprehensive because she suspects Elizabeth Ann is pregnant.
With Elizabeth Ann’s final absorption into the kind of family her mother never provided, it’s clear that Sister Penny’s life will be centered around her vocation rather than her daughter. While most of the novel’s mothers are completely oriented around their children, London signals through Sister Penny that this isn’t the only acceptable brand of motherhood.
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Meyer says that he’s worried about Frank, who is too quiet and seems to have lost some of his confidence. Sister Penny attributes this to his longing for Elsa, saying they shouldn’t be kept apart.
Their disregard for the conventional morality that demanded the children’s separation highlights Meyer and Sister Penny’s remove from society and further draws them together.
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Meyer knows that they will soon part and probably never see each other again. He wants to tell Sister Penny how much she’s meant to him. He says that she has taught him “how to live here.”
For Meyer, this episode is the culmination of a long effort to come to terms with his new society. While he’s not at home in Australia yet, but Sister Penny, a woman with whom he has much in common, is. To Meyer, this is an indicator that one day he will be as well.
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Meyer and Sister Penny get into their respective cars and drive away. Sister Penny feels light and relieved in a way she hasn’t since the confrontation with the hospital governors. She feels that Meyer, with his instinctive understanding of her, is “a little magical.”
Just as Meyer feels heartened, Sister Penny feels a renewed confidence in her work, which was threatened by her repeated interactions with the governors. While both characters maintain a certain distance and certainly never confess their mutual attraction, each gives the other courage to move into the next phase of their lives.
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