The Golden Age

by

Joan London

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Frank Gold Character Analysis

The novel’s protagonist, Frank is a thirteen-year-old Jewish boy who is struck by polio after immigrating with his parents, Ida and Meyer, to Australia as Holocaust refugees. Frank is preternaturally intelligent and mature, possibly as a result of experiencing and surviving the Holocaust at a very young age. He’s much more cultured and knowledgeable than his fellow patients at the Golden Age, and he interacts with and understands adults more easily than children. Frank chafes at his close relationship to his parents and feels burdened by the knowledge that, after the horror of the Holocaust, he’s the only thing making life worthwhile for them; he vacillates between distancing himself from them as a mature adolescent and clinging to the dependence upon and trust in them he had as a child. During his stay at the Golden Age, Frank is motivated by his desire to write poetry, for which he’s felt a vocation since the onset of polio, and by his devoted love for Elsa. In the novel’s end, Frank appears as an elderly and successful poet; through his art he’s managed to confront and move past the two traumas of his youth.

Frank Gold Quotes in The Golden Age

The The Golden Age quotes below are all either spoken by Frank Gold or refer to Frank Gold. 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:
Survival Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Europa edition of The Golden Age published in 2014.
2. The Golden Age Quotes

The name, inherited, could be considered tactless by some, even cruelly ironic. These children were impaired as no one would ever wish a child to be. But perhaps because of its former role, its solid and generous air, it was a cheerful place.

Related Characters: Frank Gold
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
6. The Poet Quotes

He felt her reverence for music and literature was theatrical, deliberate, and set them even more apart from everyone else.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold, Sullivan Backhouse
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Why do I refuse it? he thought, wheeling off. His parents, he knew, regarded his lost legs as one more tragedy they had to bear. I refuse to be their only light. I want to be my own reason for living.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold, Meyer Gold, Sullivan Backhouse
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
7. The Trains Quotes

Talent was not enough, Julia used to say, you must find the grip, the hunger, the small, determined child inside you. You must have a certain ruthlessness to win, as if by right. In the hierarchy of talent, you are a born aristocrat […]

Related Characters: Ida Gold (speaker), Frank Gold, Julia Marai
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

It was the beginning of himself. Up until then he hadn’t really felt sad or frightened, his mother had done that for him. As long as she was there, he didn’t have to fear. He was part of her, and like a mother cat she had attended to every part of him.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

He’d learnt, like all children in those times, to do as he was told. To stay quiet could be a matter of life or death. But the effort of lying still in that space, alone, never left him.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker)
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Sometimes his parents forgot themselves over drinks with Hungarian friends and spoke of the country they once knew […] then they fell silent. They’d been guests, after all, in that country. As they were guests in this one.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold, Meyer Gold
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
8. The First Time Frank Saw Elsa Quotes

It seemed sadder somehow. He knew [the babies] cried because they were alone. But visitors reminded you of how much you had grown apart from them. It was almost a relief when they went home.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Elsa Briggs
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

Over and over again, Frank thought, he, Meyer and Ida had been forced to live within breathing distance of strangers, like animals in a burrow. Knowing about their underclothes, the smells and habits of their bodies. The little meannesses, the same old jokes, the sulks and temper flurries […]

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold, Meyer Gold
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
15. Christmas Quotes

Frank felt it as a relief. When his mother was at the piano she was distant from him. For once she took her eyes off him […] Somehow he knew that what she did was very good. In this role he had respect for her, and gratitude. It seemed to justify everything, their foreignness, their victimhood in the other country. It brought honor to them.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
19. Lidja Quotes

Over and over, it seemed, they were reminded that they were alone, that in the end, their success or failure in overcoming polio was up to them.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker)
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:
22. The Concert Quotes

Watching her play, Frank was moved. He saw her strength, her vast determination. He remembered her fury when he was in the hospital. “You are going to get strong! You are going to walk […] you want to know why? They take the weak ones first.”

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:
29. The Call Quotes

Ida stood still. It felt like the time when the tanks rolled in, and you thought, This can’t be happening. Everything becomes provisional. She walked straight out of the house to the phone box on the corner and rang Margaret Briggs.

Related Characters: Ida Gold (speaker), Frank Gold
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
30. The Separation Quotes

Her parents never said a word about her expulsion from the Golden Age. Nothing could affect their shining gaze on Elsa. But they hadn’t tried to stick up for her, they hadn’t saved her. She saw them differently. They had no power. They cared what other people thought.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Elsa Briggs
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
32. New York Quotes

“The Golden Age” is the sequel to his most famous poem, “The Trains,” he says. It’s the answer to it, the counter to it.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Jack Briggs Jr.
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Age LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Age PDF

Frank Gold Character Timeline in The Golden Age

The timeline below shows where the character Frank Gold appears in The Golden Age. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Light
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
It’s nap time in a children’s hospital, but Frank Gold, the new boy, sneaks out of bed and into his wheelchair, knowing that the... (full context)
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Unobserved by any adults, Frank rolls outside and produces a cigarette that he stole from his mother, Ida, the last... (full context)
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Frank briefly recalls his arrival at the hospital. Even though Sister Penny was friendly and almost... (full context)
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Frank finally stops by the clothes line, where he can hear the noise from a nearby... (full context)
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After one pull on the cigarette, Frank has to toss it away and lean against the fence, nauseous. He’s not used to... (full context)
2. The Golden Age
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Frank is technically too old to be a patient at the Golden Age but has been... (full context)
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Arriving here, Frank once again found himself in a new and unfamiliar place. He’s now determined to behave... (full context)
4. Cockatoos
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...children are eating dinner, cockatoos fly over the hospital; the children know they’re signaling rain. Frank’s parents, Ida and Meyer Gold, also hear the birds from their house in North Perth.... (full context)
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...as ill-fated and views everything as evidence for this theory, from a missed bus to Frank’s polio. Ida remembers that even during the terror and treachery of the war, she was... (full context)
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...the previous owner left a piano in the living room. However, Ida hasn’t played since Frank got sick. Although the Golds are atheists, Meyer knows that Ida considers her talent for... (full context)
5. Frank’s Vocation
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Frank has always suspected he had a vocation, although he inherited neither Ida’s musical ability nor... (full context)
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...the children have free time. Most of the boys read or play board games, but Frank always goes outside. It’s a habit he inhereted from his parents, who always share an... (full context)
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Frank wheels outside again, thinking over the poem that came to him during the afternoon. He... (full context)
6. The Poet
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In a flashback Frank recalls his time at the IDB; it’s a big hospital in the middle of Perth,... (full context)
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Exploring the hospital one day, Frank stumbles on a room filled with “iron lungs,” breathing machines that keep completely paralyzed polio... (full context)
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Frank returns to the ward every day, disregarding formal visiting hours, and the two boys discuss... (full context)
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...at a boy’s college. He has many siblings and a big house by the river. Frank associates Sullivan with a grand house he once saw, and with the wholesomeness and serenity... (full context)
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...man with an important government job, Sullivan’s father, Mr. Backhouse, often visits. He’s kind to Frank and asks him how he likes Australia, but Frank sees it’s an effort for him... (full context)
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Frank notices that Sullivan always has a joke or story ready for these visits; he’s cheerfully... (full context)
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Another day, Sullivan muses to Frank that real life only happens when one is alone. He references a woman named Sister... (full context)
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Eventually, Sullivan gets to spend some time each day out of the lung. He and Frank sit on the verandah strapped to recliners. Sullivan tells Frank his onset story. He was... (full context)
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Sullivan’s dramatic story makes Frank ashamed of his own onset, which he feels emblematizes the “loud, raw, over-intimate tragicomedy” of... (full context)
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One night during his stay in IDB, Frank wakes up to thunder and lightning. He realizes the power is out and worries about... (full context)
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...“On My Last Day on Earth,” but his father disapproves of this title. He tells Frank he’s working on a new poem, one line of which is “in the end, we... (full context)
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The next day, Sister Addie tells Frank that Sullivan spiked a fever during the night and died suddenly. His iron lung is... (full context)
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Frank looks at Sullivan’s poetry, which he’s transcribed on a prescription pad. He knows it’s up... (full context)
7. The Trains
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Frank flashes back to his childhood in Budapest during the war. His tone is straightforward as... (full context)
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Ida is taking Frank to her piano teacher, Julia Marai, and has dressed him as a girl so soldiers... (full context)
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...Hedwiga, in a small apartment on the other side of the river. Ida even carries Frank up the stairs, and he feels uneasy because she’s being too considerate. Frank draws back... (full context)
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Julia is an imposing old woman with a formal voice, but she assures Frank he can have his pants back. Ida kisses Frank and tells him to behave well,... (full context)
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Ida had asked Julia to hide Frank weeks before, though she worried that she was demanding too much of her teacher. Hedwiga... (full context)
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Having left Frank, Ida hurries back across the river, searching for the “fighting core of survival, of self-love”... (full context)
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...laws prevented Ida from studying or performing, but she was getting married and pregnant with Frank. She practiced diligently and tried to ignore “the mounting force for which they had no... (full context)
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Ida hoped to have a child who looked like Meyer, but Frank turned out to be disappointingly like her, both in looks and personality. Now, she misses... (full context)
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Frank isn’t actually sure if he remembers the walk to Julia’s apartment, or if he only... (full context)
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Even though he’s bored, Frank tries to behave well and be quiet. He spends a lot of time watching for... (full context)
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...a man named Mr. Arpad; they rely on this income for food. During the lesson, Frank has to hide in the attic and be completely still. The attic is dusty and... (full context)
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...apartment building; she sees that it has been completely bombed out and feels certain that Frank has been killed. In the next moment, however, she sees Frank running to embrace her.... (full context)
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Even after they move to Australia, Frank knows he’ll always remember the terror of hiding in the ceiling. His fear of the... (full context)
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When Frank wakes up in the hospital on the day of Sullivan’s death, Meyer is there. He... (full context)
8. The First Time Frank Saw Elsa
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On Frank’s first Sunday at the Golden Age, Ida and Meyer come to visit. They befriend the... (full context)
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In the bed next to Frank is the boy he likes least, Warren Barrett. A year younger than Frank, he’s much... (full context)
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Frank misses IDB, where he could always escape and be alone, even though he tries not... (full context)
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Wheeling down the corridor, Frank peeks into the girls’ ward and notices a new girl sleeping in her wheelchair, the... (full context)
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That night, Frank dreams about Sullivan. His old friend is standing waist-deep in a lake; his muscles are... (full context)
9. The Dark Night
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Frank likes to imitate Sister Penny but Elsa, who adores her, protests. Sister Penny touches the... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Frank speaks only to Elsa and criticizes the other children frequently. She tells him he lacks... (full context)
11. Bellbirds
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...orderly lessons on Mondays. Mrs. Simmons begins the day with cheerful folk songs that even Frank likes to sing. Afterwards, Frank has to study English history and memorize a poem; as... (full context)
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Day patients also come to have lessons at the hospital. Frank is disgusted by them, because they remind him how deformed he will look once he’s... (full context)
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Elsa leaves lessons to go to therapy, and Frank applies himself to memorizing the poem “Bellbirds.” He doesn’t like the forced rhyme scheme, and... (full context)
12. Angel Wings
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Sensing he’s up to something, Lidja, the therapist, reluctantly lets Frank practice on the exercise bars. All the children love Lidja because she’s so attuned to... (full context)
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Frank finds Elsa in the therapy bath, where she’s drifting in an ugly bathing suit inherited... (full context)
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Examining her body, Frank tells Elsa that the bath looks like a pair of angel wings, and Elsa looks... (full context)
13. Meyer Walks Home
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Meyer walks past the prestigious Perth Modern School. Even though Frank spoke no English when they arrived in Australia, six years later he won a scholarship... (full context)
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Arriving at the Golden Age, Meyer finds Frank reading One Thousand and One nights. Frank is delighted to see his father, and Meyer... (full context)
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Meyer has endured many things, but Frank’s polio has been the hardest for him, since it emphasizes his inability to protect his... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
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...the train pulls into the station, Meyer remembers walking on the beach with Ida and Frank shortly after their arrival in Australia. Ida and Frank ran in the waves while he... (full context)
14. Margaret in Her Garden
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At the Golden Age, Frank sneaks out and whispers to Elsa through the door of the girls’ ward. He remarks... (full context)
15. Christmas
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...to those staying at the Golden Age so the nurses can have the day off. Frank is worried that his parents will embarrass him by acting foreign or criticizing Australia. He... (full context)
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...like here and that “nothing escapes him.” Ida plays Mozart before bed to general delight. Frank is relieved to see his mother on the piano, because for once she’s relaxed, in... (full context)
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At night, Frank goes to visit Elsa. By now he’s unused to spending a day without her; he... (full context)
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After Elsa tells her story, she and Frank sit in silence. Suddenly, Frank kisses her. Then, he returns to the Boys ward and... (full context)
16. The Verandah
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Frank sits by himself. After so many years of living with strangers, he’s learned how to... (full context)
17. The Sea
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Sitting by the farmhouse, Frank feels that he wants to write a poem. The shabby farmhouse reminds him of the... (full context)
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After dinner, the children watch the sunset. Knowing that Elsa is sad, Frank seeks her out, and when he finally sees her, the poem he’s been searching for... (full context)
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Frank tells Elsa that if they were animals she would be a golden palomino, and he’d... (full context)
19. Lidja
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Elsa and Frank stay on the verandah later than the others, holding hands. While they’re brushing their teeth... (full context)
20. The Queen
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...to improve themselves, as if in the Queen’s honor. Fabio stops wetting the bed, and Frank and Elsa walk everywhere instead of using their wheelchairs. Meanwhile, Meyer is skeptical of the... (full context)
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...all they see is her gloved arm waving mechanically, and the Duke’s white smile. Even Frank is excited by the pageantry. (full context)
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...by an immigrant friend. Meyer is happy to hear her playing again, and reports to Frank that she’s very nervous, not having performed since they were living in a refugee camp... (full context)
21. Ida and Meyer
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...thinks that for her, this performance is a show of gratitude to Fate for sparing Frank’s life. Like many performers, Ida is superstitious, especially about her work. (full context)
22. The Concert
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...out soft drinks donated by Bickford’s. Ida is comforted and unsettled to know that only Frank and Meyer know enough about music to judge or appreciate her work, but she’s still... (full context)
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Ida sees Frank sitting in the front row next to Elsa. He’s talking rapidly and Ida can see... (full context)
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When Ida finishes, the audience is silent and then applauds wholeheartedly. She looks at Frank and they smile at each other, feeling unusually close for a moment. When he watches... (full context)
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Frank and Elsa escape onto the verandah, wanting to be alone. They feel more at ease... (full context)
25. Blue Air
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...phone. When she finds a pay phone, Hadley, a nurse, informs her that she’s found Frank in Elsa’s bed and called the hospital governors. Sister Penny scolds her for taking such... (full context)
26. The Third Country
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Elsa feels a change is coming over her, mostly in regard to her feelings for Frank. He’s become so familiar that his face is like a “mirror,” and she’s always longing... (full context)
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Frank tells Elsa about hiding in the ceiling and living in refugee camps, even though Elsa... (full context)
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In the darkness after lights out, Frank scribbles the first lines to the new poem. Then, knowing Sister Penny isn’t there, he... (full context)
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After this incident, the hospital governors expel Frank and Elsa from the Golden Age. First, they question Elsa intensely, implying that Frank had... (full context)
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...boy to sneak into the Girls’ ward. She tries to explain the unique nature of Frank and Elsa’s bond, but is aware she’s making the situation even worse. She knows she... (full context)
27. Poetry
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In his first weeks at home, Frank spends every day at the city library, working methodically through the poetry section. Taking the... (full context)
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Even though he’s returning to the familiarity of home life, Frank feels deeply alone without the noise and routine of the Golden Age. None of his... (full context)
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Meyer and Ida aren’t angry with Frank; they’re amused by his expulsion, which they see as an example of colonial Anglo-Saxon prudery.... (full context)
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Frank feels that the Golden Age staff displayed a “lack of faith” in him, refusing to... (full context)
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In the fall, Frank has to start Modern School, to which he still has a scholarship. The prospect, once... (full context)
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The librarian directs Frank to a bookshop, O’Harrell’s, across the city; with planning and some difficulty, Frank negotiates the... (full context)
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At home, Frank lies in bed with his prescription pad. Since he’s been separated from Elsa, no poetry... (full context)
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Frank tries to contact the Backhouse family to return Sullivan’s poetry, but is informed that they’ve... (full context)
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At night, Ida and Meyer worry over Frank. Ida says she hears him talking to himself in the bathroom. She wants to sign... (full context)
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One morning, Frank wakes up to a poignant violin concerto playing on the radio. He weeps in bed,... (full context)
28. The Hunch
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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... (full context)
29. The Call
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One day, Ida comes home to find Frank in the backyard reading The Waste Land. He says he’s been listening to the birds... (full context)
30. The Separation
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...decision either, and Elsa realizes how much “they cared what other people thought.” She misses Frank, because he’s the only person in her life who ever speaks openly about feelings. At... (full context)
31. The Visit
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Frank and Elsa have a moment alone in the hallway. Elsa says he’s taller, and Frank... (full context)
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In the living room, everyone is awkward. Frank sees that Elsa feels at home here and “his stomach clench[es] suddenly at their distance.”... (full context)
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Elsa wants to be alone with Frank. She leads him into an old hiding place by the fence where hanging branches make... (full context)
32. New York
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Many years later, Elsa’s son Jack II visits Frank in New York. He’s always known about Frank; his mother talked about him frequently and... (full context)
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As he notes that Jack II’s hair is the same color as Elsa’s, Frank is surprised to learn she’s named her son after her father. Jack tells him that... (full context)
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Jack II tells Frank that once he was running on the beach when he saw Elsa struggling up the... (full context)
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Frank has just published his latest book and was flattered to receive an interview request from... (full context)
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Jack II asks what happened between Frank and Elsa. Frank says that he trained as a teacher and worked for a while... (full context)
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Next, Jack II asks about the title of Frank’s most recent collection, “The Golden Age.” He thinks this is a painful name for a... (full context)
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Frank tells Jack II that “The Golden Age” is a kind of sequel to “The Trains,”... (full context)
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Frank was inspired to write “The Golden Age” when he had to take charge of Edie,... (full context)
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Soon, Jack II leaves to catch his plane. To Frank, his eyes look like Elsa’s, and Frank thinks there’s nothing he won’t learn to understand.... (full context)