At the beginning of the novel, Anna and Luke are in desperate need of a change. The rest of their story is an exploration of what their lives might become and, on a broader level, whether change is even possible at all. This focus on change begins with the first line of the novel, which mentions Luke's new and surprising interest in birdwatching. Luke continues to develop as a person after he and Anna move to the coast, to the point where Anna feels she hardly recognizes him anymore. He proves himself to be more practical than she expected, but she also comes find him duller than she would have thought she’d find him. In this way, their new life and its promise of change becomes a double-edged sword. Luke and Anna feel more refreshed and alive in their new home on the coast, but they're also changed by the new environment and its challenges.
Nonetheless, these challenges give Luke and Anna an opportunity to grow as people and change for the better. Anna's garden is symbolic of this personal growth and her desire to start something new. Even as a bushfire razes the garden to the ground, hope remains in the form of Anna's fire-resistant she-oaks. Similarly, the same bushfire indirectly leads to the novel's most important moment of personal growth: Luke and Anna putting the memory of their unborn child to rest. However, even after this significant positive change, Vertigo still ends on an ironic note, as Anna starts watching the news, which is an old habit of hers. The novel thus opens with Luke changing his usual behavior but ends with Anna doing something she's done since she was young. This implies that even if personal growth is possible, some things might never change.
Change and Personal Growth ThemeTracker
Change and Personal Growth Quotes in Vertigo
But now, at the age of thirty-four, he has taken to bird-watching. It’s true he might once have laughed at this, but since then much has changed.
When she was in her twenties Anna had thought of herself as a bohemian, a free spirit who was serious about the right things and carefree about the rest, but now she was turning into some other woman, a woman on the edge of becoming anxiously acquisitive.
There is no time: time is a loop of endless return, a return to this moment, which is not strange but a coming home, and it does not occur to him to ask where this home is because he is simply there, he is in it; this silent space of euphoric emptiness. And for the rest of his walk home he is elated. He has never been happier; pointlessly, mindlessly happy.
A sign of the times, he thinks; olives, vineyards, walnut farms. The old-style selectors are gone and change is everywhere, and now he and Anna are a part of it. And with this encouraging thought he puts down his book and walks to the window where the blinds remain furled and big cigar moths beat against the glass. Only the stars at night seem fixed in their station, and this, too, he knows is an illusion.
Delighted to find that Luke and Anna can both hit a ball he invites them to play doubles on the weekends, and sometimes of an evening after work. Like all social tennis, it is played with an underlying ferocity, the men volleying at the net as though their life depends on it and swearing under their breath. Nor is Anna immune to this manic athleticism, even if there is something comically grim in the way that Alan barks out the score after every point.
At any moment they could disappear from this place and nothing would change, nothing of consequence, so vast is this land and so small are they. And the thought of this brings on a rush of vertigo, a dizzying sense of disorientation, as if she is about to fall, but that when she falls she will be weightless. She has lost her roots, her anchorage to the earth; she might float away into the blue of the sky and never be heard from again.
And how odd this is, for isn’t Sir Frederick a Christian? And yet the first encampment in which he finds himself happy—beyond even this, inspired—is a citadel of Islam. It appears to Luke that despite his stern low-church principles, Treves has fallen in love with the city’s exotica, and especially the Great Bazaar where he and his wife are intoxicated by the perfumeries.
He shakes his head. ‘Not the fire,’ he murmurs. ‘Not the fire.’
He nods, unable to speak, and stands on the spot, as if to take another step is entirely beyond him. She puts her arms around him, steadying herself because he is heavy, and she absorbs the shudder and heave of his body, clasping his back and drawing him into her. And they stand there, in the doorway of their home, and they hold one another for a very long time.
And yes, it is him, it’s the boy, and she sees now that the sloop is for him, is waiting to carry him to his next destination. Ah, she says, so you are leaving us. So you are on your way at last. But it’s okay, it’s alright; yes, she thinks, I am ready for this, and she raises her arm in a soft salute. Thank you, she says. Thank you for staying with us all this time.
Miraculously, not all of the she-oaks in the garden burned. There is still a cluster of them in the south-east corner and she listens to the sound of the wind whistling through their canopy, that eerie siren song, and she remembers how it felt to sit in the canoe with the boy nestled against her chest while Luke paddled them across the lagoon; the long slow glide of the boat across the black water.