2 What happens? The story is simple in outline… A man comes home from work for the weekend. He plays with his daughters, who attack him. In the struggle their pet dog bites him. The girls tend to his wound, and he goes out to his club for some male company.But beneath this simple narrative, lots of other things are happening…
3 ThemesLike several of the authors, Joyce Cary chooses a title that suggests one of the themes of the story - that of growing up.This appears to refer mostly to the two sisters, Kate and Jenny.Later we see that it also applies in a way to their father, Robert, who has been able to play with them for years, but now sees a time when he will be cut off from them, good only for paying the bills.The author makes this idea clear in the last sentence of the story.
4 Another theme might be nature - and this story looks at nature in human, animal and vegetable terms. We seethe way the garden grows wild,the way the bitch, Snort, playsthe way the girls actIn all three cases there is a contrast between ideas of cultivated and civilized nature and nature in the wild or untamed - a contrast that appears clearly as the girls go from a ferocious attack on Robert, to acting as nursemaids, and tending to his wound.Which of these is the real nature of the girls? The truth is that their nature includes both of these.
5 CharactersRobertWe see the story through Robert's eyes, and have access to his thoughts. He seems very different from his sensible wife (who does act like a grown up). He is very close to his daughters who have missed greeting him on his return home only once in several years. The fact that he recalls this incident so clearly shows the importance for him of their concern.When the girls attack him, Robert has no means to defend himself. Here are two possible reasons.He is not able to control his daughters by force of personality.He wishes not to use physical force for fear of harming them.
6 Jenny and KateThe girls in the story are Jenny (twelve) and Kate (a year older). They appear sometimes as individuals, but also as a pair who act together. Here are some of the things they do.IndividuallyJenny reads a book and asks her father to lift her onto a wall.Kate plays on a swing.Jenny is alarmed by the wound whereas Kate still laughs when she sees it.Together theyattack the bitch (Snort)fight their fathertend his wounds
7 Carey tell us that the sisters adore each other "and one always came to the other's help". (We cannot be sure if this is information from the writer to the reader, or what Robert is thinking. It could be either.)The girls have some contradictory feelings. We see that growing up does not mean becoming more sensible or like real adults. The girls' excitability and wildness makes them in some ways less responsible than when they were younger.We see this contrast in the way they speak to their father. Look at what they call him: "Paleface" and "Paleface Robbie" or "Daddy". What does each of these names tell you about the girls' feelings at the time? “Paleface" is a name used in Western films by "Red Indians" (the old name for Native Americans) - and they are here suggesting that they are savage, like the stereotyped view of the "Red Indians" in the cinema.
8 We can see this contrast in some other "before" and "after" comments. Before they attack Robert, the girls chant: "Kill him - scalp him. Torture him".After they have attacked him, Jenny says, "We've got to wash your bite" while Kate, who fetches the water for the washing, says, "Daddy - sit down - how dare you get up?"
9 Robert’s WifeThe story also shows us Robert's wife and her friend, Jane. Unlike the girls, these two adult women seem far removed from Robert's concerns and outlook. There is no hint of a close personal relationship. It seems (to Robert or the reader?) that they see themselves as responsible - they "run the world", while children (of all ages) amuse themselves.
10 "Old Wilkins"He’s at the club. He does not appear directly - but his description may serve as a grim warning of what Robert may be fated to become, as he retreats into the security of his club - it is safe but utterly boring. Yet it passes the time.
11 Writer’s technique: narrator’s viewpoint This story is presented through Robert's eyes, but not in his voice - so we can never be sure that what we read is always exactly what is in his mind…
12 Writer’s use of language Word choicesSometimes these are surprising. When we read that Jenny is reading we’re told that she does it “furiously”. (Line 33). Why? This description is both odd and yet could be quite appropriate!Elsewhere Joyce Cary uses clichés or stereotyped words. Do you think he does this knowingly? Does he wholly agree with the ideas that these phrases normally suggest? E.g. Robert imagines himself as an old buffer (line 149) and thinks of Wilkins (line 158) as a crashing bore.
13 Writer’s use of language SimilesWhat effects does the writer achieve with similes? Here are a few examples, for you to comment on:a bamboo likened to a spear (line 71)a garden rake compared to a lance (line 89)the girls' bones compared to birds' legs (line 95)
14 Think about what the images used in these similes, what they say, and how they tell you more about the thing they describe.The girls' bones are like birds' legs because they look thin and fragile to Robert.The girls' bones are like birds' legs because they of are a similar size, shape and colourbut, remember, birds’ legs end in claws!What other similes can you see, and how do they work?
15 Patterns in the Language The writer uses patterns of balance with repetition or antithesis. Look at this example:"The original excuse for this neglect was that the garden was for the children...The original truth was that neither of the Quicks cared for gardening." (Lines 11 to 13)By using the same words initially, the writer makes clearer the contrast between the Quicks' public and private explanations, before showing how the original excuse over time became true.
16 Dialogue Joyce Cary use the exact words that people speak (shown as direct speech) to suggest their character and the situation at various points in the story. Look at these examples, and see what they tell you about the character: "Tiger, tiger" (line 76) "Hi, Jenny - don't do that. Don't do that, Kate..." (line 83) "...Kill him - scalp him. Torture him." (line 91) "Sit down, Daddy - sit down - how dare you get up." (lines 127-8) "No, I'll get on the wall. Put me up." (line 170)
17 ComparisonsSome comparisons/contrasts in the story:the attitudes of Robert contrasted with those of his daughters or his wife;gardens that are wild and those that are cultivated;wild and tame behaviour in a family pet;civilized and primitive or savage behaviour in people;childhood and adulthood (and the bit inbetween).
18 Attitudes in the textWe learn most clearly about Robert’s attitudes. He has a sense of a world where he knew his place, and could find happiness in it - but now that is all changing, and he feels alarm at what may become of him.The characters in this story may share some of the frustrations of the characters in other stories, but this world seems stable (controlled by women!)Robert can seek shelter in his club, but there’s no suggestion that he would leave his world – he just accepts the changes and his place in this world, and hides from it!