What does Abigail learn about the importance of the family? Discuss how Ruth Park represents her characters and ideas about the family using (3) novel and language techniques In the novel Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park, the protagonist Abigail learns about the importance of the family. She is a headstrong fourteen-year old girl who has had troubles in her own family, but when she is transported to the Rocks, 1873, and meets the Bow family, she realizes her selfish ways. From her experiences with them Abigail learns that in any situation every family member, including herself, must demonstrate the key elements of keeping a family together.
These include love, forgiveness, support and understanding. Ruth Park uses many techniques that illustrate the main theme of the novel – how Abigail learns about the importance of the family. In Playing Beatie Bow Abigail learns that love and forgiveness are vital elements in keeping a family together. Abigail is an unforgiving child, especially towards her divorced parents. To Abigail, “her father was a king” and the metaphor emphasizes how much she adores him. However when her father “went off with another lady”, Abigail is so outraged that she hits him and refuses to forgive him. Abigail’s unloving attitude was causing the family to fall apart, and she realizes this with “sickish surprise” when she meets the Bow family in 1873. Gibbie Bow is an ill boy; a “self-important little monster” to Abigail.
The metaphor emphasizes Abigail’s dislike for “unlovable and obnoxious” Gibbie, so when she realizes “Dovey’s devotion to the child, her sleepless nights and endless patience”, she is hit with “embarrassed astonishment”. The continuous descriptive language emphasizes the shock Abigail feels when she recalls her own attitude towards her family compared to the loving and forgiving Bows. When she returns to her own time, Abigail forgives her parents and realizes how much she loves them. She displays love and forgiveness which she has learnt from her experiences with the Bows. Another lesson Abigail learns about the importance of the family is that families support each other in hard times. The Rocks in 1873 is a dangerous world where many die from diseases or war. Abigail’s time is “paradise compared with Beatie’s own time”, and the metaphor emphasizes how harsh the living conditions of 1873 are. The Bows’ mother passed away Dovey, still a young lady, devotes herself to the Bows and Abigail as if she were a mother. Mr. Bow suffers mental issues due memories of his wife’s death and when he drinks alcohol and goes mad he says: “I dunno if I’m on head or heels”. The author includes the Scottish idiom to emphasize the Bows’ unsophisticated language as well as the helplessness of Mr. Bow. He cannot play his role as a father properly, so at fourteen years old Judah begins to earn money as a sailor, looking after the family like a father. The Bows and even Abigail rely on him and seem to “absorb vitality from him”. Park has used the metaphor to show how trustworthy and supportive Judah is. Abigail learns from and even joins in with the Bows as they support each other in this cruel world, each playing their role to keep the family together. Abigail learns the importance of understanding in a family from her experiences with the Bow family. When her father leaves, Abigail is too “wrapped up” in her own problems to comfort her mother even though Kathy was just as troubled. The author uses the metaphor to accentuate Abigail’s inconsideration towards others’ feelings.
The “precious” Gift is an ability only Bows own, and as Abigail has a role in preserving it, she is kept from escaping 1873. At first she believes it is “absolutely repulsive” and refuses to stay, but as she feels closer to the family she begins to understand the importance of the Gift to the Bows. Later Abigail plays her role by saving Gibbie and Dovey from “bluish tongues of flame” in a fire. The use of personification of the flames emphasizes the frightening experience of the fire and Abigail’s will to risk her life to save Gibbie. By having to accept her role with the Gift, Abigail learns about understanding and being unselfish towards her family. In Playing Beatie Bow, Ruth Park illustrates the lessons Abigail learns about the importance of the family. Although she was selfish and unforgiving at the beginning of the novel, through her experiences with the Bows Abigail learns to display the key elements in keeping a family together. She learns how to love, forgive, support and understand her family, and this allowed her to mature and realize the importance of a family.