‘Growing Up’ by Joyce Cary (page 73) Joyce Cary – a man – was born in 1888 and died in 1957. This short story gives no hint of the adventurous and varied life of the writer himself. He was born in Northern Ireland and was educated at Oxford, before taking part in the Balkan War and then moving to Nigeria as a civil servant and a soldier. He was married with four sons. Although some of his novels and short stories reflect his experiences in Africa, he also wrote about art and politics. This short story looks at children and two of Cary’s novels were directly concerned with childhood.
Themes Children and growing up is the central theme of this story, as it is with several of the other stories in the Anthology. However, the central character is an adult and so it links well with ‘Flight’, where the story follows the emotions of a grandfather trying to accept his granddaughter’s forthcoming marriage. ‘Your Shoes’ also has a central narrator, although that story is written in the first person. This short story is certainly concerned with relationships between the generations.
Children as a destructive force appear in ‘Growing Up’, in the came way that the boy in ‘Chemistry’ has an urge to damage his mother’s boyfriend. ‘Superman and Paula Brown’s new Snowsuit’ also examines the theme of the destructive power of children. Adults struggling to understand the behaviour of children are a central issue in ‘Growing Up’, as they also are in ‘Superman and Paula Brown’s New Snowsuit’. Notes The first paragraph establishes the central character, a businessman Robert Quick. He is named, unlike the anonymous central characters of several of these stories.
He is described as a conventional businessman, in a dark suit and hat. Significantly, he sheds some of his formal clothes as he goes into the garden, perhaps representing that the rules and values he will encounter there are far from civilised. Ls. 7 – 19 The garden is described as a ‘wilderness’. It has been neglected because Mr and Mrs. Quick are too busy to tend it. It has suggestions of other gardens, perhaps the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. Perhaps also there is a suggestion that Mr and Mrs. Quick are too busy to bother civilising their daughters, just as they have ignored their garden?
Could the story symbolise the wild, untamed nature of the children who run wild in it? l. 23 ‘ a suggestion of the frontier, primeval forests.. ’ Cary hints that there may be the possibility of fear and menace in the garden. It is not a place of easy comfort, as Mr. Quick thinks. L 27 the children have previously enjoyed a close relationship with their father and have made a fuss of him when he returns home. However, this contrasts with the way they ignore him this time. Is the reason they snub him because he is a man?
Quick recognises that they will be women soon in lines 42 to 49; later on in the story they are wellbehaved for their mother and he feels rejected. Cary is specific about their names and ages; Jenny is twelve and Kate thirteen. They are both deep in their own worlds and Quick doesn’t mind that they pay hardly any attention to his arrival. He thinks it represents their honest attitude to him. Perhaps he is too easy going with the children. Do they need to show him a bit more respect? Ls. 58 – 81 the two girls are dirty from playing in the garden, like savages.
This suggestion is strengthened as they attack the spaniel, Snort, with a stick ‘like a spear’. They seem to have lost the manners and behaviour of civilised beings, because they turn on their father next and attack him, pretending that they are native Americans. Ls 77 – 79 shows the girls’ out burst of aggression towards the innocent dog by using lists of verbs and nouns to suggest the sudden and violent nature of their actions. Ls. 92 – 106 describes the girls’ violent behaviour and wild appearance. They are aggressive and they frighten Robert Quick, because to defend himself he would have to hurt them.
What is Cary’s message about the relationships of parents and children? What, in your opinion, is he saying about children here? On line 105 we see that they are now attacking him alongside the dog, they have turned into little wild animals. Ls. Ls 117- 119 comment on Robert Quick’s thoughts about his relationships with Kate and Jenny. He is frightened by their unexpected violent reactions to him that went beyond a game and finished so suddenly. L 129 says ‘she was playing the stern nurse’. The children’s aggression suddenly disappears and they become concerned for their father. Do you think this kind of role play is realistic?
Decide what Joyce Cary is saying about children and their parents. Ls 141 – 146 show the girls adopting a different conformist role. They look like perfect daughters at their mother’s tea party. Is their behaviour in the garden more shocking because they are girls? Would it have been understandable for a boy to behave like this? What do you think Joyce Cary is saying about women/girls? These girls are both on the point of becoming adults and Robert Quick recognises that they are growing up. Ls- 151 – 152 mention a boy who has behaved in a delinquent manner by taking his mother’s money and a car.
Significantly, Jenny is described as ‘listening intently’. Has Cary got a point to make about young people? L 155 ‘He wanted urgently to get away, to escape. ’ Robert Quick leaves his wife and daughters to spend time at his club. He has a feeling of claustrophobia. Ls 165 – 179 form the end of the story, which is quite enigmatic. Quick doesn’t understand what has changed about his relationship with his youngest daughter. However, he does recognise that she is growing up and the story ends with the idea that he is also growing up. How can he be? He is already an adult. What is your opinion about how he is changing?