Compare the Ways the in which the Writers of Flight and Compass and Torch show Characters coming to terms with growing up. Growing up will always be a greatly discussed topic for writers, regardless of genre, time period or their own personal experiences. Stories about growing up have been a part of fiction throughout history, with great authors such as J. M Barrie, CS Lewis and even Stephen King adding their own contributions. The pieces discussed in this essay have very different views on growing up and are told from very different perspectives.
One from an elderly man wishing his granddaughter would stay young forever and one from a young boy trying to be much older then his respective years. Flight, by Doris Lessing, is the story of an old man’s struggle to accept his granddaughters desire to get married and his own negative feelings on marriage. Lessing was raised in Zimbabwe in the 1930’s, by a mother determined to keep a strict Edwardian lifestyle, which may have been responsible for Lessing‘s opinions on marriage. Lessing is quoted saying “There is a whole generation of women and it was as if their lives came to a stop when they had children. DorisLessing. org, 2012, [online]. The protagonist, the Grandfather, has similarities in his opinions to that of Lessing’s own. Which is that marriage is for when you are ready to give up on a life of your own. Compass and Torch, by Elizabeth Baines, is the story of a camping trip between a young boy and his father. The pair have not spent time alone together since the father’s divorce from the boy’s mother, a year earlier. Their relationship has been damaged by their estrangement which they both are trying to repair, although they are not capable of it in just one night.
The primary character of the story is the boy, with the majority of the story being told from his perspective. Both of the authors use characterisation as a method to portray the theme of growing up. In Flight, the grandfather is upset at his youngest granddaughter’s longing to grow up and move out, it is shown in this quote from his internal monologue ‘now the house would be empty, gone all the young girls with their laughter and their squabbling and their teasing. He would be left, uncherished and alone. He feels abandoned by her, he is the only mentioned male family member and it assumed that he is the father figure to his grandchildren. His perspective is from a person left behind by the person growing up rather than the person who is growing up, which is less common in fiction. By the end of the story the grandfather has become more accepting of the change, which is illustrated by his release of the pigeons. The boy in Compass and Torch is the focus of Baines’s story. He is eight years old and trying to act like a grown man.
He is striving to convince his father and himself that he is a man and equal. ‘In which he and his father will be two men’ is just one example of his determination to be seen as a man. The attempt at equality is his way of adjusting to his changed relationship with his father. In contrast when he is at home with his mother he acts the most mature, especially with his stepfather Jim, ‘‘Yes’ said the boy, forcing himself to acknowledge Jim’s kindness and affirmation. ’ is a example of the boy showing a surprising amount of maturity for an eight year old.
Differing from Flight, the boy does not have a epiphany at the end of the story and it is assumed he will continue his attempts at maturity when he wakes. The language style varies in the two pieces. In Compass and Torch, Baines switches the narrative between the view points of her characters, mostly from the perspective of the boy but with brief insights into what the father is thinking and occasionally the horses. In Flight, Lessing writes from the outlook of the Grandfather, with the entirety of the story filled with his actions and thoughts.
This fits with the aims of the two pieces, Flight being about the grandfathers opinions and emotional journey, in contrast, Compass and Torch is about the changed relationship between the two individuals, so the switching narrative fits with the theme of story. Both of the writers use very evocative imagery in the stories. In Compass and Torch, ‘Beyond the gate is the open moor, pale in the early evening with bleached end-of-summer grass, bruised here and there with heather and ge-old spills of purple granite’ is the first example of many suggestive descriptions that conjure images of the dark rugged terrain, it is not a coincidence that the description fits with the Snowdonia mountains in Baines’s native Wales. She uses the wilds as a metaphor for the uncharted terrain the man and boy are negotiating in their new relationship, in contrast to the stable and homely setting when the boy is at home with his mother. Similarly, Flight has very a descriptive setting but with much bolder and brighter colours than the dark greys and greens of Compass and Torch. The dark red soil’, ‘a stream of rich green grass’ and ’the pink flowers’ all set a bright and idyllic tone to the railway cottage and surrounding land where the story is set. Lessing’s metaphor is different to Baines’s, Lessing’s colourful home represents the childhood and innocence of the granddaughter. It’s isolated location adding to the image of safety against the intrusion of the outside world, its maturity and corrupting influence. Baines’s use’s her control of information in the Compass and Torch much more than Lessing.
In Flight, the only glaring lack of information is the fate of the Grandfather and his daughters respective spouses. There is no mention implied or otherwise of the former‘s wife. ‘I was married at seventeen and I never regretted it (said his daughter), Liar’ he said. ‘Liar. Then you should regret it,’ implies that the daughter’s was an unhappy marriage in the eyes of the Grandfather or at least she was too young and he wishes his granddaughter could avoid her mistake.
If the writer had included what had happened, we might sympathise with either the Grandfather or his daughter but it is left out, as it is not a story about fact, it is a story about the Grandfather’s feelings and that would distract from the point. Baines is much stricter with what information she gives the reader, but there is a very clear aim to her lack of detail. The only name we are given is that of Jim the step dad, the members of the family are nameless. The divorce details are left out. The reason why the dad has been absent and his current relationship status is unknown.
All of this undefined detail creates the ability for the reader to relate to the story easier and attach their own experiences. In one instance, a fellow student found herself empathising with the mother, who is not the warmest of the characters, as she knows how she feels when allowing her own child to visit her father. This was Baines’s aim, the fact that the dad is the very archetype of the strong male character type and the boy, a very familiar personality to anyone with experience of eight year old boys trying to impress someone, all help the story be more accessible to the reader.
There are recurring patterns running throughout both of the pieces, which the authors use to tie in their themes of growing up. The pigeons in Flight are a metaphor for the grandfather trying to control and protect his granddaughter, ‘feeling the cold coral claws tighten around his finger. Content, he rested the bird lightly on his chest,’ shows he was happiest when his granddaughter is holding on to him as tightly as he was holding her, but now the relationship has changed and he’s holding on to her alone.
At the end of the story when he release the pigeons, it is his way of symbolising his reluctant acceptance of her leaving. All though ‘She was staring at him’ and ‘He saw the tears run shivering off her face’ indicates that now that he has let her go and she is free to pursue her adulthood, she is frightened to go on without him. Lessing turns the tables there, showing the other side that the girls desire for independence is not all she thought it was going to be. In Compass and Torch, the pattern is the recurring interference of the horses.
They are totems for the mistakes the boy and the man are making. The dad is in so much pain and scared that he is losing his son that he is ignoring his son’s attempts at bonding, its shown in the line ’the horse comes up to the car,’ ‘The man bats her away,’ he repeatedly ignores the horse like he ignores his son. The boy has a different problem, he is so obsessed at being a man like his dad that he forgets to be a child, ‘(the horse) provides a close up display that could easily fascinate an eight-year-old boy’ which the boy ignores ‘eyes only for the man. The horses show that the man is the one who needs to grow up, stop wallowing in self pity and try and connect with his son, that way the son will be able to stop trying to be a man and enjoy his childhood which is surely what the dad would prefer. Growing up is explored from two very different perspectives in the stories, both deal with accepting the reality of the situation rather then what the characters would prefer. The grandfather has to accept his granddaughters growing up and the son has to accept he is not a man just yet.