Throughout the story, all of the characters have their proper names - Alice, Lucy, Steven - except for one person, the main character: the old man. He is anonymous from the beginning to the end. Doris Lessing lets the main character go nameless in order to show that what happens to this character could happen to anyone. Moreover, the old man seems to be a symbol of the old generation who always wants to keep their children in their way.
At the beginning of the story, we see the old man loves pigeons. He calls them homing pigeons because of their excellent natural instinct, they are always able to find their way home back even far away from home hundreds of miles. One of them is his favorite pigeon which he depicts as “a young plump-bodied bird” and often plays with by calling “Pretty, pretty, pretty”. It is without doubt to say that his favorite pigeon is an embodiment of his granddaughter – Alice. From this image, the old man seems to say how beautiful his Alice is, how much he loves her, and how hopeful his daughter can be like the homing pigeons - always knows the way home back to him, always be with him, and never leaves him alone.
The old man may be still happy if he did not see his granddaughter “swinging on the gate” and “She was gazing past the pink flowers, past the railway cottage where they lived, along the road to the village”. His mood... [continues]
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