Growing up with Beka Lamb

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The Following Are Interpretive Essays On Zee Edgell’s Work:

Growing up with Beka Lamb

By: Gayle Vanderhorst

Developing and maturing is a hard process, especially for young girls. In the novel Beka Lamb by Zee Edgell, Beka Lamb and Toycie Qualo develop. Beka matures from a lying little girl to a responsible young lady, while Toycie deteriorates emotionally and eventually physically. Both girls symbolize two parts of Belize’s population; the main culture and those who are outside of that culture.

As the novel begins, Beka has just won an essay-writing contest at her school. That night, as she sits in her grandmother’s chair, she begins to reminisce about the long, uphill battle she fought to reach this point in her life. Seven months earlier, Beka was having trouble with telling the truth. She lied about small things, such as saying she swept the attic when she really did not. Her most recent lie, however, is the worst of all. She told her father that she passed first form when she really failed. Not only does Beka lie, but she neglects her schoolwork as well. When Toycie asks Beka why she failed first form she relies, “I fooled around instead of doing my work”(Edgell 35). Beka realizes that she does not focus on her schoolwork the way she should. When Beka does her chores, she skips parts of the floor while sweeping, she pushes old newspapers and dirty clothes under the beds while cleaning, and on her way to the market she lingers at Toycie’s house. However, once Beka tells her father the truth about failing first form, she realizes that she will have to act more responsibly in order to return to school. She begins by cleaning the attic: “Beka cleaned the attic with feverish energy; here was a way to start, a way to show her family that she could be different” (Edgell 26). Beka does not skip over parts of the floor and hide the trash like usual. She cleans with all the energy she has inside of her. In Phyllis Briggs-Emanuel’s article in The Caribbean Writer, she says this: “The conscientious intensive cleaning that Beka gives the house symbolizes her cleaning of her psychological self and her determination to grow up and accept responsibility which is the hallmark of adulthood.” Beka is beginning to take her first steps toward maturity. She realizes that in order to make her parents proud of her she must show them she is responsible. Beka also begins to take her schoolwork more seriously. She works endlessly, not even stopping for the National Day Parade: “Beka worked all morning at the table…she had this fear that if ever again she stopped working at her lessons…something terrible would happen” (Edgell 143). All of her hard work pays off because she passes her exam and moves to the next form. One of the final signs of Beka’s maturing is the encouragement she offers Toycie when they think she is pregnant. Toycie is devastated when Emilio says he cannot marry her if she is pregnant. Beka, however, quickly offers to help. “I’ll help you if it’s a baby, Toycie. We’ll live together when I leave school and raise it as best we can, and if it’s a girl, we’ll explain everything carefully about everything so that her life doesn’t break down that way. And if it’s a boy, we’ll do the same” (Edgell 109). Beka realizes the importance of positive thinking and also the importance of preventing this from happening again. She assumes the role that Toycie played for her when she failed first form, the role of comforter. Beka switching roles with Toycie is the final sign of her transition from a young girl to a young lady.

Toycie changes also. Her development, however, is more of deterioration. At the beginning of the novel, Toycie is a studious, straight-A student. She has already passed into the fourth form and plans to graduate soon. Although she is three years older than Beka, she is still a good friend of hers....