The journey undertaken by the characters in Playing Beatie Bow brings them home to the same old world but with a renewed sense of reality.
“Playing Beatie Bow,” by the Australian author, Ruth Park, is not only set in 1973, but also 1873, a century earlier. The main character, Miss Abigail Kirk, finds herself travelling back in time through a bizarre incident that ties her family to the Orkney Islands. Abigail finds herself in the emerging Colony of New South Wales. Abigail lives with the Bow family and her and Beatie face obstacles in their lives as they get to know one another better. By the closure of the novel they have developed a renewed sense of reality of who they are and the possibilities for their own lives as they return to their own worlds. Abigail experiences the true meaning of love, she finds a new confidence in her appearance, she learns how girls of the 1800s received no formal education and she gets to experience the harsh realities of being a woman at this time. Playing Beatie Bow is a novel which recognises how time and experiences can turn teenage girls into wonderful adults.
One of the most striking constrasts between 1973 and 1873 is the lack of education for women. Abigail Kirk quickly learns that Beatie wants to gain an education. In the year 1873 it was uncommon for girls, especially poor girls to gain any formal education. Beatie’s thirst for knowledge encourages her to seek tuition from her brother Judah. She doesn’t enjoy the routine classes for girls at the Ragged School and wishes she could learn subjects just like the boys. Beatie is fascinated by the fact that children in Abigail’s time know her name. She wants to find out how this has come about. Abigail tells her that she believes it is because she has become famous, or at least well known. “Abigail tells Beatie that if she wants to gain anything in her time she should “…look out for yourself…How will you ever get anything if you don’t march in and bullyrag people...
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