Growing Up by Joyce Cary
In Growing Up by Joyce Cary we have the theme of rebellion, control, innocence, isolation, acceptance, change and freedom. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Cary may be exploring the theme of rebellion. Both Jenny and Kate while they are on top of Robert no longer act as the young children that Robert had come to know. There is a sense that Robert’s authority is at least symbolically being challenged. Something that manifests itself by way of the fact that Robert is unable to move while Jenny and Kate are on top of him. It is as though he is paralysed. The fact that Robert is also injured when Jenny and Kate are on top of him could suggest that Robert no longer is able to control his children. That they have grown up without him knowing it. Though both Jenny and Kate believe that they are having fun with Robert. Robert himself believes he is seeing a different side of both girls. A side that he has never seen before and if anything frightens him. This may be significant as Robert may fear the fact that Jenny and Kate are becoming women and are no longer the two young girls he imagined them to be.
Where one would expect Jenny and Kate, due to their age, to be innocent the reality is that it is Robert who is the innocent one in the story. It is as though he has missed his children grow up or that they have grown so quick he has been unable to notice it. It is also clear to the reader that Robert thinks he can see malice in both girls. Something that he has never seen before and which would overshadow innocence. It is also interesting that both girls do not stir from what they are doing when Robert says hello to them. Though it is clear that Robert is excited to see both girls the same cannot be said for the girls when it comes to them seeing Robert. There is some distance between the girls and Robert. Which may symbolically suggest that both girls are maturing and finding their own way in life. They no longer see the importance or need to be as close to their father. They have new worlds to explore and this takes precedence over anything that their father may think.
Symbolically it might be important that Jenny sits on the wall to look at her father’s wound. She is now in a position in whereby she is taller than her father. As though she has grown up and is no longer the young girl that her father knows her as. The fact that both girls ignore their father during tea with the Women’s Committee could also have symbolic significance as it suggests that the girls no longer need their father. It is also interesting that the only other man mentioned in the story, old Wilkins, is somebody that Robert doesn’t really wish to associate with. In many ways this mirrors how both Jenny and Kate may feel about Robert. He is too old and may not be of any interest to them. Though it is obvious that neither girl is prepared to cut all ties with Robert. Something that is clearer to the reader by way of the fact that Jenny wishes to ensure that Robert’s wound is okay. Though Robert may feel isolated by both girls’ actions he is not completely discarded. In many ways the girls may have some need of Robert. Though this may not feel like the case for Robert.
The end of the story is also interesting as Robert has a moment of realization and realises that both Jenny and Kate are growing up and that he is as well. Though this may make Robert uncomfortable he still nonetheless appears to accept the circumstances he finds himself in. In many ways he is forced to accept his circumstances as there is very little he can do. Everybody changes and Jenny and Kate are no different. It just may be a case that the change in both girls has come too quickly for Robert. Who still looked upon both girls as being young and innocent. As many if not all children are when they are the same age as Jenny and Kate. It might also be important that Robert is allowing both girls the freedom to grow up. Though shocked at the girls’ actions he does not reprimand them. Instead he understands that both girls will inevitably change. Just as Robert may have changed over time and will continue to change or grow up as both girls do. It is inevitable that with growing up comes change.