Describe Tassie's coming-of-age in A Gate at the Stairs.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Clearly, one of the most significant events that help Tassie as a character mature and develop is the way that she has to face the death of her brother. It is highly significant that when his body is brought back to the family, Tassie says goodbye to him by climbing into the casket and lying next to him, even though the body is mutilated. When she covers the casket with them both in it and declared that she will "lie there with her brother forever," it is clear that she wants to experience a kind of death as she feels she is not able to cope with her feelings and emotions at this stage. The way in which she hides herself away in her room for the next month shows the depth of her mourning, as does the way in which she begins to lead a half life, as she finds that "the fulfillingness of her life's every day had not just faltered but had stopped."

However, slowly but surely, life becomes "endurable" once more as she begins to process Robert's death and in particular is able to watch the news with her parents as it talks about those who have died in the Middle East. However, most significant in terms of Tassie's coming-of-age is when Tassie finds the e-mail from Robert that he had sent to her long ago but had never read. She reads it now, and in it Robert tells her how important she is to him and how much he has admired her. In particular, he asks for her advice on joining the armed forces as her response would be crucial to his decision. Tassie is forced to confront her past failings and to integrate this sadness into her life as the novel ends and she becomes a wiser and maturer individual.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team