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In Joyce Cary's short story, "Growing Up," Robert Quick, the narrator of the story realizes that his daughters are growing up, which forces him to do the same.
When Robert (referred to as "Quick") returns home on Friday, he calls out for the girls, but receives no answer. Quick is a man who believes that he is different from other fathers—he...
...never asked for affection [or]...flirted with their daughters, who encouraged them to love.
Thinking he knows them well, when he finds them in the garden and they do not respond, he is disappointed. This may serve as foreshadowing, for when the girls do act, it is in a way totally unfamiliar to him and frightening for Quick, who, having no experience with raising pre-adolescent girls—is unprepared for the sudden change in their demeanor and behavior.
As Jenny and Kate rouse themselves, their dog, Snort, comes to play. Kate shoves the dog away and Jenny joins in, but then Jenny throws a bamboo "spear" at the dog. Snort's response will mirror Quick's:
[Snort], startled, uttered a loud uncertain bark and approached, wagging her behind so vigorously that she curled her body sideways at each wag. She was not sure if this was a new game, or if she had committed some grave crime.
This uncertainty is born of a new aggressiveness on the part of the girls. All at once they begin hurling objects from the garden at the dog.
Snort, described as "the fugitive," is "horrified, overwhelmed" and...
...barked hysterically, crazily, wagged her tail in desperate submission; finally put it between her legs and crept whining between the broken shed and the wall.
This also serves to foreshadow Quick's response, for they will soon turn their attention on him. As Robert starts to rise from his garden chair to save the dog further abuse—while stopping the girls—Kate turns on Quick and...
...aimed a pea-stick at him and shouted at the top of her voice, "Yield, Pale-face."
Jenny soon joins in, rushing at her father with a "rake she carried like a lance." Now both girls are in the throes of laughter, and hurl themselves on Quick, as one shouts: "Kill him—scalp him. Torture him."
As they descend upon him, Quick is frightened because the two seem to have "gone completely mad, vindictive." They begin to hurt him and he does not know how to defend himself: the narrator notes that Quick does not want to hurt them in defending himself, but it may symbolically signify that the father has no idea what is happening and cannot conceive of a way to approach these strange girls who he used to play with. Even as Jenny squeezes his collar, actually cutting off his air, Quick does not act.
As the chair collapses, the dog nips Quick's head and it bleeds. This calms the girls who run around now, caring for his wound. Jenny is concerned, while Kate still giggles. These children are strangers to Quick. He is angry and surprised, but does not let them see this.
It seemed to him that something new had broken into his old simple and happy relation with his daughters; that they had suddenly receded from him into a world of their own in which he had not standing...
As Snort before him, Quick retreats from their attacks. He realizes that the relationship he shared with them before is gone. Soon enough, he thinks, he won't be good for anything but his checkbook. This saddens Quick, but he realizes that as his daughters are growing up, he must do the same so as to find a way to deal with these changes in his girls.
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