In the story "Night Calls" by Lisa Fugard, how does the relationship between Marlene and her father change throughout the story?
In the story "Night Calls" by Lisa Fugard, the relationship between the narrator and her father is inverted from the usual parent-child relationship. In a typical parent-child relationship, parent and child begin as one and grow slowly apart, becoming two entities who sometimes feel as though they are strangers. In "Night Calls," father and daughter start out almost strangers. Marlene was 8 when her mother died and she was sent to boarding school, returning home only for school vacations. When Marlene returns at 13, she receives a handshake rather than an embrace, and is uncomfortable with the intimacy of sitting near her father in his truck. "Filled with his secrets, I felt like a thief and moved a little closer to the window." Over time, Marlene and her father get to know each other. As she watches him, she begins to understand him in a way that is unseen and wordless. Marlene's heart agrees with her father's lie about the hyena break-in though she knows the story is not true, and notes, "I have his eyes." She and her father now see as one, and they are, for the first time, a parent and a child. The connection becomes complete when they rely on one another. Marlene's father, lonely for the lost heron, is rejuvenated by Marlene's bird call. Marlene finally has a purpose for her uncanny gift of birdsong.
Upon Marlene's return from boarding school for a September visit at thirteen, she becomes aware of her father as a person: his use of tobacco and brandy, and his restlessness in the night. Through viewing the neglect of the sanctuary, she realizes that her father's depression over the loss of his wife (her mother) has changed him and his loneliness and isolation has made him shut down; the stagnant pond is a metaphor for his own stagnation. As the weeks of her visit unfold, she becomes his equal in rejuvenating the sanctuary and reawakening his love for nature. The night heron, perhaps his sole reason for carrying on as the caretaker of the sanctuary, symbolizes his hope, though muted, for a future. When he decides to release it to either find a mate or perish, it is in some way similar to his own journey. Marlene is mature enough to realize the reasons behind his decision to release and to lie to her about it. She also becomes his partner in deception when she misleads him with the heron's call. As the story ends, there is no resolution, just a realization that small deceptions are sometimes necessary in familial relationships when they serve a greater good. In this case, Marlene wants her father to sustain a hope for a future.