Chapters 11–12 Summary

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Last Updated on August 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1176

Chapter 11: Leaving Home

For the first time, Macdonald takes Mabel out in public. They walk slowly through the park, Mabel perched on Macdonald’s fist, and Macdonald feels that the world around her is surreal. Mabel is frightened of the people walking by, and she bates; Macdonald feels a general sense of anger toward all the people around her. This anger is lessened when she has a friendly interaction with a bicyclist on the street.

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The next time they go out, Mabel is still afraid, but she is also more curious. She doesn’t like large dogs, but she is interested in smaller dogs as potential prey. After some time, Mabel relaxes enough to eat off of Macdonald’s fist. Macdonald feels like she is also seeing the world for the first time. When Mabel sees a pigeon fly into a tree, the hawk is fascinated, “as if all her weapons systems were suddenly engaged”; the hawk has discovered her own innate hunting instincts.

White didn’t take things slowly with Gos, the way one is supposed to while training a hawk; instead, he brought Gos with him everywhere. Macdonald sees a similarity between the way White grew up, constantly afraid, and the way he raised Gos—both were forced to bear their fright and insecurity. White spent many long days and nights on solitary walks with Gos. In the 1930s, Macdonald writes, nighttime walking tours were a popular pastime in the English countryside, with an entire industry devoted to them. The people taking these walking tours were seeking a “mystical communion with the land”—they wanted to connect with an imagined version of England’s past, one that felt all the more appealing in the frightening, uncertain time between the wars. White shared in this general mood, a conservative response to the collective trauma of World War I and looming new threats from abroad.

White’s visit to Chapel Green, a nearby ruin, was Macdonald’s favorite part of The Goshawk when she was young; it was this in this section of the book that she felt a kinship with White. She understood his desire to slip into another time, to commune with “something lost and forgotten.”

Macdonald remembers that she borrowed a birdwatching telescope from her father and never gave it back. She also remembers the first time her father’s death became truly real to her, at the train station with her mother and brother a day or so after her father died. When Macdonald realized she would never see her father again, she shouted No. Her family held each other and wept. The last photographs her father took were still on his camera roll at the hospital, one of an empty London street at a low, blurred angle. She cannot forget this image.

Chapter 12: Outlaws

Using a dead chick as a bribe, Macdonald starts teaching Mabel how to jump from the perch to Macdonald’s fist. It is a struggle, but eventually they succeed. The impact of the collision, of hawk to fist, makes Macdonald feel alive. Recently, however, she has been feeling exhausted. Her constant vigilance during her walks with Mabel has been draining her. As Mabel grows tamer, Macdonald feels she is growing wilder, more feral. She fears the people around her when they are out walking, and she thinks that Mabel can sense her fear. Then, eventually, people they come across on their walks start ignoring them—it appears that the woman and the hawk have become commonplace. Macdonald wonders if she and Mabel have become invisible.

Then she realizes that of course people can see them—it’s mostly a question of who is brave enough to really look. On one of their walks Macdonald meets Kanat, a kind man from Kazakhstan who is familiar with falconry, and they chat. On another occasion, Macdonald chats with a handsome cyclist from Mexico who is excited to see a hawk up close. Macdonald notices that everyone who wants to...

(The entire section contains 1176 words.)

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