Last Updated on August 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1128
Chapter 13: Alice, Falling
At last, White discovered that keeping his hawk hungry would keep Gos obedient. Still, he struggled with Gos, roughly pulling him down from his perch. Gos wouldn’t fly to White no matter how much White pushed him.
Mabel, however, has reached her flying weight. Keeping a hawk at flying weight is a complicated and exact science—it requires a great deal of fussing over calories and daily weighings—but Macdonald believes she has finally gotten Mabel’s weight right. They set out toward the college cricket pitch and stand under a pavilion, where Macdonald looks up at the window of her office. This morning she refused a position at a university in Berlin; she no longer wants a career and can’t imagine the future. She only wants to fly the hawk.
Suddenly, everything around Macdonald begins to feel unreal. There was an Alice in Wonderland–themed ball a couple of months ago, and the campus is still decorated for it. In two months, Macdonald will be unemployed. Her housing at the college will disappear, along with her salary. Everything will change, but everything already has—with her father’s death, and with the presence of the hawk—and Macdonald knows there is no going back. She pictures the scene in which Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, taking objects from the shelves as she slowly floats past them. This is how Macdonald feels: as though she has always been falling through her life at Cambridge and is sinking toward the unknown. Since her father died, she has been experiencing these episodes of unreality, of “derealization.”
Shaken but determined to fly the hawk, Macdonald practices standing farther and farther away from Mabel. The hawk flies from the railing of the pavilion directly to Macdonald’s fist; she seems to know exactly what to do, and Macdonald recognizes a feeling she hasn’t experienced in some time: happiness. Later that evening, however, she finds herself crying.
White’s attempts to teach Gos to fly to him continued to be unsuccessful. After an incident in which he forcefully tugged Gos to the ground and ran away when the hawk tried to follow him, White decided to try again. Bbut as the hawk flew toward him, at the last moment, he turned away in fear, causing Gos to miss. But White felt that this was a test of his courage, and finally he stood his ground as Gos flew to him and landed on his fist. That night, White drank heavily to celebrate their victory.
Fifteen days after Mabel’s arrival, Macdonald is invited to an outdoor luncheon with the college Master’s family. She reflects upon the unlikeness of her ending up at Cambridge; her parents were working-class and did not attend university, and her father suggested that she might secretly be at Cambridge as a spy. Thinking of her father and the lives she might have led, Macdonald finds her vision blurring. She begins to feel out of place, as if she was only invited to be the entertainment: the sad woman with the hawk. Wasps buzz around the table, and the lunch begins to feel unreal to Macdonald; the wasps are the only real thing.
T. H. White wrote a satire about the cult of the English gentleman called You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down. At the end of the book, the main character, named Prisonface, meets with a former teacher who seems to embody everything White wished to be. The teacher impresses upon Prisonface the importance of love over “wisdom or manhood.” When Prisonface asks the man for his name, the teacher replies, “Lucifer.”
Chapter 14: The Line
Macdonald recruits Christina to help her fly Mabel longer distances: she needs a second person to hold the hawk. The women complete a successful transfer on the cricket pitch, Mabel flying smoothly from Christina to Macdonald from farther and farther away. Again and again,...
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