Chapters 23–24 Summary

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Last Updated on August 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1057

Chapter 23: Memorial

Macdonald takes the train into London for her father’s memorial. At the church, she is anxious at first, but standing in front of the hundreds of guests, she thinks about all the people who knew and loved her father. This comforts her, and she gives her eulogy.

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As a little boy in the 1950s, Macdonald tells the room, her father loved watching planes, and one day he spotted a new model of American Air Force plane—the plane-spotter’s “Holy Grail.” He took a photo and wrote down the model number but was then dragged to a guardshouse by a soldier. A sergeant destroyed the film in his camera and tore the page with the model number out of his notebook, and the boy wept. “You didn’t see anything,” they told him. “Forget you were here.” Her father was devastated, but then he had an idea: he shaded the next page of his notebook with his pencil. There on the page was the trace of the model number he had written down, and he rode his bicycle home “in triumph.”

The rest of the service is beautiful and moving, and afterward, countless people approach Macdonald to praise her father and her eulogy. Later in the Press Club, everyone drinks heavily and tells stories about Macdonald’s father; as she leaves, she feels that her family “had expanded by about two hundred people, and everything was going to be fine.” Macdonald realizes that she made a mistake when she decided to isolate herself—that it is relationships with other people, not escaping to the wild, that offers true healing from grief.

She realizes, too, why Mabel has been so aggressive lately: the hawk is hungry. This realization brings self-loathing followed by relief, and the next evening Macdonald sits outside with Mabel, feeding her an entire pigeon. As she watches Mabel eat, Macdonald has another realization: that like White, and despite her longing to disappear, she can never truly become the hawk—she can only be the falconer.

White’s book was the only one of the many animal books Macdonald read as a child in which the animal didn’t die. At the end of The Goshawk, Gos is simply lost, and without the finality of his death, there is always a glimmer of hope that the hawk might return. Macdonald recognizes that some part of her had wanted to slip into the “dark forest to which all things lost must go” to bring back White’s lost hawk and her own lost father, whose death had been so sudden that it hadn’t seemed quite real. In her recurring dreams of the goshawk vanishing into thin air, Macdonald now sees her own desire to vanish with the hawk into the other world where her father might be waiting.

Chapter 24: Drugs

Even after the revelations she experienced after the memorial service, Macdonald continues to feel deeply sad and alone. She spends her evenings playing with Mabel, searching for a sense of domesticity and connection. Unlike falconers who have families and full lives to balance out the “wildness” they explore with their hawks, Macdonald has nothing but the hawk. Frightened of how numb and inhuman she has begun to feel, Macdonald decides to see a doctor.

At the doctor’s office, Macdonald describes her symptoms, and the doctor listens carefully. He tells Macdonald that they can help her, and she starts to cry. The doctor prescribes her SSRIs, and Macdonald takes them even though she fears they will affect her thinking or stop her being able to fly the hawk. But she takes the drugs anyway and continues flying Mabel.

Macdonald remembers reading a thirteenth-century poem called Sir Orfeo when she was a student, a Celtic retelling of the Orpheus myth. In the poem, King Orfeo spends a decade living alone in the forest after his wife’s kidnapping by the Faery King; he is only able to cross into the Land of Faery and rescue her after remembering...

(The entire section contains 1057 words.)

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