short stories

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The story centres on Alice and reactions to her plan to leave home. Lucy, her mother, thinks of it as completely natural and is very positive, saying she 'never regretted' getting married and her other daughters have done well.

Alice is looking forward to leaving home. She is carefree, swinging on gates, singing and waiting for her boyfriend. She has everything in life to look forward to and cannot really understand the feelings of her grandfather. However, at the end of the story she perhaps starts to realise the heartbreak that leaving home can cause.

The old man is very negative about Alice leaving home. He thinks of it as the end for him - he will be left 'uncherished and alone' with his daughter, and will no longer have a house full of life. We know he did not like it when his own daughter left to get married, and each time one of the girls leaves he gets them 'crying and miserable'.

The title, Flight, reminds us that leaving home is a key theme in the story. Both the pigeon and Alice are trying to escape, while the old man is trying to stop them. He eventually lets the pigeon go. We are not sure how Alice will leave, or whether her grandfather will learn to accept this.

There are a lot of references to nature. The most obvious is the pigeons. They appear in the first sentence, as the old man looks after his dovecote (where they are kept). There are many other references - from their claws to how they fly. And the story comes to an end with them settling back in the garden, minus the young pigeon which is the grandfather's favourite.

There are many references to the garden, too - from the 'frangipani tree' to the colour of the soil. These can be detailed, like 'the brittle shadows of the frangipani tree' or 'a stream of rich green grass'.

Flight includes references to the wider world as well, such as shadows, sunlight and sky. Nature is clearly important to both the writer and the characters: they live in the countryside and it is important to their daily lives.

The story contains a number of contrasts, such as the views of the different generations on leaving home.

We also see a contrast between how Lucy and the old man behave: he is much more like a child. In some ways, even Alice behaves in a more mature manner: she does not 'thump' her feet or shout like him.

There are also a lot of comparisons between nature and the characters. The most obvious relates to the pigeons. They act as symbols, so the pigeon at the start is just like Alice: young, the grandfather's favourite and 'pretty', but straining to fly away.

The old man can control the bird by locking it away, but he cannot control Alice. When he releases the pigeon, it is like releasing Alice. Both must move away…


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