‘Flight’ by Doris Lessing
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1.What is the old man doing in the opening paragraph?
In the opening paragraph, we can find out that the old man does three main activities: catching the homing pigeon, resting with the bird and looking at the granddaughter’s movement. In the first activity, we know he stands under the dovecote through the preposition ‘above’ in “Above the old man’s head was the dovecote” and the action of watching pigeons are described by a series of phrases such as “full of strutting (walk proudly with head up and chest out), preening (make feathers smooth with beak) bird; broke on into small rainbows; lulled (make somebody relaxed and calm) by their crooning (sing quietly and gently)”. Then, his hands “stretched up toward his favorite, a homing pigeon; grasped the bird”. He puts his hands out straight and captures the pigeon he likes best.
At that very moment, “he rested (support something by putting it on or against something) the bird lightly on his chest and leaned against a tree, gazing (look steadily at somebody or something for a long time because you are thinking of something else) out beyond the dovecote”. He felt very relaxed and peaceful because the bird is his only pleasure in life when all of three granddaughters have gone with their husbands. The verb “ gazing out” shows that he is thinking of something, maybe about his granddaughter and he might realizes something strange that is going to happen with the little girl.
The details “he saw his granddaughter swinging (move from one place to another place by holding something that is fixed and pulling yourself along, up) on the gate; her hair fell down her back; her long bare legs repeated the angles of the frangipani (a tropical American tree or bush with groups of white, pink or yellow flowers) stems” tell us that he is looking at the granddaughter’s movement.
3.What is his granddaughter doing? Where is she now? How old is she? During the beginning of the story, Alice often behaves as if she is much younger, she seems carefree and looking forward to the future, described as “swinging on the gate” or with her “head loose (release) on her arms, singing”. Besides, there are some more details including “she was gazing past the pink flowers, past the railway cottage”, “her lingering (continue) backward glance (a quick look) at the road”. We can easily recognize that his granddaughter, Alice, is waiting for her boyfriend, Steven.
There is only one location in the story where the girl appears, the details “swinging” and “was looped (move in a way that makes the shape of a loop) over” show that is the gate. From the conversation of the old man and his daughter, we know that she was married at seventeen. However, her daughter, Alice is eighteen. Now she is dating with a postmaster’s (a person who is in charge of a post office) son and she will marry him.