Analysis of Flight by Doris Lessing

12 December 2016

Love is one of the most powerful emotions that will usually exist when everything else has gone. Therefore, it is really miserable when you have to let go of the one you love. In the short story “Flight” by Doris Lessing, we see how much the granddad loves his granddaughter, and how he does not want to give her up to someone else. This love comes to the granddad a lot of conflicts, he wants to keep his granddaughter but in the other hand, he has to learn and accept of letting go of his granddaughter as a circle of life. Flight” was published in 1957, in a collection of short stories entitled The Habit of Loving. Throughout the story, all of the characters have their proper names – Alice, Lucy, Steven – except for one person, the main character: the old man. He is anonymous from the beginning to the end. Doris Lessing lets the main character go nameless in order to show that what happens to this character could happen to anyone. Moreover, the old man seems to be a symbol of the old generation who always wants to keep their children in their way.

At the beginning of the story, we see the old man loves pigeons. He calls them homing pigeons because of their excellent natural instinct, they are always able to find their way home back even far away from home hundreds of miles. One of them is his favorite pigeon which he depicts as “a young plump-bodied bird” and often plays with by calling “Pretty, pretty, pretty”. It is without doubt to say that his favorite pigeon is an embodiment of his granddaughter – Alice.

From this image, the old man seems to say how beautiful his Alice is, how much he loves her, and how hopeful his daughter can be like the homing pigeons – always knows the way home back to him, always be with him, and never leaves him alone. The old man may be still happy if he did not see his granddaughter “swinging on the gate” and “She was gazing past the pink flowers, past the railway cottage where they lived, along the road to the village”. His mood suddenly changes because he knows what his granddaughter doing at the gate, she is waiting for her boyfriend, Steven, the postman’s son.

She is eighteen years old and going to get married. The old man does not like it. He is fearful of loosing his last granddaughter. Seeing Alice near the gate brings him a chilly feeling because the gate seems a transition between home and the outside world, childhood and maturity. It will take Alice out of his home, out of his control, enter a new world and never return. He wants to keep Alice for himself and avoids her not being like her three other sisters who got married and then “transformed inside a few months from charming petulant spoiled children into serious young matrons”.

That is why he shouts at Alice angrily “Waiting for Steven, hey ? ”, then “Think you want to leave home, hey ?. Think you can go running around the fields at night ? ”, and finally “I’ll tell your mom”. And we can see “his fingers curling like claws into his palm”. This point describes him as a wild and ferocious pigeon, he becomes aggressively to intervene his granddaughter’s love affair in order to keep Alice always be with him. The story goes on with the fact that the old man cannot keep Alice. She loves Steven and will marry him next month. There’s no reason to wait” as his daughter said. This comes to the old man that “He would be left, uncherished and alone”. But as an unexpected wish, Steven comes and gives him a young pigeon because he knows the old man loves pigeons so much. They give him a pigeon which also means they give him a gift of love and respect. Moreover, they are giving him a reassurance that they are sympathetic with him about the loneliness he has to suffer, and their promise to stay with him. The old man finally realizes that he cannot keep his beloved granddaughter forever.

Comforted by the gift of another young pigeon, “he shut it in a box and took out of his favorite”, and sets his favorite free to fly in a symbolic gesture that proves his painful acceptance of the fact that he must allow Alice the freedom to grow into maturity. At the end of the story, Alice “was staring at him. She did not smile. She was wide-eyed, and pale in the cold shadow, and he saw the tears run shivering off her face”. She cries when she sees her granddad release his favorite pigeon.

She knows his action means he loves her so much, he accepts loosing his favorite granddaughter in order for her to be happy with her new life. And more, we do not know if those are tears of joy or sadness or some other feelings. The story ended with ambiguous conclusion through the tears on Alice’s face. Those tears can be for anyone in the story depending on the readers’ feeling. Moreover, throughout the story, we have learned that we must let go of what we cannot change and how to accept the reality in order to move on with life.

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