Graeme Gigante English 204 Essay # 2 Three Perspectives of “They Came Like Swallows” by William Maxwell In the novel “They Came Like Swallows”

Graeme Gigante

English 204

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Essay # 2

Three Perspectives of “They Came Like Swallows” by William Maxwell

In the novel “They Came Like Swallows”, author William Maxwell tells the same story
from three different perspectives, each one being told from a point of view by a different
character in the family from the novel. The first perspective was told by the youngest son in the
family, Peter (nicknamed “Bunny”), the second perspective told by the older son, Robert, and the
third and last perspective told by the father/husband, James Morrison. Each member from the
family holds important aspects when it comes to closeness between family members. These
aspects are told from a different side from each speaker’s outlook, however, these different
aspects lead to important life lessons that can all relate to each other.

The story has been told from three different perspectives for several reasons. Every point
of view focuses over what the speaker remembers. Every point of view from the novel is solely
based on where the story begins and where it ends. Bunny, Robert, and James have a different
point of view of Elizabeth. One perspective explains how Elizabeth is seen as a heroic figure.
Another perspective explains how she is the person being protected. The final perspective points
out how and why Elizabeth was and will still be remembered as an important part and figure to
the family in the novel. It is believed that the story probably would not have the same
understanding had it been told from only one perspective by one of the main characters or the
author himself. Each perspective explains the development of her character overtime, more likely
as what is noted of her as the novel continues throughout.

The first part of the story is told from Bunny’s perspective. He is learned to be the center
of attention in his family. Bunny is rather an insider who is attached to and heavily relies on
protection from his mother (Elizabeth Morison). Bunny was the one known to be the most
favored child and put first in line over his older brother Robert. From day in and day out , Robert
has constantly made Bunny’s life miserable as possible. Meanwhile, the 1918 influenza outbreak
becomes a major concern. Later in this part it was mentioned that more than several people were
already affected by the deadly flu. From Bunny’s perspective, he says “I’m going to be sick, he
thought, grateful for the cool hand on his forehead and her nearness. And after that, life would no
longer be incomplete.” (Maxwell, Page 62). This has intensified the closeness of the relationship
between Bunny and his parents, particularly his mother.

The second part of the story is told from Robert’s perspective. He is Bunny’s older
brother. Robert is first to be seen as the exact opposite of Bunny because of how risk-taking he is
willing to be. Although he is loved by his parents very much, the relationship between him and
his parents is different from the relationship between them and Bunny. Robert is one of those
kids who is always involved in physical outdoor activity with many of his friends. Like Robert,
his friends often torment Bunny as well. As opposed to how Bunny feels the need for his mother
to protect him, Robert is the one who feels the need to protect his mother. Robert becomes less
tormenting to Bunny while he recovers from his illness. For example, Robert sorts out Bunny’s
toy soldiers and places them in their proper place, as stated that “Robert returned the soldiers t
the top of the bookcase where they belonged. He wanted to be at least a tad nicer to Bunny
because he was sick. But on the other hand, it wouldn’t do to commit himself” (Maxwell, page
97). Then, Robert is later restricted from socializing outside with friends due to the influenza
epidemic as much to his dismay.

The third and final part of the story is told from James Morrison’s perspective. James is
the father of Robert and Bunny and is the husband of Elizabeth Morrison. Between him and
Elizabeth, they send Robert and Bunny on a train to stay over with their Aunt Clara to prevent
them from being affected by the flu any further. While Elizabeth was hit with the flu, she gives
birth to a new born which one of her sons would have to share their bedroom with once they
return home after the end of the influenza epidemic, as much to their dismay. While James and
the child that Elizabeth gives birth to survives, Elizabeth herself unfortunately dies from the flu.
Elizabeth’s sister Irene (The Aunt of Robert and Bunny) stays with James to take care of his kids
after Elizabeth’s death. What is noted is that Elizabeth plays an important role in the family and
would continue to operate from her method. As stated that “For it was Elizabeth who had
determined the shape of his (James) life that his life should take, from the very first moment he
saw her.” (Maxwell, 173)

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