At first, after reading Saturday Climbing, I found it just to be a simple plain
story. A story about Barry climbing a cliff and having flashed back about his
daughter. But when I went over the story a several more times, I notice the
cliff is actually representing the relationship between Barry and his daughter,
Moira. It was a story that shows a single father perspective towards his
daughter. W.D. Valgardson uses much symbolism in his story, Saturday Climbing,
to help reader gain a greater understanding of his message. He uses symbolism in
two important areas: objects that have symbolic value, and setting, which
relates the relation between father and daughter. Many object in Saturday
Climbing have important symbolic value. For example, the “chock nut, the
wire loop, the carabiner, the rope”, represents the relation between Barry
and Moira. “¡Kfragile as they looked, would hold ten times his
weight.” Like a rope although their relation seems fragile, but it’s
stronger then it seems. The cliff itself is another important symbol. It shows
their relation, as time pass by. “Then, unexpectedly, the surfaces
smoothed; the places where he could get a secure hold were spread farther and
farther apart.” This quotation reflects the difficulty Barry encounters in
his role as a working, single-parent of a teenager. Barry’s secure hold on the
rocks, symbolise his monitoring of his daughter. As Moira becomes more
independent, it is harder and harder for Barry to keep watching her and make
sure she’s safe. Moira is going out late to parties and on dates. Barry can’t be
with her all day, and therefore can’t maintain her security. The secure holds
can also symbolise the direction the relationship between Barry and Moira is
heading. It seems that they are distancing themselves from each other. Barry has
trouble keeping track of what Moira does, and Moira is willing to let Barry into
her world by telling him what’s going on. “At the same time, the numerous
cracks dwindled until there was no place to set any protection.” This
refers to the dwindling of the relationship. It is beginning to crack, or break
apart under the stress and pressure. It also symbolises the aspect of growing up
that one becomes more independent. Barry will be able to protect Moira less and
less, as she starts to find her own way. When Barry is stuck half way up the
cliff, it represents that Barry has encountered a problem with Moira. “If
he fall, he would drop twenty-five feet to the piton, then twenty-five feet past
it before his rope came taut and held him. There was, because of the elasticity
of the rope, a chance that he would ground out.” This is also
representative of the risks Barry is willing to take for his daughter in order
to salvage their relationship. Barry would go to extremes for his daughter. The
exert also shows that one fall and it could be all over. This is the case in the
climb and it is the same in parenthood. A fall could prove fatal, and would lead
to failure. In each situation, Barry is under enormous pressure to succeed.


Barry,” ¡K set his foot on rough patch that would provide the
necessary friction to hold his weight.” The relationship between the main
characters is tested throughout. It is often pushed to the edge, on the brink of
disaster. Even though it may seem bleak, the relationship prevails. Just as
Barry seems to be able to get himself out of the predicaments on the climb, the
father-daughter relationship has overcome its own obstacles. “His daughter,
eighty feet below, seemed so small that Barry felt he could lift her into his
arms.” Barry still views Moira as being his little girl. She appears small
and innocent. She seems too young to be out in the cruel and harsh world. This
view of her may never change, but Barry’s level of acceptance of Moira’s
independence will. “From time to time, she paused to pull loose the chock
nuts and pitons her father had left behind.” By pulling out the pitons and
chock nuts, Moira is saying metaphorically, that she doesn’t require her
father’s protection. She wants to handle things on her own, and take on
obstacles (such as school) by herself too. “For a moment, he suffered
vertigo, and the cliff seemed to sway as if in an earthquake.” This is
symbolic of the fact that Barry is afraid to go on because of the uncertainty
that surrounds the future (especially concerning his daughter). He is fearful of
changes that my come as a result of his daughter’s independence and its impact
on their relationship. Barry doesn’t want his daughter to become like the
“frizzy-hair girl”. The swaying of the cliff could also represent the
shakiness, and precariousness of their relationship, like when they fight and
argue. The frizzy-hair girl represents a child who ran away from home. “For
the first time, he had seen how much younger she was than he though.” From
this quotation we know that she’s not mature enough. She wasn’t prepared to be
independent. Her situation is for Barry to see as an example. The girl is like a
bird trapped in a cage. The more the owner wants to contain it, the more it will
want to rebel. And for the girl, her father has tried to trap her so much that
she ran away, keeping herself from him. Barry is faced with an epiphany, a
sudden realisation when he really sees the girl. “Once, when she deviated
from the route her father had taken, she became stuck at an overhang. Not having
dealt with the obstacle himself, Barry could not help, and had to leave her to
find her own solution.” This part of the story signifies the moment that
Moira breaks off from her father and tries to go her own way. As expected, she
had some problems but she was able to conquer them, and reached her goal. This
is true in real life as well. It is essential for Moira to learn to solve these
problems on her own, because she can’t rely on her Dad forever. This new route
is evident where Moira has decided not to attend the local university. By going
to one out of state, this is a new world that Barry knows little about, and will
leave Moira figuring out her problems on her own. “The climb seemed
agonisingly slow, as if it would never be completed. “The ordeal takes what
seems like an eternity for Barry. He sees his daughter in trouble and
instinctively he wants to help her, only he can’t. He is forced to sit and wait
and see if she makes it. When Moira is all right, Barry sees that he’s raised a
daughter that can take care of herself. He becomes more accepting of the idea of
his daughter moving on in life. “They sat side by side, sipping orange
juice, their feet dangling in space.” Barry begins to see his daughter as
an equal and as an adult. They’re now levelled with each other, seeing eye to
eye. They’ve opened up and are expressing what’s on their minds. “Sitting
side by side”, they are both independent individuals with their own ways.

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“Below her, her father ever watchful, full of fear, smoothly paved out the
rope, determined to give her all the slack she needed while, at the same time,
keeping his hands tensed, ready to lock shut, ready to absorb the shock of any
fall.” This final paragraph shows the new approach to parenting Barry has.


He is now willing to be a spectator, rather than an active player in Moira’s
life. Barry is willing to give her space and freedom, but he will always be
there to save her should she fall. Barry is ready to let Moira continue this
climb solo. The story examines the relationship between parents and their
children as they grow up and become independent. Furthermore, it is a story
about change of attitudes concerning when it is time for the kids to move on.


Saturday Climbing specifically focuses on two characters, the first is the main
character Barry, and his daughter Moira. Throughout the story, we are told the
relation between Barry and Moira. Early in the story, we notice that Barry is
climbing up a cliff. Barry is a father who must learn to deal with his daughter
growing up and wanting her independence. Moira, the teenaged daughter, seeks to
escape from her father’s protective grasp and explore the world on her own. She
wishes to be able to face her own challenges in her own ways. Moira wants to
take on more responsibility and freedom – two wishes her father is wary to give
her. Barry feels that Moira is too young, and not ready to handle this new
power. Moira, on the other hand, craves these things and believes she is up to
the task. In Barry’s eyes, Moira will always be his little girl that he’s under
no circumstance willing to part with. It is this image that Moira is trying to
change, and replace with her own personal view of being an adult. However, as is
the case with most other parents, Barry is reluctant to let his baby grow up too
quickly. To him, it was just “last year” Moira lost her first tooth,
and started kindergarten just “six months” ago. Barry has trouble
dealing with the fact that his daughter is all grown up and looking to leave the
“nest”. What fears Barry the most is the diminishing need for him to
help his daughter. Barry feels that he’s losing his daughter because she no
longer needs in him in certain aspects anymore. For example, rides to activities
make her dinner, etc. He wants to hang on to his daughter for just a little bit
longer to prolong her childhood. Barry does not want to be left behind. This
fear of being left behind and forgotten is amplified by the fact that Barry is
single. When Moira goes off to college, Barry all by himself. It is because of
this outcome that Barry realises how much he depends on Moira for companionship.


Barry, despite being a working single- parent, makes a lot of time for his
daughter. With the absence of Moira’s mother, Barry tries to compensate as best
as he can to fill the void. He puts a lot of effort in finding an activity they
can both share an interest in. Through rock-climbing together, they have made
great strides in strengthening their relationship. They are forced to rely and
trust one another. It also gives Moira that responsibility and freedom she
wants. The use of a controlling metaphor of the climb representing the
development in the relationship between Barry and Moira provides and insightful
look at their progression. As they climb the cliff, one can see the transition
in parenting Moira. At the beginning of the story, we find Barry “sixty
feet up the cliff”, with Moira safely down on the ground. This ideal
situation if Barry’s mind. Later we see Moira begin her climb and she chooses to
take some routes not taken by her father. She is proclaiming her independence,
and proves to Barry that she can make it on her own. When she reaches him,
they’re now levelled with each other. Both equal, both adults. This is the first
time, Barry realises that his daughter is grown up and no longer his little
girl. At the end of the story we watch as Barry cautiously lets Moira go off to
blaze her own trail. Barry remains ready to save his baby should she fall. Barry
accepts Moira’s independence and realises he can’t continue on holding her back.


Another important aspect of the story is the use of flashbacks with the
“frizzy hair girl”. This character seems strange at first, but it is
not until her significance to the events in the story does it become clear how
important she is. Her two quotes lead Barry to change his attitude towards his
approach to raising Moira. “The caged bird proves nothing but the power of
the captor”, and “The world seeks balance; extremism begets
extremism”, help Barry realise what he must do. By caging the bird, and
denying it its freedom, it only feeds its hunger for it. When the bird is
finally let out, it will try to get as far away as possible. The girl with
frizzy hair was this bird. She had an over-protective father, and she decided to
go across the country to get away from his control. This helped Barry understand
that the more he tries to keep Moira in the “nest”, the more
resentment there will be. The other quote says that extreme actions have extreme
reactions. The more Barry tries to control Moira, the more likely she is to
rebel. If Barry continue on controlling Moira’s life, he would fall like Ron. He
would fail to be a father and end up like the frizzy hair girl’s father. The
best thing Barry can do is to minimise his “protection”. The
“frizzy hair girl” represented what could happen to Moira, this
triggered a turnaround in Barry’s ways. In a sense, the “frizzy hair
girl” acted as a catalyst. The last bit of the story is demonstrative of
the fact that Barry has a different role as a parent from now on. Barry is now
there to provide a safety net should Moira fall. He will be there ready to catch
her. Other than when his help is asked for, Barry is now and observer watching
whether or not he did a well enough job in raising his daughter. Moira begins
setting off climbing a new section of the cliff, and this time she will lead.


She starts out boldly up the unknown cliff, ready to tackle the next section of
it. As she climbs, she begins her journey through adulthood, and perhaps one day
she will be leading her own child on this rock. At this point, Barry no longer
sets the protection for Moira. She is expected to do that for herself. As a
loving father, he dreads the day that it seems he is no longer needed. By the
end of the story, Barry reaches the realisation all parents must come to in
time. He realises that it is time for him to let his daughter go. He will remain
there next to her supporting, but his job is limited. When there is a need he is
ready to step in and resume his role as a caregiver. Until that time comes, he
will give Moira “all the slack she needs while, at the same time, keeping
his hands tensed, ready to lock shut, ready to absorb the shock of any
fall.” In conclusion, I think this story refers to most family. Children
will always grow up and leave their parents some time in life. Parents should
support them and be happy instead of holding them back. For example, my brother
just came back from Japan. When he left Calgary, my parents were pretty worried
about him having trouble being independent, but my parents supported by brother
all the way. But if my parents have held my brother back, he might have lost a
chance to work in Japan. Indeed, a parent caring for child is important, but how
much they are caring is even more important. Too much might not give them a
chance to mature, but too little might ruin their life. So parents have great
responsibility in looking after their child, so much responsibility that it
might give them stress which might effect their life.