Study Guide

The Ear, the Eye, the Arm Coming of Age

By Nancy Farmer

Coming of Age

The instructor paused. Tendai held his breath. "Not exactly. He feels the other person's pain. That's a bad trait in a soldier." (2.25)

As Tendai eavesdrops on his dad, he wishes the martial arts instructor hadn't noticed that he was always turning the wheels in his mind. It's a telltale sign that Tendai is pretty immature at this stage—he's embarrassed about how he is and desperately wants his dad's approval.

Kuda was too young to be possessed. Tendai was certain some warlike ancestor would be delighted with his little brother when he was older. But what about me? He thought. He didn't have any special skills. Quite a lot of dull, ordinary people weren't ever possessed by anybody. They weren't worth it. Tendai sighed. (3.27)

Tendai doesn't feel special. Sure, he has a bunch of Scout badges and works hard at school, but he's not a natural born warrior like his dad or Kuda, and he can't do complex math problems in his head like Rita. He's also not a scientist like his mom. He wants to be good at something, but he's just not sure what that thing is yet.

"We never have any fun, and you have to sit there like an old vulture and preach. Go croak somewhere else!" (3.49)

It doesn't matter whether it's right, wrong, or even dangerous, Rita is on board with the trick the 'rents plan. It's party time. She cares more about having fun than anything else. It's clear to Tendai that this is irresponsible, but hey, he's just thirteen, so why should he follow the rules all the time?

He allowed himself to be pulled behind a wall, while the owner followed with a hangdog look. Rita and Kuda danced along with the Blue Monkey. They found themselves in a dimly lit area like the place Rita encountered the rat. "Wait. Why can't we talk about this outside?" (4.106)

Come into my web, said the spider to the fly. It only takes a quick word from the Blue Monkey to dupe Tendai, Rita, and Kuda. (We'll give the little guy a pass since he's a baby.) Easily susceptible, Tendai starts out a little naïve. He doesn't think about the consequences of decisions before acting.

"You don't understand! These aren't just any children. The Masks would fall all over themselves to get them. Besides"—Father looked embarrassed—"they've never been on a bus." (5.8)

Gulp. As General Matsika explains that his children are, um, incredibly sheltered to police chief, he's a little embarrassed. In some ways, he should be. His kids have never even been on a bus, because they never go into the outside world. Looks like Tendai has a lot of growing up to do—and fast.

They all sat on low stools, and they were all older than he. Some were ancient. They waited to be greeted. Tendai suddenly felt he was in over his head. What did you say to elders three hundred years ago? Their rules of etiquette were strict and inflexible. That much he remembered. (16.14)

Over at Resthaven, Tendai realizes just how much he has to learn. He might be able to fake it in the real world, but here in an ancient village? Nope. There are customs and traditions to follow. Tendai gets hit with a ton of bricks with the idea that he really needs to grow up and be more mature.

"I was only fourteen. He talked to me like the parent I never had. He said I could go to school or learn a trade, but I would have to be absolutely perfect. If I wasn't, he would drop me off the Mile-High MacIlwaine. He was joking. I think. Anyhow, he also told me about Resthaven." (22.56)

When Myanda shares with Tendai that she met the General, he's shocked. What's more? His dad helped her get in line. We only get a brief glimpse of her story in passing, but it's clear that she, too, needed to find her way at fourteen. Now Tendai is about that age and stumbling along his way, too.

The one thing that had been drummed into all their heads from the moment they were able to understand was that you never seriously argued with elders. You could needle them or complain—Rita was an expert at this—but you didn't go too far. And the older an elder was, the more careful you were. (30.43)

Tendai knows that there are rules about these sorts of things. It's not just about respecting your folks; you also have to hold your tongue and listen to other people who are older, too. Maybe that's because they're older and wiser and can teach you a bunch of stuff.

Tendai swallowed. So much time had passed! He saw himself on his last birthday, a spoiled, ignorant child. He had got a model village kit and toy spear. Tendai flushed with embarrassment. Had he really been such a baby? And when he blew out the candles on the cake, hadn't he made a wish? I want an adventure. (36.27)

We get to see dramatic changes in Tendai's life over the course of the book, and not just in his location. Here, we can tell that he's grown up a lot. He's no longer the spoiled, selfish little know-it-all we meet when the book begins. Instead he's matured a bit and thinks about stuff before he acts.

Tendai nodded. He was proud his father was speaking to him as an adult. (40.57)

In the end, Tendai still wants his dad's approval, but he doesn't need it anymore. He's spent so much time away from his parents that he doesn't look to his dad for a pat on the back. He'll happily take one, though. Now that his dad thinks of him as an adult, Tendai has arrived.

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