But he would always answer, “That’s a hat.” Then I wouldn’t talk about boa constrictors or jungles or stars. I would put myself on his level and talk about bridge and golf and politics and neckties. And my grown-up was glad to know such a reasonable person.
In this passage from Chapter I, the narrator discusses his Drawing Number One, a picture that looks like a hat but is meant to portray a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Whereas children use their imaginations and see the hidden elephant inside the boa constrictor, adults offer the most dull, unimaginative interpretation and see the picture as a hat. Here, the narrator explains that he uses this drawing as a barometer to see whether an adult retains any of his noble childhood perspective. Unfortunately, the narrator says, adults always respond with a grown-up perspective, so the narrator must talk with them about dull, pragmatic matters.
This passage demonstrates that being a grown-up is a state of mind, not a fact of life. The narrator is an adult in years, but he retains a childlike perspective. At the same time, this passage displays the loneliness that the narrator suffers as a result of his atypical outlook on life.