A poor woman who was hated during her life by nearly everyone in her village, dies while intoxicated and leaves two daughters and a son behind to fend for themselves. The towns people pitied these children, and the two oldest were taken in by new families, but the youngest Maggie, who was crippled, was left alone because nobody wanted to deal with her disability. A man named Joe Thompson decided to take her in for the night but planned on bringing her to the poor house the next morning, because he knew his wife would not approve of her. When Joe brought Maggie home in his arms, his wife Mrs. Thompson was enraged that he brought that “sick brat” into her house.
“Death touches the spring….old tumble-down hut…”
Question (i): Which woman is referred to here? How did she die?
Answer (i): The ‘woman’ referred to here is Maggie’s mother. She died of excessive alcoholism. She had fallen upon the threshold of her own door in a drunken fit and died in the presence of her three children.
Question (ii): What kind of relations did the woman have with others? Why do you think it was so?
Answer (ii): The woman had very bitter relationship with the village folks because she had been despised and scoffed. They did so because she had very bad habit of drinking.
Question (iii): What did the neighbours take to the old hut?
Answer (iii): The neighbours took the dead woman to the old hut.
Question (iv): What kind of living conditions were the woman and her children subjected to?
Answer (iv): The woman and her children did not get any food to eat, they did not have clothes to wear.
Question (v): What was the prospective future of the children after the death of their mother?
Answer (v): John a boy of twelve year age was a stout lad who could earn his living by working with any farmer and was eagerly adopted by farmer Jones. Kate aged between ten and eleven, being a bright active girl was taken by Mrs. Ellis to work in her house as a maid. Maggie the youngest of the siblings was bed-ridden due to a spinal injury and was pitied by everyone. Nobody was willing to adopt her as she was considered of no use and would be dependent on others forever. She was adopted by a childless compassionate man named Mr. Thomson.
“Pitying glances were cast….who wanted a bed-ridden child?”
Question (i): Who was glanced at with pity? Why?
Answer (i): Maggie was glanced at with pity because she was crippled and bed-ridden since two years due to spinal injury and she appeared pale and thin.
Question (ii): Give the meaning of:
(a) “her wan and wasted form.”
Answer (a): Maggie’s pale and thin form.
(b) “even knocked at them for entrance.”
Answer (b): Maggie’s appearance arouse intense feelings of pity and sadness in the hearts of neighbours and disturbed them with the thoughts of her well-being.
Question (iii): Which incident made the child bed-ridden?
Answer (iii): Two years before Maggie had fallen from a window and her spine got injured. She had not been able to leave her bed since, except when lifted in the arms of her mother.
Question (iv): Which shelter was suggested by one of the neighbours for the “bed-ridden” child? Why?
Answer (iv): One of the neighbours suggested that Maggie should be sent to the poorhouse as no one was willing to take trouble for raising a child who could not perform any household work due to her disability.
Question (v): What role does the child play in the life of:
(a) Joe Thompson
Answer (a): The moment Joe held Maggie in his arms, he felt affectionate towards her. He could immediately connect with her as a father figure and felt as if love had sprung back into his dull life.
(b) Jane Thompson
Answer (b): Being a childless woman, Jane had become ill-tempered, irritable and desolate, with nobody to take care of. But Maggie’s presence aroused motherly feelings in her and brought back happiness and joy in her life.
“It’s cruel thing to leave….into her thin white face”
Question (i): Who are having a conversation in the above extract? What is the main topic of their conversation?
Answer (i): The wheelwright man named Joe Thompson and blacksmith’s wife is having a conversation. The main topic of their conversation is about the fate of the orphaned and disable child named Maggie. The villagers instead of helping her only mouthed verbal sympathy for the disabled child and left her alone in the hovel. Joe felt that villagers showed cruelty on her by leaving her alone in the hovel.
Question (ii): Why was Maggie’s effort to raise herself painful?
Answer (ii): Two years ago Maggie had injured her spine and because of the injury she had become bed-ridden. She could leave her bed only when lifted in arms of her mother. After her mother’s death she had to raise herself to an upright position and sat on the bed without anybody’s help. The effort of raising herself from bed caused her lot of pain.
Question (iii): What thought terrified Maggie? What did she exclaim to Mr. Thompson?
Answer (iii): The thought of being left alone and helpless in the hovel terrified Maggie. Maggie exclaimed to Mr. Thompson pitifully begging him not to leave her all alone in the hovel.
Question (iv): Why do you think the man stood with a “puzzled air”? What did he do when he went into the hovel?
Answer (iv): The man stood with a “puzzled air” because he was confused and unable to decide whether to leave Maggie alone in the hovel or take he with him. If he took her with him then his wife would not accept Maggie and treat her badly.
When he went into the hovel he assured Maggie that he is not going to leave her alone. He then wrapped her body in the clean bedclothes and lifted her in his strong arms and took her home.
Question (v): What kind of man was Joe Thompson? How can you say so?
Answer (v): Joe Thompson was a kind hearted and a compassionate man.
We can say so because it was only he who chose to adopt helpless and disabled Maggie and take care of her whereas everybody in the village wanted her to be sent to a poorhouse.