The author of the short play On The Face Of It is Susan Hills. This award-winning English writer has published both fiction and non-fiction literature. In this play, she introduces two peculiar characters who converse and realise that they are not so very peculiar after all. Derek is a young boy of fourteen who likes to be called Derry. He has the average views on life like any other teenage boy but his youth is encumbered by a tragic accident which has distorted his facial skin. He is afraid of going out and meeting people because he believes they will run away from him in fear as they look upon his face. This feeling of being alienated has intensified over time due to people’s reaction on his appearance. He is seldom social and does not like to be in the presence of others. Derry carries a heavy weight of isolation on his shoulders and it crumbles him from within.
One fine afternoon he meets an old man named Mr Lamb in a garden and is about to leave when he sees him. Mr Lamb tries to talk to him and in an in differential manner attempts to hold him back in the garden for a conversation. He explains to the boy that he does not mind his presence even one bit and would also enjoy his company if he would like to stay for a bit longer. Then small talk gives way to a deeper discussion about life and its injustices. In his own simple manner the old man convinces the young boy to see the world in a different light without being too hard upon himself. Mr Lamb shares his own grief of losing a leg and having a tin leg replaced where his original limb was. He does so in an effortless manner which makes Derry see how trivial physical discrepancies can be if the mind is strong. Mr Lamb reminds Derry of all the advantages he still possesses and encourages him to make use of it and excel in life. The plot ends on a sad note as Mr Lamb falls from a tree and apparently dies, while Derry is heartbroken by seeing him in such a state.
On The Face Of It Short Questions and Answers: Solved
1. What is it that draws Derry towards Mr Lamb inspite of himself?
The little boy Derry and the old Mr Lamb form an unlikely bond one afternoon in Mr Lamb’s garden. The boy likes to spend time alone as he is insecure about his physical appearance. A side of his face is ruined by acid and it has eroded a part his skin. His face will remain disfigured forever. He worries about his future and about being rejected from all love and happiness in life. When he comes upon the old man in the garden he is surprised and tries to get away from there. The old man introduces himself as Mr Lamb and tries to welcome him by engaging with him in a friendly banter. At first, Derry is reluctant to stay but slowly he participates in the conversation and tells the old man about his problems. Mr Lamb in turn shares his tragic incidents of life. A bomb had blown away one of his legs in the past and it was replaced by a tin leg with surgery. In rainy weather his leg bothers him but he takes it in his stride and does not ponder upon his problems.
The two men connect on a deep mentor-protégé level where the old man enlightens the young boy on the secrets of life. They are both physically impaired and lonely which brings them closer as they let down their emotional walls in front of each other. Derry is drawn to the old man because he finds a reflection of himself in Mr Lamb. The eccentric old man is kind to him in speech where others had shunned from him and gives him hope of living a full life someday and this draws the young boy in spite of his anti-social mannerisms.
2. In which section of the play does Mr Lamb display signs of loneliness and disappointment? What are the ways in which Mr Lamb tries to overcome these feelings?
In the first half of the play, Mr Lamb reaches out to Derry for companionship when he invites him to come over sometime and help him make jelly out of crab apples collected from his garden. The old man takes his own isolation lightly by entertaining all sorts of people in his empty abode and his eagerness for Derry’s presence confirms this loneliness. Mr Lamb gives a peek into his disappointment when he mentions how the neighbourhood kids whom he so kindly welcomes into his garden, tease him by calling him names on the street. They return his kindness with rude behaviour.
Mr Lamb mentions these incidents fleetingly and instead focuses upon all the positive things around him. He tells Derry that he enjoys life by appreciating everything created by God and spends his time being amazed by the growing thriving life all around him. To him the crab apples, flowers, growing weed and the chance association of people are all sources of joy in the world. This is how he overcomes his feelings of loneliness and disappointment by living each day in wonder.
On The Face Of It Long Questions and Answers: Solved
1. The actual pain or inconvenience caused by a physical impairment is often much less than the sense of alienation felt by the person with disabilities. What is the kind of behaviour that the person expects from others?
Bearing the traumatic effects of an accident or injury is a huge challenge in itself. In addition to bodily pain, the survivor must come to terms with physical and social changes in life. It takes great patience to heal and overcome such personal tragedies. The predicament Derry faces is similar as he finds his life on an irreversible path of loneliness and rejection. His insecurities get stronger whenever he is specially treated by his parents. He can sense their discomfort and anxiety over his future as they believe he will never make friends in life. The rude comments by passer bys on the street and the astonishment seen in other people’s eyes add to his anguish.
Derry feels out of place in all social gatherings because of this treatment. Such people who are dealing with disabilities need to be treated in a kind yet neutral manner. The kind of behaviour expected by such persons by family and friends is a sense of welcome and inclusion. They don’t want to be treated differently or with pity as they want everyone to focus upon their achievements instead of pondering upon their scars. It is indeed cruel to mock or comment upon the tragedy of such people who are in reality brave survivors. They do not deserve unkindly or unreasonable treatment.
2. Will Derry get back to his old seclusion or will Mr Lamb’s brief association effect a change in the kind of life he will lead in the future?
The single conversation with Mr Lamb makes a great impression upon young Derry. For the first time in his life he understands the beauty of curiosity and success. He is inhibited by his fears and embraces life with positivity. The old man influences him to see the world and to rejoice in everything he sees us. Through his funny anecdotes and tales of his experiences, Mr Lamb teaches the boy to consider hatred like acid which can burn away into his soul. He encourages him to take risks and meet people in life even if they treat him absurdly as it is possible that some people might not treat him in the same way. If he keeps his heart and mind open, he is likely to make friends instead of ending up alone.
Derry fights with his mother and disobeys her in a bid to see Mr Lamb once again. He doesn’t feel shackled to his home as he previously felt. Although he witnesses the sudden demise of Mr Lamb in the last half of the play, we as readers and viewers, are sure that his grief will give way to a brighter future as shown to him by Mr Lamb.