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On the Face of it Class 12 by Susan Hill, Chapter 6, Vistas, English

Summary of On the Face of It

On the Face of It revolves around a young but pessimistic lad namely Derry and an optimistic old man known as Mr. Lamb. This play deals with the sense of loss, a sense of isolation and how to overcome it. It also highlights that the actual pain caused by a physical impairment is actually much less than the sense of alienation felt by the person. 

A young lad of fourteen (Derry) who has pessimistic approach towards others due to an incident which burnt his half of the face. Therefore, he often avoids people and looks for places which have no signs of humans. He thinks people either get afraid of him or make fun of his deformity whenever he comes across them. Having seen an empty garden, he enters there stealthily.

Having entered there, he finds Mr. Lamb who puts him at ease stating that former can sit there as long as he wants.  But Derry keeps on talking about his half-burnt face and the terror it creates among the minds of the people. Having listened to him, Mr. Lamb understands the gravity of the situations and tries to transform him with his optimistic words and impeccable examples.

He tells Derry that he is also deformed and has a tin leg. Besides, he elaborates how Children ridicule him by calling him Lamey Lamb.  He further adds that he never minds their words because he has accepted his reality and learnt the way to live life blissfully. In spite of all that, he makes toffees, jellies for children.

Having heard him for a while, Derry states the reason of disliking his mother since she kisses him on the clear side of the face instead of kissing him on the burnt side.  He adds that how people hurt his sentiments saying the words he never wants to listen. Mr. Lamb sets a few examples to transmute his perspective towards the life and other people and eventually manage to succeed. He narrates him a story wherein a man dies when a picture falls upon his head with a message that whatever happens, happens for a reason which makes Derry laugh.

Ultimately, his ego is slightly hurt when Mr. Lamb tells him that he is always making excuses of his half-burnt face further stating that he would never come back to his garden. Derry takes his words seriously, runs back to home, argues with his mother and comes back to his garden in order to exhibit that he too can do the things. But, to his surprise, he finds Mr. Lamb lying dead on the ground. All of a sudden, he starts crying and shouting saying that he has come back. Mr. Lamb, though dead now, finally manages to change a pessimistic boy into an optimistic one ultimately. 

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  • On the Face of It

Short Answer Type Questions of On the Face of It

Q1. Who was Derry? Why did he avoid people wherever he could?

Derry was a young lad of fourteen whose half face got burnt when some acid fell upon it. He was so pessimistic that he was always looking for the vacant places to stay there alone. He thought people were afraid of his burnt face. Therefore, he did not like being them.

Q2. Why made Derry startled on entering Mr. Lamb’s garden?

Derry had expected that there was no one in the garden. Therefore, he had climbed, jumped over the wall and entered the garden. When he heard a statement ‘Mind the apples’ from Mr. Lamb he got startled and decided to leave that garden immediately.

Q3. Who was Mr. Lamb? Why did he always keep his doors and windows opened?

Mr. Lamb was the owner of that garden where Derry entered stealthily. He was so optimistic that he neither locked his doors nor windows. He thought there was nothing in his home that could be stolen by anyone.

Q4. How did Children make fun of Mr. Lamb? Did he mind their words?

Mr. Lamb had apple trees in his garden whereby he plucked apples and made toffees and jellies for the children inhabiting near-by. On the contrary, children made fun of him calling ‘Lamey Lamb’ but he never minded. He had already accepted his reality and learnt the way to live life. 

Q5. Why did Derry despise his mother?

Derry despised not only people living around him but also his mother. He thought she was partial to him for she kissed him on the clear side of the face instead of kissing him on the burnt side. He thought she was partial to him.

Q6. What made Derry laugh during his conversation with Mr. Lamb?

Derry laughed when Mr. Lamb told him a story of a man who had locked himself in a room due to his fear of death. He never walked out of his home for he thought he could be run over by a bus or cheated by a girl in love. But he passed away when a picture fell upon his head and killed him on the spot. Having heard this story, Derry burst into laughter..

Q7. What did the lady remark on seeing Derry in the market?

Derry was at a bus stop when two women went past him. Seeing his half-burnt face, one of them remarked that he had got such an ugliest face that could only be loved by his mother. That statement of hers made Derry startled. He wondered how could people be so mean to him and his burnt face.

Q8. How did Mr. Lamb challenge Derry?

Mr. Lamb wanted Derry to be self-reliant and brave enough to face the world despite having half-burnt face. Therefore, Mr. Lamb challenged him stating that many a people assured him to come back to his home but no one did. He just wanted to push Derry so that he could succeed in his mission.

Q9. “You should not believe all you hear.” said Mr. Lamb to Derry? What was the impact of those words on Derry?

When Derry told Mr. Lamb that how his face was ridiculed by one of the women at the bus stop. Mr. Lamb advised him not to believe what he heard. Derry was so touched that he repeated the same sentence to his mother when she told him about what she had heard Mr. Lamb.

Q10. Why did Derry want to go back to Mr. Lamb’s garden?

Derry was influenced by the examples set by Mr. Lamb to make former a confident and extrovert boy. Mr. Lamb had encouraged him to be optimistic toward others and his life. Having been impressed, he wanted to go back to Mr. Lamb for he was the only person who had encouraged him to be optimistic. 

Q11. What doubt did Derry’s mother have about Mr. Lamb?

Derry’s mother had heard ill of Mr. Lamb from others. She thought Mr. Lamb was not a good person and could distract her child from his path. She, being scared, did not want her son to go to his house again and live with him.

Q12. What did Derry notice on reaching the garden again? What made him cry?

Mr. Lamb challenged Derry to go to his home and come back. Therefore, he was in haste to reach Mr. Lamb’s garden to prove him wrong. Having reached there, he found Mr. Lamb lying dead there after falling from the ladder while plucking the apple. The man who had transmuted him was no more in front of him. All that made him cry.

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Long Answer Type Question of On the Face of It

Q1. How did Mr. Lamb transform Derry’s pessimism into optimism?

When Mr. Lamb observed that Derry was completely lost, he tried his level best to put him at ease. He set many examples to transform him into an optimistic and self-reliant individual. Besides, he asked Derry about his likings and answered all his questions related to life and people. Mr. Lamb told him that beauty lies in the eyes of a person not in his physical appearance. He told Derry a story wherein a man, who was afraid of his death, died despite his best efforts of shunning death. Having heard that story, Derry laughed a lot.

Mr. Lamb gave him many examples like weeds and plants, bees singing and many more, so as to change his personality altogether. In the end, Derry got ready to accept Mr, Lamb’s challenge to come back to latter’s home which clearly shows his transformation.

Having reached his home and found that Mr. Lamb was no more. Seeing Mr. Lamb lying dead in front of him, he started crying which shows his aroused emotions after meeting Mr. Lamb. Now he was a complete and transformed personality who considered that the work done by an individual is more important than his physical appearance.


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