CBSE Class 12 English - On the Face of It
About the Author: Susan Hill is an English author of fiction and non-fiction works.
The Theme of the story:
- The play depicts beautifully yet grimly the sad world of the physically impaired. It is not the actual pain or inconvenience caused by physical impairment that trouble a disabled man but the attitude of the people around him.
- Young boy with a burnt face.
- Lives secluded from other children
- Insecure about the way he looks
- Initially has a negative approach towards his life because of his deformity of the face caused by the acid until he meets Mr. Lamb.
- He feels that people either feel sorry for him or feel that he is very ugly.
- He has suffered many rude remarks from the people like one woman told him that no one will ever kiss such a face except his mother and that too on the other side of his face.
- Transforms himself after spending time with Mr. Lamb.
- He was a lonely man
- Had a tin leg
- Always had a positive approach towards his life
- Keeps himself busy by making jelly out the apples in his garden, sitting in the sun and reading books.
- Did not have curtains in the house because he did not like to shut the light or darkness
- Keeps the windows open to hear the sound of the wind
- Called Lamey lamb by people.
- He revives the almost dead feelings of Derry towards life
The plot revolves around two physically impaired people named, Mr. Lamb with a tin leg and Derry who had a burnt face and the strong bond of friendship they develop. One day Derry went to Mr. Lamb’s garden as he thought it was just an empty place and he can sit there. Mr. Lamb hears his footsteps and asks him to mind the crab apples while walking and that he could trip.
Mr. Lamb tells him that he does not mind who comes into his garden and the gate’s always open. Derry explains that he just wanted to come in. Derry explains that he is not afraid of people in fact people are afraid of him and it doesn’t matter who they are or what they say or how they look he knows how people pretend. Mr. Lamb listens to him carefully. He says that when it gets a bit cooler he will get the ladder and stick and pull down the crab apples and make jelly.
Derry feels that Mr.Lamb is changing the subject and that he is afraid to ask about his burnt face. He tells him that his face was burned by the acid and not only that acid burnt his face but it ate him up as well and that the things will never be any different for him forever.
Mr. Lamb tells Derry that his real leg got blown off years back and that there is no difference between the two of them they are same just like the trees or herbs and the weeds he grows; he does not understand why a green growing plant is called weed and another flower. He explains Derry that all the things are relative even the Beauty and the beast.
Derry replies that he knows this fairy story because he have been told this earlier that ‘It’s not what you look like, it’s what you are inside’ and handsome is as handsome does and that’s why even beauty loved the monstrous beast for himself and when she kissed him he changed to handsome prince but he won’t change because nobody will ever kiss his face except his mother and that too she kisses on the other side of his face and he completely dislikes this because she does this out of responsibility and not because she actually feels like doing it. Mr. Lamb and Derry have a long conversation where they talk that bees don’t buzz as people say instead they hum and hum means ‘sing ‘if you listen to them carefully.
Mr. Lamb revives the almost dead feelings of Derry towards life. He motivates him to think positively about life, changes his mindset about people and things how a man locked himself as he was scared- a picture fell off the wall and got killed. He explains to him that the acid had only burnt his face just like the bomb only blew up his leg but more than that there are worse things that can happen and that he can burn himself from the inside if he has this attitude towards his life.
Derry shares that someone suggested that he should be left with others like himself for his betterment but he likes to stay in a place like this garden and a house with no curtains. He also exclaimed that the gate of the garden is always open. Derry is inspired and promises to come back. Derry’s mother stops him but he is adamant saying if he does not go now it would be never. When he comes back he sees Mr. Lamb laying on the ground it is ironical that when he searches a new foothold to live happily, he finds Mr. Lamb dead.
In this way, the play depicts the heart-rendering life of physically disabled people with their loneliness, aloofness, and alienation. But at the same time, it is almost a true account of the people who don’t let a person live happily.