Question 1: Who is Jo? How does she respond to her father’s story telling?
Answer: Jo or Joanne was the four-year-old daughter of Jack and Clare. She was accustomed to hearing stories from her father every evening and on Saturday afternoons, for the past two years. With each passing day, sleep had started eluding her during these story sessions, and her mind and body stayed wide-awake, engrossed in the world of fantasy and adventure.
She was an intelligent and inquisitive child. Her mind was bubbling with queries regarding whatever she heard or saw. Her responses to the stories were a curious mixture of emotions caught in recognition of the known and eagerness to explore the unknown aspects woven in the basic tale by her father. An impatient Jo wanted the story to move with a fast pace and yet cannot proceed with conflicting ideas or unresolved queries in her mind. She was also a very observant listener and corrected her father wherever she felt he faltered. The intensity of her engagement with the story was apparent from her body language and facial expressions. She empathized with the protagonist and rejected whatever did not fit in her own narrow world. The eagerness to understand and the restlessness to assert her point of view kept her awake. She was even willing to fight with her father and to coax him to end the story according to her standpoint. Her responses indicate that she had started developing a personality of her own.
Question 1: What possible plot line could the story continue with?
Answer: From the perspective of Jo, the story should have ended with a happy note of Roger Skunk getting rid of the foul smell forever and being able to play with all other children. However, from the perspective of Jack, the story may not have such an innocent fairy tale ending. In the process of story telling, it was evident that Jack got nostalgic about his own childhood and his mother. Thus, he brought in his own perspective. His sense of belongingness to his mother and his experience of dealing with reality resulted in a mature and compromising end where the reality limited the scope of fiction. As he associated himself with Roger Skunk of his story, he avoided getting into the problematic situation of identity crisis and of blaming his mother.
Question 1: What do you think was Jo’s problem?
Answer: For Jo, the story could have ended comfortably with Roger Skunk relieved of his foul body-odour and accepted by other children as their playmate. However, Jack took the story to another level, which created a ruckus in the little and simple world of Jo.
She was unconvinced with the fact that Roger Skunk’s mother did not like the newly acquired smell of roses and wanted him to get his earlier body odour restored. For a little girl like Jo, the world was centered on friends to play with. Therefore, when she notices that other small animals avoided the poor Skunk, she empathized with him, and thought highly of the wizard who helped the poor creature gain friends and happiness. She could not understand why a mother would want to compromise her child’s happiness just to suit her own self. Being the inquisitive self she was, Jo could not understand why the skunk’s mother hit the kind wizard without being hit back. In her perspective, the skunk’s Mommy was wrong in whatever she did. Jo was not ready to accept that as mothers are always correct.
Question 1: Q1. What is the moral issue that the story raises?
Answer: The story examines moral issues dependent on different levels of maturity. There is a sharp contrast between an adults perspective of life and the worldview of a little child. Children represent innocence. Hatred and injustice have no place in the their world. In the story, the baby skunk was able to make friends only after he smelled of roses. In Jo’s perspective, the happiness of being able to make friends surpassed any other thing. As a result, she is unable to assess the reason why the mother skunk pressurized her child to get his original foul body odour restored.
On the contrary, Jack tried to justify the skunk’s mother and wanted Roger to listen to his mother even if it means smelling bad again. Jack, a typical father, wanted his daughter to believe that parents are always correct and they know what is best for their children. Thus, the story raises the question of whether parents should always be followed blindly.
Question 2: How does Jo want the story to end and why?
Answer: Jo was not convinced with the ending of the story and coaxed her father to retell the story the next day giving the story a predetermined path that she had set. According to her, neither Roger Skunk nor the wizard was wrong in the story. Jo refused to accept the end where Roger Skunk’s mother hits the wizard and that too without being hit back. She wanted the story to end with the wizard hitting back the mother skunk with his magic wand and chopping off her arms ‘forcelyâ€™.
Question 3: Why does Jack insist that it was the wizard that was hit and not the mother?
Answer: There were three reasons for Jack’s insistence on only the wizard being hit by the Mommy.
First, by the time Jo realized that the story does not get a logical and fair ending if the mommy is not hit back, Jack had already narrated the story. To revert his words would mean to refute the notion that whatever parents say is right. Second, for Jack to give in to Jo’s demand would mean disrespecting the elders. Jo was very young at that time and Jack believed that it was time for her to learn to respect elders and understand that whatever elders do is for their best. The third reason was that Jack, while narrating the story, unknowingly got emotionally connected with the character of the protagonist and his mother. He pictured his own mother in place of Roger Skunk’s mother and thus could not imagine his own mother being hit by anyone. Moreover, he personally considered her to have made right decisions for him.
Question 4: What makes Jack feel caught in an ugly middle position?
Answer: As the story of Roger Skunk is unfolded, the impatient and unsatisfied Jo strongly puts forth her point of view. She did not want the story to end the way her father had perceived and narrated it. According to her point of view, the wizard should have hit the skunk’s mommy hard. Jack knew that from the ethical point of view, and according to the principles of respect that one is taught from the early childhood, what she was asking for was wrong.
However, the force with which Jo had asked him to change the end of the story left him in a dilemma. He was caught in a battle between the two perspectives, and could not find a way to make Jo understand his point of view that mothers are never wrong.
Question 5: What is your stance regarding the two endings to the Roger Skunk story?
Answer: Considering the tender age of Jo, both the endings seem a little irrational. It is certain that she will be learning from whatever she hears and visualizes at this age. If the story ends according to Jack, Jo will never be able to question anything she considers wrong in life since this ending stresses that elders are always right in whatever they do. In addition, the story shows the skunk’s mommy hitting the wizard for no fault of his. The wizard had only done what he was asked to. This may scare the four-year-old Jo, as it teaches that mothers, being elders, have the right to hit anyone, even if they are not at fault.
On the contrary, if the story ends as Jo wanted it to, it will stop her from believing in and respecting her elders. She may even start believing that there is nothing wrong in hitting elders.
A balanced view may be given in an apt ending, where the mommy either does not hit the wizard at all or realizes her mistake soon.
Question 6: Why is the adult’s perspective on life different from that of a child?
Answer: A child’s speech and line of thought, his actions and reactions, are natural and not guided by any outward influence. He speaks from his heart in accordance with what is ethically right in his perspective. On the other hand, an adult has many things to consider before speaking or reacting. Thus, the influence of society governs and dominates his thoughts.
In this chapter, Jo speaks what she considers correct. But Jack, an adult caught in a dilemma, kept thinking on the consequences of accepting his daughter’s ending to the story and what the society has made him learn over time.
MORE QUESTIONS SOLVED
SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS
Q1.What custom did Jack follow in the evenings and for Saturday naps?
Ans. Jack would tell his four year old daughter Joanne (or Jo) a stoxy out of his head in the evenings and for Saturday naps. This custom had begun when she was two and now it was nearly two years old.
Q2. What was the basic tale underlying each story that Jack told?
Ans. A small creature named Roger had some problem. He would go to the wise owl who told him to go to the wizard. Theiwizard performed a magic spell. It solved Roger’s problem. He demanded more pennies than Roger had. Then he directed Roger to the place where extra money could be found. Roger felt happy and played many games with other creatines. He then went home. His daddy arrived from Boston. They had supper. The stoiy wound up with the description of the items of their supper.
Q3. How was the custom of story telling especially fatiguing on Saturdays?
Ans. Jo was growing up. She never fell asleep in naps any more. Her brother, Bobby, who was two was already asleep with the bottle. But Jo would not take her nap like an infant. The bumps her feet made under the covers were hallway down the bed. Her fat face deep in the pillow shone in the sunlight. The custom seemed futile and especially fatiguing on Saturdays.
Q4. Which animal did Jo suggest for the story that day? What do you know about this new animal?
Ans. Jo suggested ‘skunk’ for the story that day. It was a new animal for her. They must be talking about it at nursery school. A skunk or a pole-cat is a small black and white North American animal. It can produce a strong unpleasant smell to defend itself when it is attacked.
Q5. Why did Roger Skunk go to see the old owl? [All India 2014]
Ans. Due to foul body odour of Skunk, other animals were not interested in playing with him. But he wanted to play with friends. So, Roger Skunk went to the wise owl to get rid of the foul smell.
Q6. How did Jo and Jack react as the new animal was mentioned?
Ans. Jo squeezed her eye&Shut and smiled to be thinking that she was thinking. She opened her blue eyes and said firmly, “Skunk”. Having a fresh hero momentarily stirred Jack to creative enthusiasm. He started telling the story of Roger Skunk that smelled so bad that none of the other little woodland creatures would play with him.
Q7. How did Jack imagine the reaction of Roger Skunk on being universally detested ?
Ans. Whenever Roger Skunk went out to play, all of the other tiny animals would cry: “Uh-oh, here comes Roger Stinky Skunk”. Then they would run away. Roger Skunk would stand there all alone. Two little round tears would fall from his eyes. Jack would relate all this with zest, remembering certain humiliations of his own childhood.
Q8. How do you think, did Jo identify with Roger Skunk, the victim of the hatred of other creatures?
Ans. Jo seemed to share the pleasure and pain of the hero of the stray—Roger. So complete was her identification that the mention of tears in Roger’s eyes brought tears in her eyes. Her mouth drooped down and her lower lip bent forward. Jack’s finger traced the course of a tear along the side of her nose.
Q9.Which two opposite forces acted on Jack while he was telling Jo a story about the little skunk?
Ans. Jack was happy that he was telling Jo something true, something she must know. He had no wish to hurry on. But just then, a chair scraped downstairs. He realised that he must get down to help his wife, Clare to paint the woodwork in the living room. Thus, the interests of daughter and wife pulled him in different directions like two opposite forces.
Q10.“This was a new phase, just this last month, a reality phase.” What do you learn about Jo’s reality phase? How did her parents try to convince her?
Ans. Jo would ask if the magic spells were real. When Jack told her that spiders ate bugs, she would turn to her mother and ask if that was really so. When Clare told her God was in the sky and all around them, she would turn to her father to know the reality. Jack tried to convince her by saying? “They’re real in stories.”
Q11. “He felt being an old man suited him.” How would Jack play the old wizard?
Ans. The wizard’s voice was one of Jack’s own favourite effects. He did it by scrunching up his face and somehow whining through his eyes. During this brief period of time his eyes would become full of watery secretions. He would say, ‘Eh? Whatzis? Whatcher want? You smell awful.’
Q12. How was the Skunk’s story different from the other stories narrated by Jack? [Delhi 2014]
Ans. The stories told by Jack were well taken by Jo. But the ending of the Skunk’s story did not satisfy her. She believed that the wizard should have hit back Skunk’s mommy and Skunk would have kept smelling like roses.
Q13. How did Jack make the role of the wizard more impressive?
Ans. Jack fixed Jo with the trance like gaze. Then he chanted a magic spell in the wizard’s elderly irritable voice. The chanting was rhythmical and had sweet rhymes. The exclamation “Bingo!” confirmed the pleasure, the pleasure of the wizard at having done what he had been trying to do. All of a sudden, the whole inside of the wizard’s house was full of the smell of roses.
Q14. How did Jo react to Jack’s chanting of the magic spell ?
Ans. Jack chanted the magic spell as the wizard would do. When he paused, he noticed a rapt expression widening out from his daughter’s nostrils. She forced her eyebrows up and her lower lip down in a wide noiseless grin. This expression reminded Jack of his wife’s expression while feigning pleasure at cocktail parties.
Q15. “Very silly of your stupid old daddy,” says Jack. Why, do you think, did Jack say so?
Ans. While narrating the story of Roger Skunk, Jack by chance said Roger Fish. Jo was quick to interrupt him and point out the error. She repeated twice that he had said Roger Fish and asked if that wasn’t silly. Jack had to admit that it had been very silly of him.
Q16. What action of Jo annoyed Jack? What do you think disturbed him?
Ans. Roger Skunk began to cry as he had only four pennies. Jo made the crying face again, but this time without a trace of sincerity. This annoyed Jack. Some more furniture rumbled down stairs. Jack thought that Clare shouldn’t move heavy things. He was worried because she was six months pregnant. It would be their third child.
Q17. Which two factors made Jack continue the story?
Ans. Roger Skunk had returned home at dark after playing happily with the other little animals. Jo did not fall asleep. She was starting to fuss with her hands and look out of the window. She thought the story was over. Jack did not like women when they took anything for granted. He liked them to be worried. So he continued the story.