On the Face of It – Important Questions

On the Face of It by Susan Hill is a play about the friendship between an old man Mr. Lamb and a young boy named Derry who is withdrawn and defiant. Both of them suffer from physical impairment. The old man has a tin leg because he got one of his leg blown off in the war. The young boy has one side of his face disfigured as he was burnt by acid.

Important Question and Answers

Q. In what sense is the friendship between Mr. Lamb and Derry fruitful?

Ans. Mr. Lamb helped Derry overcome his sense of inferiority. He advised him not to pay too much attention to what others thought about him; to celebrate life and its wonders. Mr. Lamb brought about a positive change in Derry’s attitude.

Q. Why did Mr. Lamb help Derry?


Q. If you were to give a different ending to the story, “On The Face of It” how would you end it?

Ans. Mr. Lamb helped Derry because he too was handicapped, therefore he understood how Derry felt. Also, he was concerned about Derry’s negative attitude towards life. Mr. Lamb wanted to save the little boy from the habit of self-pitying.

Q. How does Mr. Lamb keep himself busy when it is a bit cool?

Ans. The play is quite sad and open ended. According to me, the play should have ended on a positive note, giving the reader a sense of hope. I feel, even if Mr. Lamb dies in the end, Derry would show some positive changes in his character. He would not remain his old withdrawn and defiant self. Instead, he would become as cheerful, open and friendly as Mr. Lamb.

Q. What peculiar things does Derry notice about the old man, Mr. Lamb?

Ans. When it is a bit cool, Mr. Lamb likes to keep himself busy by breaking crab apples and making jelly from them. He enjoys the humming of bees in his garden while he sat in the sun reading books.

Q. Why does Derry’s mother not want him to go back to visit Mr. Lamb?

Ans. Derry notices that Mr. Lamb always leaves the gates open for anybody and everybody so as to welcome strangers. Derry is amazed that unlike others old Mr. Lamb treated him with utmost kindness, that he is not repulsed by Derry’s scarred face. Derry also finds it peculiar that Mr. Lamb lives in a huge house with a huge garden but without curtains.

Q. Why did Derry insist that he would go back to Mr. Lamb?

Ans. Derry’s mother does not want him to go back to visit Mr. Lamb because she has not heard good things about him and hence, she does not have positive views about him. She thinks that Mr. Lamb is not a nice man and forbids Derry to get acquainted with him or even see him.

Q. How did Derry’s handicap damage his life?

Ans. Derry insisted that he would go back to Mr. Lamb because it was for the first time that Derry felt comfortable and happy in someone’s presence. That someone was Mr. Lamb. While Derry was jovial with Mr. Lamb, Derry completely forgot about his burnt face. He felt that he too could live an independent life for he had all his faculty intact. Therefore, even though his mother forbade him from meeting Mr. Lamb, Derry insisted on going; he did not want to lose his new found companion.

Q. What benefits did Derry reap from his association with Mr. Lamb?

Ans. Fourteen years old Derry had half a burnt face, which resulted in poor self image. He became conscious of people’s stares and their comments hurt him. This made him avoid people. Eventually, he become introvert. Thus, Derry’s handicap damaged his life.

Q. Both Derry and Lamb are physically impaired and lonely. It is the responsibility of society to understand and support people with infirmities so that they do not suffer from a sense of alienation. As a responsible citizen, write in about 100 words what you would do to bring about a change in the lives of such people.

Ans. Derry is a withdrawn and defiant boy. He does not like to be around people because they look at his face and pass uncharitable remarks. Once, one side of his face got burnt by acid, which left a scar on his face. This created a complex in his mind. He thinks that people are afraid of him. Mr. Lamb is a physically challenged man, one of whose leg is made of tin. Mr. Lamb is a complete contrast to Derry when it comes to his attitude and outlook towards life. He is an optimist who does not allow trivial teasing and name calling do not bother him. In fact, he likes having company. Mr. Lamb is not repulsed by Derry’s scarred face. Neither he is angry nor put off by the boy’s rudeness. Instead, Mr. Lamb understands Derry’s anguish and tries to make him realise that being handicapped is not a drawback. His meeting with Mr. Lamb becomes a turning point in Derry’s life because Derry is ready to overcome his obstacles and face the world. He finds courage and strength to get what he wants.

Q. “Things that matter. Things nobody else has ever said. Things I want to think about.” What are the ‘things’ that Derry is referring to? How did Derry’s chance meeting with Mr. Lamb prove meaningful for him?


Q. Derry sneaked into Mr. Lamb’s garden and it became a turning point in his life. Comment. OR What change took place in Derry when he met Mr. Lamb? OR How did Mr. Lamb’s meeting with Derry become a turning point in Derry’s life?


Q. Both Derry and Lamb are victims of physical impairment, yet each has a different attitude from the other. Comment.


Q. Derry and Mr. Lamb both are victims of physical impairment, but their attitudes towards life are completely different. Elaborate.

Ans. Derry is an angry, withdrawn and defiant young boy. One side of his face was burnt because of which he lacked self-confidence. He was lonely because he had no friends. People either feared him, found him disgusting to look at, treated him with pity or made fun of him. Derry had alienated himself from the society completely. One day, Derry sneaked into Mr. Lamb’s garden and it became a turning point in his life. One of Mr. Lamb’s leg was made out of tin. Due to his physical impairment, he could not move around much. As a result, Mr. Lamb too was isolated from the rest; children called him lameyLamb. However, it did not affect him. Instead, he always kept the gates of his garden open. Seeing Derry suffer so much at such a young age Mr. Lamb struck up a conversation with him, spending time with Mr. Lamb made Derry look at the world and love and admire everything he saw and heard. Mr. Lamb encouraged Derry to make friends and not be bothered by their comments. He told the boy not to hate people. Mr. Lamb’s life and attitude inspired Derry quite a lot. In spite of his handicap, Mr. Lamb lived an independent and happy life seeing his positive approach to life, Derry decides to get rid of the habit of self-pity and face the world boldly with his newly gained self-confidence.

Q. Both Derry and Lamb are victims of physical impairment, but much more painful for them is the feeling of loneliness. Comment. OR The lesson, ‘On the Face of It’, is an apt depiction of the loneliness and sense of alienation experienced by people on account of a disability. Explain.

Ans. Mr. Lamb and Derry have different sorts of physical disability. While Mr. Lamb has a tin leg, one side of Derry’s face was burnt by acid and now is scarred. Both Derry and Mr. Lamb are victims of physical impairment, but much more painful for them is the feeling of loneliness. Both suffer alienation from the society. Derry feels that he is feared rather than accepted by the society because of his scarred face. Mr. Lamb also has to face name calling-‘Lamey-Lamb’ although it does not bother him much. Loneliness has caused constant pain for both Derry and Mr. Lamb. They both crave for friends, but neither of them have it. However, while his isolation makes Derry a bitter person, Mr. Lamb has a positive outlook and believes that being a handicap is not a drawback. Both expect that the society would neither treat them differently, as freaks, nor with pity. They want to be treated with empathy as equals.

Q. What is the bond that unites the two- the old Mr. Lamb and Derry, the small boy? How does the old man inspire the small boy?

Ans. Mr. Lamb turned Derry into a confident boy from a complex one. Both were physically handicapped but with different perspectives towards life. In the beginning Derry was a defiant and withdrawn boy who hated meeting people. Their stares, jibes and pity made him frustrated. He suffered a lot due to his burnt face and had a pessimistic approach to life. Mr. Lamb transformed his vision of life and suggested to live it on his own terms. Mr. Lamb discussed his own situation with Derry to make him understand that he should be open-minded. He told him that God has made all the things and one should not keep oneself in a room forever. He also kept his garden gate open and welcomed all. Moreover, Derry could open up the layers of his heart and complexes in front of Mr. Lamb, which unburdened his heart. He got a new ray of hope in his life. He also taught Derry to use whatever God had given to him. The lesson of Mr. Lamb could not be ignored by Derry. He was disheartened to find about his death. To meet Mr. Lamb, defying his mother and his return to Lamb’s garden shows his appreciation for living life as shown by Lamb. He learnt the lesson of optimism.

Q. How did Mr. Lamb try to give courage and confidence to Derry?

Ans. When Mr. Lamb found Derry in his garden, he did not make him go away. Instead, Mr. Lamb welcomed Derry in a cheerful way accepting him as he was. Although Derry behaved rudely with him, he remained calm and cordial as if Derry’s bad temper and defiance did not bother him at all. Derry was always angry and bitter because one side of his face was burnt. His face seemed to scare everybody. He withdrew himself from the society because of which he lacked courage and self confidence. Mr. Lamb’s behaviour towards Derry was completely different from others. He told Derry that it’s important to see how one is inside than how one looks on the outside. He inspired Derry with love for life and told him one cannot go through life being scared and alienated. Mr. Lamb asked Derry to enjoy simple joys of everyday living with people around and nature, ignoring the unpleasant. He initiated courage and confidence in Derry by telling him not to brood over limitations but count his blessings.

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