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Chapter 5: Mother’s Day
Scene: The living-room of the Pearson family. Afternoon. It is a comfortably furnished, much lived-in room in a small suburban semi-detached villa. If necessary only one door need be used, but it is better with two — one up left leading to the front door and the stairs and the other in the right wall leading to the kitchen and the back door. There can be a muslincovered window in the left wall and possibly one in the right wall, too. The fireplace is assumed to be in the fourth wall. There is a settee up right, an armchair down left and one down right.
A small table with two chairs on either side of it stands at the centre. When the curtain rises it is an afternoon in early autumn and the stage can be well lit. Mrs Pearson at right, and Mrs Fitzgerald at left, are sitting opposite each other at the small table, on which are two tea-cups and saucers and the cards with which Mrs Fitzgerald has been telling Mrs Pearson’s fortune. Mrs Pearson is a pleasant but worried-looking woman in her forties.
Mrs Fitzgerald is older, heavier and a strong and sinister personality. She is smoking. It is very important that these two should have sharply contrasting voices—Mrs Pearson speaking in a light, flurried sort of tone, with a touch of suburban Cockney perhaps; and Mrs Fitzgerald with a deep voice, rather Irish perhaps.
MRS FITZGERALD: [collecting up the cards] And that’s all I can tell you, Mrs Pearson. Could be a good fortune. Could be a bad one. All depends on yourself now. Make up your mind— and there it is. MRS PEARSON: Yes, thank you, Mrs Fitzgerald. I’m much obliged, I’m sure. It’s wonderful having a real fortune-teller living next door.
Did you learn that out East, too? MRS FITZGERALD: I did. Twelve years I had of it, with my old man rising to be Lieutenant Quartermaster. He learnt a lot, and I learnt a lot more. But will you make up your mind now, Mrs Pearson dear? Put your foot down, once an’ for all, an’ be the mistress of your own house an’ the boss of your own family. MRS PEARSON: [smiling apologetically] That’s easier said than done. Besides I’m so fond of them even if they are so thoughtless and selfish.
They don’t mean to be… MRS FITZGERALD: [cutting in] Maybe not. But it’ud be better for them if they learnt to treat you properly… MRS PEARSON: Yes, I suppose it would, in a way. MRS FITZGERALD: No doubt about it at all. Who’s the better for being spoilt— grown man, lad or girl? Nobody. You think it does ’em good when you run after them all the time, take their orders as if you were the servant in the house, stay at home every night while they go out enjoying themselves?
Never in all your life. It’s the ruin of them as well as you. Husbands, sons, daughters should be taking notice of wives an’ mothers, not giving ’em orders an’ treating ’em like dirt. An’ don’t tell me you don’t know what I mean, for I know more than you’ve told me. MRS PEARSON: [dubiously] I—keep dropping a hint… MRS FITZGERALD: Hint? It’s more than hints your family needs, Mrs Pearson. MRS PEARSON: [dubiously] I suppose it is.
But I do hate any unpleasantness. And it’s so hard to know where to start. I keep making up my mind to have it out with them but somehow I don’t know how to begin. [She glances at her watch or at a clock ] Oh—good gracious! Look at the time. Nothing ready and they’ll be home any minute and probably all in a hurry to go out again.
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NCERT Solutions Class 11 English Chapter 3 Mother’s Day
1. This play, written in the 1950s, is a humorous and satirical depiction of the status of the mother in the family.
(i) What are the issues it raises?
The main issue raised by the play is that the lady of the house, who functions similarly to an axis, is never given due respect, especially if she is a simple housewife. The members of her family take her for granted. She is an unpaid servant. The second problem is that the mistress of the house ought to be firm in her stance. Rather than surrendering meekly, she should be prepared to argue her case with tenacity.
(ii) Do you think it caricatures these issues or do you think that the problems it raises are
genuine? How does the play resolve the issues? Do you agree with the resolution?
No, I don’t think it caricatures these issues, supporting that the problems raised by it are genuine.
The play helps to solve these issues by showing the audience what tends to happen if the mother neglects her responsibilities.
Yes, I agree with the proposed resolution. Every member of the family should spend some time with the angel who has brought so much colour to the family.
2. If you were to write about these issues today what are some of the incidents, examples and problems that you would think of as relevant?
If I were to start writing about certain current issues, I would have to go quite far. The same thing happens in my house. We are three brothers and sisters who are all in school. My father is employed in the office. My mother gets up early in the morning to prepare four breakfast sets and tiffins. We take our time getting ready, but if there is even a 5-second delay on my mother’s part, we all bring the roof down. The same ritual is performed in the evening. Mother gets up before the rest of us and goes to bed after the rest of us. Her presence had been taken for granted by all of us. My grandmother became ill one day, and my mother had to leave for two days. Without her, the entire house appeared to have been hit by a tornado. We all decided to wait for her as if we were expecting a miracle to occur. When she eventually appeared, we all breathed a sigh of relief and vowed never to underestimate her.
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