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Who is Jo? How does she respond to her fatherâ€™s story telling?
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.
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What possible plot line could the story continue with?
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.
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What do you think was Joâ€™s problem?
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 Skunkâ€™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 childâ€™s happiness just to suit her own self. Being the inquisitive self she was, Jo could not understand why the skunkâ€™s mother hit the kind wizard without being hit back. In her perspective, the skunkâ€™s Mommy was wrong in whatever she did. Jo was not ready to accept that â€˜mothers are always correctâ€™.
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Q1. What is the moral issue that the story raises?
The story examines moral issues dependent on different levels of maturity. There is a sharp contrast between an adultâ€™s 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 Joâ€™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 skunkâ€™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.
How does Jo want the story to end and why?
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€™.
Why does Jack insist that it was the wizard that was hit and not the mother?
There were three reasons for Jackâ€™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 Joâ€™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 Skunkâ€™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.
What makes Jack feel caught in an ugly middle position?
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 skunkâ€™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.
What is your stance regarding the two endings to the Roger Skunk story?
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 skunkâ€™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.
Why is the adultâ€™s perspective on life different from that of a child?
A childâ€™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.
NCERT Solutions for Class 12 English Chapters
- Chapter 1 – The Tiger King
- Chapter 2 – The Enemy
- Chapter 3 – Should Wizard Hit Mommy?
- Chapter 4 – On the Face of It
- Chapter 5 – Evans Tries an O-level
- Chapter 6 – Memories of Childhood
- Chapter 1 – The Last Lesson
- Chapter 2 – Lost Spring
- Chapter 3 – Deep Water
- Chapter 4 – The Rattrap
- Chapter 5 – Indigo
- Chapter 6 – Poets and Pancakes
- Chapter 7 – The Interview
- Chapter 8 – Going Places
- Chapter 9 – My Mother at Sixty-six
- Chapter 10 – An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum
- Chapter 11 – Keeping Quiet
- Chapter 12 – A Thing of Beauty
- Chapter 13 – A Roadside Stand
- Chapter 14 – Aunt Jennifer`s Tigers
NCERT Solutions for Class 12: