The Little Wife – Questions and Answers – CHSE Odisha +2 Alternative English

The Little Wife

by William March

Complete Explanation for the Short Story included in the CHSE +2 Alternative English book ‘Approaches to English – II’.

Click here to download the PDFs of Approaches to English I & II free of cost.

Section I : Questions for discussion

1. Can you guess where Joe Hinckley worked? What made you guess so?
Answer – Joe Hinckley possibly worked in a publishing company. This is apparent because he was a salesman of books.

2. What was the occasion of his getting into the 2.23 train? Was he in a normal state of mind?
Answer – Joe had received a telegram from his mother asking him to rush back home as his wife was grievously sick. Joe was very agitated, and very fearful.

3. What was the initial reaction of Joe to the first telegram?
Answer – At the first instance, Joe thought the telegram might not be for him. He felt some one was playing a prank on him.

4. Who were his co-travelers? How was the journey?
Answer – Two young girls and an elderly woman, possibly a farm hand, were there adjacent to Joe’s seat. The journey was not very pleasant due to the sultry weather that robbed the passengers of any comfort.

5. What things came to his mind after re-reading the telegram? Do you get any idea about his married life in this section?
Answer – Joe was perplexed. He couldn’t find any reason how the delivery had come a month in advance. He thought his wife will somehow pull through. He had a very happy married life.

6. Which lines show that he was upset and worried?
Answer – In part 8, the sentences starting with, “And now everything was upset. …………….. I was laughing and telling smutty stories, and the telegram was here all the time”. These lines show his remorse and grief.

7. What does his finding fault with the doctors reveal about him?
Answer – He was a bit naive to think that the doctors had overemphasized the danger to his wife. He was a simple, loving man.

Section II : Questions for discussion

1. How did Joe behave when he received the second telegram? How did he evade the stark and painful reality? Why did he not open the telegram?
Answer – Initially, Joe didn’t want to receive the telegram from the porter. This is why the latter had to call out his name thrice, before Joe accepted it. Clearly, Joe was nervous and panicky. He knew his loving wife was on the verge of death, and he could possibly not see her again. This thought made him very sad, and distraught. However, he didn’t have the nerve to confront it. He feared the telegram had the news f Bessie’s demise, and he wanted to avoid the situation at any cost. Quite childishly, he didn’t open it, and wishfully presumed that the telegram was from other sources.

2. “There is no need of going so fast, we’ve got all the time in the world?” What do these words signify? Are they a happy utterance?
Answer – Joe dreaded the scene that waited for him at home. He was not ready to accept the untimely death of his loving wife. So, rather foolishly, he wanted the train journey to last as long as possible. This shows the panic that had gripped his heart. He showed some artificial cheerfulness in his appearance to get some very transitory relief from the pain that hunted him. It was not a happy moment for him at all.

3. Why did Joe tear the second telegram to pieces? What does it reflect? Where do you get the evidence of his fixation with death of his little wife?
Answer – Joe became an escapist, albeit, temporarily. By shredding the wire to pieces, he wanted to obliterate the dreadful message for good, but it was a very stupid act.  Joe could never countenance the loss of his wife. It was a death blow to his dream of leading a happy married life. Bessie resided in his mind refusing to depart under any circumstances.

4. Why was Joe sorry that the conductor couldn’t stay longer?
Answer – The conductor appeared to be a jovial person who  enabled Joe forget his predicament. The respite from the gnawing pain was temporary. The conductor’s light talk acted as a balm for Joe’s anxiety-ridden mind. Joe, therefore, wanted the conductor’s presence to continue longer.

5. How does Joe try to overcome his depression? What does his conversation with the fellow travellers reveal?
Answer – Joe tries to keep himself busy talking to fellow passengers. It enables him to keep the dark thoughts about Bessie’s end  at bay.  Talking about Jessie gives him a feeling that she is alive and kicking. So, he starts a long monologue with the two young girls as they appear to be receptive to his account of his marriage with Bessie. Such revelation of private matters shows how nervous Joe was at that time, and how much he dreaded the death of his young wife.

6. Give an account of Joe’s affair with Bessieas related by Joe.

7. What was the fellow travllers’ reaction to Joe’s incessant talk about Bessie and his married wife? Were they sympathetic? Did they know about his mental health condition? Justify your answers.
Answer – Initially, the fellow passengers were curious to listen to Joe’s meeting and subsequent marriage with Jessie. But, as Joe rambled on with his narrative, the passengers got bored. They were sympathetic towards Joe. They didn’t know about his mental condition, but they guessed he was a bit agitated. The story might end with the death of Jessie.

Section III : Questions for discussion

1. What impressions did the fellow travelers take about Joe from his continuous talk?
Answer – The fellow travelers found Joe’s non-stop monologue about his wife and marriage rather unusual, a bit weird. They no longer took him to a jolly good man happy about returning home. They felt his relentless talk somewhat intriguing.

2. What idea does this section offer about his marriage? What doe his incessant talk about his little wife reveal? Was he conscious of the listeners and also the time?
Answer – All felt Joe was obsessed with his wife. Through his incessant talk, he gave an impression that he was agitated about something which he was trying to conceal by talking relentlessly. Joe didn’t realize that he was turning out to be a bore, a deranged person to his co-passengers.

3. Why did a feeling of terror sweep over him after he met Mrs. Thompkins?
Answer – On seeing Mrs. Thompkins, Joe could assume that the news that he had dreaded so much would be known to him soon. An unknown panic gripped him. He was nervous and sullen.

4. What do the final words to his mother-in-law reveal?
Answer – Joe didn’t like to lie to his mother-in-law about the second telegram. He truthfully acknowledged that he had purposely not read it to defer learning about the dreadful knowledge as much as he could. He appears to be a nervous, but a conscientious person.

5. What is the focus in the story?
Answer – All through the story, Joe remains at the center. His love for his wife becomes the main plot, and is nervousness and timidity become apparent.

6. Why did Joe repeatedly use the expression “my little wife”? Was he successful in hiding his mental condition before the fellow travelers?
Answer – He was obsessively in love with Bessie.  He also feared that a great tragedy had fallen over her. This made him more nervous.  He tried hard to control his anxiety by talking about her like a man possessed. He managed to not mention about her possible death to his co-passengers, but he succeeded only partly. All of them knew something was amiss.

7. In which lines do you know that Bessie was no more?
Answer – This became apparent when Mrs. Thompkins said, “You can’t give in…………………….. You got to be a man …..”

8. Can you guess what would have been the story if the second telegram had been opened and contained the message of Bessie’s improving health?
Answer – Joe would have been very relieved, and very happy. He would have thanked God for His kindness, and prayed Him for Blessie’s early turn-around.

[Composition answers on request with word count]

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