Two Gentlemen from Verona
Explanation and Question Answer for the prose one from the Tamil Nadu Higher Secondary Second Year English book
This is a soulful account of the love of two young and innocent brothers for their sister hospitalized for spinal TB. The duo has gone to extraordinary lengths to pay for their own upkeep and pay their lonely sister’s hospital bills. Despite their dire struggle for survival, the two youngsters display a rare degree of honesty, perseverance, and empathy to cling to their moral path, at the same time helping to pay for their sister’s recovery. The story exudes goodness at every step, and inspires young and old readers alike to stick to the path of righteousness and compassion.
As the author and his cab driver, Luigi, were driving along a road winding through the foothills of Alps, they were accosted by two urchins offering to sell some wild berries they had gathered from nearby areas. Luigi tried to dissuade the author from buying the stuff. The two young brothers, Nicola(13) and Jacopo (12) looked shabby in their tattered clothes.
The author and his companion bought a good portion of the boys’ fruits, and drove off to the town.
The next morning the author came across the same duo by the wayside briskly polishing a customer’s pair of shoes.
After a while, the author and his friend went near Nicola and Jacopo and greeted them as a friendly manner. Explaining their daily routine, the boys volunteered to say how they did sundry jobs the whole day to make a living. They said they worked as guides for visitors to show them around different places of the town, such as the Juliet’s tomb.
The authors readily offered to hire them to be guides for seeing the town. The two junior guides were childish, but behaved with a sense of dignity. They appeared charming as well as serious with their work.
In the following days, the authors ran into the two brothers often. The two youngsters did sundry jobs like buying cigarettes, and booking seats in restaurants etc. In the process, they endeared themselves to the guests.
Nicola and his younger brother, Jacopo made it known to the two tourists that they go to Poleta every Sunday by bicycles. The author had already developed a soft corner for the two boys, and as a friendly gesture, offered to carry them to Poleta in their cab.
The 30-km car journey to Poleta started the next morning carrying the two young brothers. They stopped in front of a large building surrounded by a high wall. The two brothers instantly rushed inside assuring that they would finish their work in an hour. They suggested the authors to go the village café to spend the time.
The authors didn’t visit the café choosing to go inside to see what was on. They met a pleasant-looking woman in the corridor. Her white overall indicated that she was a nursing staff. She escorted the visitors upstairs to meet Nicola and Jacopo. She signaled the visitors to go in, in silence.
The visitor found Nicola and Jacope having a chitchat with a twenty-some sick girl patient reclining on a set of pillows. The duo sat beside their sister’s bed. Her name was Lucia. The nurse nudged the visitor to meet her, but he didn’t like to interrupt the discussion between Lucia and her brothers.
On request for more information about the trio, the nurse disclosed how the war had ravaged their family, killing their father and destroying their home. From than on, the three children faced very hard times. Lucia was training as a singer, a skill she had inherited from her father. Hunger and homelessness made their lives insufferable. They had managed to put up a ramshackle shelter where they lived for a few months. The Germans held sway over the city for three years attracting animosity from the children. They volunteered to join the resistance movement furtively.
The boys returned to their place after the war drew to a close, but were devastated to see their sister battling T.B in her spine. The two brothers brought their grievously ill sister to the hospital where she was making steady progress in the past twelve months. The nurse was hopeful Lucia would get back on her feet soon and follow her singing passion anew.
The nurse explained how post-war scarcity had forced the hospital administration to charge a fee for their services. She said the two brothers footed the hospital bill by scratching a living doing some odd jobs in Verona.
After sometime, the two brothers came back and their return car journey to Verona started. All along, the boys were silent, so was the author. They were lost in their own thoughts. The author felt the boys, out of their sense of modesty and dignity, had not liked to let a stranger know about their family’s trauma. The encounter had left a different impression in the mind of the author. The two brothers’ endeavor to nurse their sister back to health, and their grinding daily lives gripped the author. Their toil, and their tendency to eschew criminality and un-civility in the midst of so much hardship overwhelmed him.
Questions and answers
1. Answer the following questions in one
or two sentences each based on your
understanding of the story.
a) Who did the narrator meet at the outskirts of Verona?
Answer- The narrator met two young boys by the name, Nicola and Jacopo selling wild strawberries to passersby.
b) Why did the driver not approve of the narrator buying fruits from the boys?
Answer- The two boys wore tattered clothes and looked somewhat dirty. The driver felt the boys were criminal elements with whom it is always wise to avoid contacts.
c) The boys did not spend much on clothes and food. Why?
Answer- They were destitute struggling to make a living. They needed money to pay for their ailing sisters too. So, spending money on clothes was a luxury they couldn’t afford.
d) Were the boys saving money to go to the States? How do you know?
Answer- Yes, they nursed this hope, although it was well beyond their means. They mentioned it to the narrator.
e) Why did the author avoid going to Lucia’s room?
Answer- The author didn’t like to interrupt the friendly talk between the sister and her two young brothers.
f) What was Lucia suffering from?
Answer- She suffered from T.B in her spine.
g) What made the boys join the resistance movement against the Germans?
Answer- The Germans had killed their father and battered their homes making their future bleak. So, they joined the resistance movement to counter the invaders.
h) What made the boys work so hard?
Answer- They had no parental support and had to scratch a living somehow. They also had to pay the hospital fees for their ailing sister. To meet these needs, they had to work hard.
i) Why didn’t the boys disclose their problem to the author?
Answer- The boys, though very poor, had a sense of dignity and self-respect. They hated to be seen as solicitors and favour-seekers.
2. Answer the following questions in
three or four sentences each.
a) Describe the appearance of Nicola and Jacopo.
Answer- Poverty and suffering was writ large in their faces. The clothes they wore were ill-fitting and shabby. Never-the-less, they showed signs of hope, and determination.
b) What were the various jobs undertaken by the little boys?
Answer- The boys did sundry jobs that came their way. They scoured the wild plants for strawberries, polished shoes, and acted as guides for tourists.
c) How did the narrator help the boys on Sunday?
Answer- The narrator took the two brothers in his car to the nearby place where Lucia was undergoing treatment for her T.B.
d) Who took the author to the cubicle?
Answer- The elderly nurse in charge of the ward escorted the narrator to the cubicle.
e) Describe the girl with whom the boys were talking to in the cubicle.
Answer- She was Lucia, a girl of about 20, who was recovering from T.B in her spine. She was the eldest of the three siblings.
f) Recount the untold sufferings undergone by the siblings after they were rendered homeless.
Answer- The German bombardment killed their father, the lone bread-earner of the family. The attck also reduced their house to rubbles, leaving them with no shelter, nor money.
g) The narrator did not utter a word and preferred to keep the secret to himself. Why? Substantiate the statement with reference to the story.
Answer- The author knew that the two brothers had a rare sense of dignity and self-respect. They never liked to be seen as favour-seekers, and manipulators. The author knew that they would feel embarrassed if their misfortune was known to the author. So, the author kept the information to himself.
3. Answer the following in a paragraph
of 100–150 words each.
a) What was the driving force that made the boys do various jobs?
Answer- They were determined to reverse the sad turn their lives had taken due to the war. They wanted to fend off hunger, disease and death. For this, they had to earn money, the honest way. Apart from this, they had to pay the fees for the hospitalization of their T.B-afflicted elder sister. They also dreamt of migrating to the U.S. in search of greener pastures. Being resigned to their fate and giving up was not in their blood. They were true fighters. These feelings worked as the driving force to work hard to earn some modest amount of money.
b) How was the family affected by the war?
Answer- The mother had died earlier leaving the three children under the care of the father, who earned a living as a professional singer. The German bombardment killed him robbing the surviving three children with no financial support. To make the matters worse for them, the German attack reduced their house to ruins. Their shelter was, thus, gone. Now, they became destitute and had to keep the pot boiling somehow. The war, thus, doomed their future. They had to dispel the dark clouds hovering over their future, all by themselves. There was no a single soul to help them. So, they decided to fight it out.
c) Write a character sketch of Nicola and Jacopo.
Answer- Both the brothers were remarkably similar in their nature. Perseverance, honesty, and a readiness to slog it out was common to them. Immoral short-cut ways to make money never appealed to them. They were intelligent, and very dignified in their nature. Asking for favours by attracting other’s pity was a repulsive idea for them. They exhibited childlike innocence, although they were smart enough to look around for ways to earn some money. They were very dutiful and so, did everything possible to ensure their sister’s uninterrupted treatment in a hospital. Good-humored and modest, they endeared themselves to others easily.
d) What message is conveyed through the story ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’?
Answer- The message the story conveys is very clear. Never give up in life, shun immoral ways to make money, understand the dignity of labour, and be loving and responsible towards your near and dear ones. By scrounging for wild strawberries, polishing shoes, doing errands for guests, and escorting visitors to tourist spots – almost any work was acceptable to the duo. They seldom bemoaned their fate, and remained cheerful in the face of all odds. The story exudes goodness, and everything noble in this world.
e) Justify the title of the story ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’.
Answer- The two young brothers at the core of the story are dutiful, honest, empathetic, hardworking and above all dignified. We attribute these noble qualities to gentlemen. The two boys clung to their moral values as they eke out a living virtually working in the streets and grabbing every small opportunity that came their way. They set aside their vanity and ego and scrupulously resisted temptations to stay from their moral path. The way they worked to make payment for their ailing sister’s hospital bills is really very praiseworthy, and unique. For these reasons, they have been aptly described as ‘gentlemen’ and the story has been titled ‘Two Gentlemen from Verona.”
f) Adversity brings out the best as well as the worst in people. Elucidate this statement with reference to the story.
Answer- Misfortune befell Nicola and Jocopo with savage force. From the comfort of their home, they descended to the streets with no roof over their heads, and no food to eat. The German-led war had bludgeoned them. To add to their woes, their sister Lucia contracted spinal T.B. and was on the verge of being crippled for life. Adversity bedeviled their lives in no small measure. Happily though, the two youngsters garnered all their strength and will power to fend of hunger and earn just enough to sustain themselves, and support their helpless sister. Never did they waver from their path of honesty and hard work.
On the other hand, we come across umpteen instances of people in distress to resort to immoral ways to solve their problems, but they pay for their sins sooner or later.
Nicola and Jocopo were honorable exceptions.
g) Which character do you like the most in the story and why?
Answer- I like the characters of both the brothers more than that of others. They were true fighters who defied adversity and decided to live through honest means. They were affectionate, dignified, and very hard working. We seldom get to see such youngsters facing dire situations so courageously.
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