Notes of the lesson ‘The Lost Child’: The Lost Child story describes how a child has been lost in a fair and how he reacts when lost. The child goes to a fair with his parents. He wants to buy many items but he knows that his parents would not buy any. So he moves on without asking his parents for anything. But he can’t resist the temptation of going on a roundabout and tries to seek his parents’ permission. But before he receives any response, he discovers that they are nowhere. He realises that he has been lost. Now he is not interested in anything except his parents. He cries for them and frantically runs to and fro in their search.
Lanes—streets; Alley—narrow way; Emerge—come out; Gaily— happily; Clad—wearing; Humanity—mankind; Bamboo—a tree; Bullock cart—a cart drawn by bullocks/oxen; Brimming—filled; Laughter—the action of laughing; Lag behind—stay behind; Fascinated—attracted; Hurried—hastened; Linger—hanging around; Receding—left behind; Suppress—overpower; Stare—a fixed look; Refusal— denial; Pleaded—requested; Familiar—well known; Tyrant—cruel ruler; Melted— liquified; Swept across—spread; Dragon-fly—an insect; Bustling—full of activity; Gaze—looking fixedly; Fluttering—moving; Cautionary—warning; Teeming—present in large numbers; Grove—a garden; Shower—falling; Dove—a type of pigeon; Caper—a short jump or dancing movement; Winding—curved; Led—took towards; Throngs—crowd; Converge—meet; Whirlpool—centre; Repelled—driven away; Murmured—whispered; Heeded—paid attention; Greedy—desire to have more and more; Garland—circle of flowers; Irresistibly—greatly attracted; Pole— stick; Silken—soft; Overwhelming—excessive; Farther—ahead; Snake-charmer—one who plays with snake; Coil—wriggle; Graceful—beautiful; Swan—a bird; Invisible—not seen by eyes; Waterfall—water falling from a height; Roundabout—merry-go-round; Whirling—circling; Shriek—cry; Dizzy—confused; Intently—attentively; Bold—brave; Ahead—in front; Sign—mark; Jerk—move; Fierce—angry; Flushed—wet with water; Convulsed—trembled with fear; Panic-stricken—fear struck; Sob—weep; Wailed— mournful cry; Shrine—a holy place; Congested—filled with; Jostle—to push; Hefty— heavy; Brutal—cruel; Trample—crush; Surge—move quickly; Stooping—bending with difficulty; Steered—came out; Soothe—console; Headed—went ahead; Swaying— swinging; Distract—divert attention; Quieten—make calm; Persuasively—making ready; Bore—carried; Reiterate—repeat; Disconsolate—very sad; Humour—amusement.
Broadly, The Lost Child can be divided into:
- Going to the Fair
- The Fair
- Overwhelmed With Grief
Going to the Fair
- It is the festival of spring and the mood is upbeat everywhere.
- A spirited, little boy, full of life walks behind his parents.
- His parents beckon to him, asking him to keep up with them.
- The child is distracted as he stops and stares in fascination at the shops selling toys along the way.
- Heeding to their call, the boy keeps up, but requests them for a toy.
- His father gives him a stern stare while his mother distracts the boy by pointing at a beautiful mustard field ahead of them.
- Keeping up with his parents, the boy runs along a footpath and through a mustard field.
- The footpath leads onto a fair and the child is wonderstruck by the chaos of the place.
- He comes across a sweetmeat seller selling ‘gulab-jaman, rasagulla, burfi, jalebi’.
- The boy wants to ask his parents for a ‘burfi’ as it is his favourite, but he knows they will scold him.
- He walks on to see a hawker selling beautiful garlands of gulmohur.
- He wishes for a garland under his breath, despite knowing he won’t get one.
- He moves ahead and sees a man selling rainbow-coloured balloons.
- Knowing his parents would refuse saying he was too old, he doesn’t ask them for one and walks on.
- Next, the boy sees a snake charmer and watches the snake dance to the tune of his flute.
- As he approaches the snake charmer, he remembers how his parents forbade him from listening to such music.
- So, he walks away and comes to a merry go round.
- He watches the men, women and children riding the merry go round with gleeful abandon.
- This time, he decides to ask his parents for a ride.
- Hearing no response to his wish, he swings around to see that they aren’t there.
- Realising his parents aren’t around; the child starts to cry.
- Panic-stricken, he runs everywhere in search of his parents.
- His turban comes undone and his clothes are muddied as he runs around frantically.
Overwhelmed With Grief
- Seeing the boy cry, a man picks him up and tries to comfort him.
- The man takes him to the merry go round and asks whether he wants a ride.
- Crying, the child helplessly insists that he wants his parents.
- The man takes him to the snake charmer, the balloon seller and the hawker with the garlands.
- He shows these sights to the child in an effort to distract and comfort him.
- He even takes the boy to the sweetmeat seller and asks whether he would like some sweets.
- But the boy keeps crying and repeatedly asking for his parents. He doesn’t yearn for these things anymore.
The major themes of the chapter are:
- Material Pleasure vs Real Happiness
- The Value of Parental Love
Material Pleasure vs Real Happiness
- The story revolves around how often we get distracted while seeking material fulfillments.
- While running through the fair, the little child is intrigued by the sights and sounds around him.
- He longingly looks at the food, flowers and toys on display, begging his parents to buy them for him.
- Distracted, he stares in wonder at the merry go round and pleads with his parents to ride it. However, when he turns around to look for them, they are nowhere to be found.
- When the realisation strikes him, he bursts into tears.
- When a man tries to console the child, showing him the same sights that had fascinated him before, the child is not assured.
- He longs to go back to his parents.
- All the material pleasures he sought, like the food and toys fade in comparison to his yearning for his parents.
The Value of Parental Love & Care
- Separated from his parents, the inconsolable child needs his parents far more than all the toys and rides at the fair.
- The same desires do not hold any attraction for him when he realises he is helplessly alone.
- As he cries, he keeps repeating how he wants his mother and his father.
The story has three main characters.
- Happy: On the day of spring, the child is happy and ‘brimming with laughter’.
- Energetic: The child is full of life and runs around his parents, often out of their sight.
- Carefree: The young child doesn’t understand why his parents are so keen on him staying with them. He runs around spiritedly and without any care.
- Obedient: The child obediently heeds to his parents’ calls at first. Later, he forgets about them when he enters the fair.
- Distracted: The child is very distracted and amazed by the sights he sees at the fields and the fair.
- Inconsolable: Realising he is separated from his parents; the child cannot stop crying.
- Strict: The child’s father is a disciplinarian as he is strict and does not easily give in to the child’s wishes.
- Cautious: Although stern, the father periodically calls out to the boy, urging him to keep up with him and the mother so that the child doesn’t get lost.
- Tender: His mother is tender towards the child. She doesn’t scold him, instead she distracts him by asking him to look around at beauty of the fields.’
- Cautious: Just like the father, the child’s mother too keeps prompting the child to stay with them as they walk around the fair.
The chapter has the following literary devices.
- Descriptive Imagery
- Dramatic Irony
- Mulk Raj Anand masterfully paints a picture of village life in spring and the gaiety at the fair using descriptive imagery.
- At the start of the story, the reader reads and visualises about the beauty of spring; ‘‘It was a flowering mustard-field, pale like melting gold as it swept across miles and miles of even land.’
- He even describes the mood and sounds the boy experienced. This is seen in the line ‘A group of dragon-flies were bustling about on their gaudy purple wings…’
- While at the fair, the tone of the story changes from carefree to chaotic.
- The child is equally overwhelmed and delighted. He ‘felt at once repelled and fascinated’.
- At the fair, Anand depicts a vibrant mood and a melee of sounds that leave the child wonderstruck.
- When the reader understands the unfolding of events better than the characters in the story, the literary device is called dramatic irony.
- The reader sees the little child’s desires grow as he walks around the fair.
- However, when he gets lost the child’s only wish is to be reunited with his parents.
- Anand has used dramatic irony to emphasize on the grief-stricken and terrified state of the child after he is lost.
- Anand has used the literary device of repetition in the parents’ and child’s speech.
- The parents repeatedly beckon the child to keep up with them and not wander away.
- This is seen in the first half of the story, in the use of line ‘Come, child, come!’
- In the latter half of the story, we see repetition when the child longs for his parents.
- As he weeps, the child keeps repeating ‘I want my mother, I want my father!’