THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
“The Man Who Knew Too Much” is an understatement rather than a compliment for Private Quelch‟s exceptional knowledge. And that is what makes it a very appropriate one for the story. There is nothing wrong in having a vast pool of knowledge on just about every subject but what is definitely wrong is to make an ostentatious display of it and to run down others just because they don‟t match up, with you, in knowledge. Unfortunately, Private Quelch did just that and met his match in Corporal Turnbull but refused to learn any lessons from his punishment. Clearly, Private Quelch knew too much, about everything except appropriate conduct as a private in the army. The title is therefore quite apt.
The theme of the story “The Man Who Knew Too Much” is the importance of observing proper code of conduct, that must be followed in the army. It is all right to set a lofty goal and work one‟s way to achieving it through intelligence, knowledge and hard work, but in doing so, one must follow the set code of conduct and criteria. Showing off one‟s knowledge and humiliating others for not being „aware and well informed‟ is underestimating, the real worth of others. It is nothing short of insulting them – a crime Private Quelch commits much too often. Someone like him is a clear misfit, in an organization like Army, where strict hierarchy and code of conduct, are more important than anything else.
People who lack in grace, show no regards for their superiors. They go about showing off their knowledge to impress others. But rather than being impressed, people dislike them and avoid them. Thus, far from gaining popularity, they harm their own interest. Showing off, stands in the way of their progress and costs them very heavily.
I. Read the given extracts and answer the following questions briefly.
1] „Anyone who saw Private Quelch, lanky, stooping, frowning through horn-rimmed spectacles, understood why he was known as the Professor. Those who had any doubts on the subject lost them after five minute‟s conversation with him.‟
a) What kind of look did Private Quelch have according to the author ?
b) How did Private Quelch earn the nickname „Professor' ?
c) Doubts on which subject are being discussed here ?
2] „Each time one of us make a mistake the Professor would publicly correct him. Whenever one of us shone, the Professor outshone him.‟
a) Who is the Professor here and who are „us‟ ?
b) What does this extract show about the Professor‟s character ?
c) How did the Professor‟s behavior affect his colleagues ?
3] „What could a gang of louts like us do with a man like that ?‟
a) Who makes this statement and about whom ?
b) When does the speaker make this statement ?
c) Why does the narrator feel that he and others in the squad were a „gang of louts‟ ?
4] „…I‟ve decided that Private Quelch is just the man for the job. Of course, it was a joke for days afterwards; a joke and joy to all of us.‟
a) Who is the speaker of the first line ? What job has he given to Private Quelch ?
b) What joke is being talked about here ?
c) Who are „us‟ here ? Why was the joke a joy for all of them ?
Answer in short :
a) When the author first met Private Quelch, the latter looked like a „Professor‟ for him. Give reasons for this impression.
b) What does the dark, sun-dried appearance of the Sergeant suggest about him?
c) What did the „Professor‟ mean by „intelligent reading‟ ? What is the significance of „intelligent reading‟ in his statement ?
d) How did Private Quelch manage to annoy Corporal Turnbull ?
e) Do you consider Private Quelch to be a wise person or a stupid man ?
LONG ANSWER QUESTIONS: (100 – 150 words each)
a) What humiliation did Private Quelch suffer because of his negative professional and personal value? Did he learn any lesson from the punishment awarded to him? What values would you have advised him to inculcate in himself, had you been his friend and colleague?
b) Imagine you are Corporal Turnbull. Today Private Quelch has left you red-faced by interrupting your lecture time and again. You feel bad that an intelligent and hardworking man has spoiled his career forever due to his stupid way of showing off his knowledge. Write your feelings in the form of a diary entry confessing how you too reacted out of vengeance and punished him rather harshly.
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