CBSE Class 7 English I Want Something in a Cage Summary, Explanation, Question Answers from An Alien Hand Book
I Want Something in a Cage Class 6 – NCERT Class 7 English An Alien Hand book Lesson 6 I Want Something in a Cage Summary and Detailed explanation of the lesson along with the meanings of difficult words. Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the lesson. All the exercises and Questions and Answers given at the back of the lesson have been covered. Take Free Online MCQs Test for Class 7 Click Here
|I Want Something in a Cage Introduction||I Want Something in a Cage Summary|
|I Want Something in a Cage Explanation||I Want Something in a Cage Question Answers|
I Want Something in a Cage Introduction
This story is about an owner of a pet shop named Mr Purcell who meets a strange customer one day.
I Want Something in a Cage Summary
Mr Purcell, a small fussy man, who did not believe in ghosts was the owner of a pet shop. Then one day, a strange customer entered the shop. He did not hear the usual sound of the bell when the customer entered. It was as if the customer was like a ghost which appeared out of nowhere. The merchant could tell instinctively that the customer hated him. But he still acted as his usual self and greeted the customer with a smile. The man went forward, his shoes squeaking. He wore a cheap, ill-fitted but new suit. He had a shuttling glance and close-cropped hair. He ignored all the friendly remarks of the merchant and said that he wanted something in a cage. Mr Purcell was confused and unsure if he understood what the man wanted. The man then pointed out a pair of birds, white-coloured doves. The price of the doves shook the customer. He had only five dollars and the price of the doves was five dollars fifty cent. But the merchant calculated that the fifty cent reduction would still be profitable for him. He accepted the five dollars. As the owner was giving the pet to the pet’s new owner, the man asked the merchant if the noise of the animals never bothered him. Mr Purcell was again confused. The customer stared at him and elaborated his question. The owner was now finding the customer to be either mad or intoxicated. He thought that his questions were senseless. The customer then told the merchant about how he had earned the five dollars. He had worked for ten years, earning fifty cents a year. So, his total earning was five dollars. The owner tried to tell him more about the process of caring and feeding the doves but the customer did not care. The man walked out of the store. The merchant sighed with relief. He looked out of his window and saw his strange customer staring at the birds in the cage. Then, the customer opened the cage and set the doves free. Mr Purcell was confused and felt insulted. He had reduced the price of the doves for the customer’s satisfaction, only to see the doves fly away. He could not understand that why did the man give away his earnings of ten years’ of hard work only to free the caged birds.
I Want Something in a Cage Explanation
Mr Purcell did not believe in ghosts. Nevertheless, the man who bought the two doves, and his strange act immediately thereafter, left him with a distinct sense of the uncanny. As though, behind his departed customer, there had lingered the musty smell of an abandoned, haunted house.
distinct: unique, different
linger: stay in a place longer than necessary because of a reluctance to leave.
musty: having a stale, mouldy or damp smell
Mr Purcell did not believe that ghosts existed. The reason must be that Mr Purcell had never been in a strange incident. However, after meeting the strange customer, the man who bought the two doves, made him feel puzzled. The man’s strange act after buying the doves left Mr Purcell feeling that it had been an unusual happening. Even though the customer had departed, a damp, stale smell was still there in the shop. This smell changed the atmosphere of the shop. The shop felt like a house that had been emptied by the people who lived there and now was visited by ghosts.
Mr Purcell was a small, fussy man; red cheeks and a tight, melon stomach. Large glasses magnified his eyes so as to give him the appearance of a wise and genial owl. He owned a pet shop. He sold cats and dogs and monkeys; he dealt in fish food and bird seed, prescribed remedies for ailing canaries, and displayed on his shelves long rows of ornate and gilded cages. He considered himself something of a professional man.
fussy: showing excessive or anxious concern for details.
magnified: made to appear big
prescribe: advise and authorise the use of a medicine for someone, in written form
ailing: ill, sick
canary: a small, bright yellow bird noted for its singing
ornate: elaborately or highly decorated.
gilded: covered thinly with gold leaf or gold paint.
In this passage, we learn about the different characteristics of Mr Purcell. First we learn about his appearance. Mr Purcell is described to be small or a man with short height. He had red cheeks and a tight melon stomach. (Melon here refers to the melon-like shape of Mr Purcell’s stomach, indicating that he had a big round stomach). He wore large glasses which increased the size of his eyes. This gave him the appearance of a wise and friendly owl. Then we learn about his personality. The first thing we learn is that he was a fussy man, meaning that he gave too much attention to details and decorations. He was the owner of a pet shop. He sold pets ranging from cats and dogs to monkeys, he dealt in fish food and bird seed, he prescribed medicine for ailing canaries, and he had on display various cages, some were highly decorated and a few were covered with thin layers of gold or other precious metals. Hence, he had a hand in not just selling pets but also marketing various other things which pet owners gave importance to. Also, as we have learned earlier, he was over-particular at the display of his shop. This led him to think that he was a professional man.
A constant stir of movement pervaded his shop; whispered twitters, sly rustling; squeals, cheeps, and sudden squeaks. Small feet scampered in frantic circles — frightened, bewildered, blindly seeking. Across the shelves pulsed this endless flicker of life. But the customers who came in said, “Aren’t they cute? Look at that little cage! They’re sweet.” And Mr Purcell himself would smile and briskly rub his hands and emphatically shake his head.
constant: continuous, never-ending, endless
pervade: be present and apparent throughout.
twitter: a series of short, high-pitched calls or sounds.
scamper: run with quick light steps, especially through fear or excitement.
frantic: distraught with fear, anxiety, or other emotion, hysterical
bewildered: shocked, perplexed, confused
pulsed: throb rhythmically
flicker: small and sudden movements
emphatically: in an understanding way
Now we learn about the atmosphere of the shop. There was a stir of movement in his shop, which was apparent or easily noticeable and continuous. Whispered twitters, sly rustling, squeals, cheeps and sudden squeaks filled the air. The feet of small animals made noise as the animals scampered in frantic circles. The animals must not like to be in the shop and perhaps they did not wish to be bought, which is why they were always frantic. Hence the shop was never quiet or still as the noises of constant movement pervaded the shop. One could hear a particular rhythm of the flicker of life across the shelves. But the customers who came did not care about the animals’ hysterical movements. They would look at the animals and say how cute the animals looked. They commented about the sweet things lined up across the shelves. Mr Purcell, in response to these comments, would smile and briskly rub his hands and emphatically shake his head.
Each morning, when the routine of opening his shop was completed, it was the proprietor’s custom to perch on a high stool, behind the counter, unfold his morning paper, and digest the day’s news. As he read he would smirk, frown, reflectively purse his lips, knowingly lift his eyebrows, nod in grave agreement. He read everything, even advice to the lovelorn and the detailed columns of advertisements.
proprietor: the owner of a business, or a holder of property.
digest: read and understand fully
smirk: smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way.
purse: pucker or contract, typically to express disapproval or irritation.
lovelorn: unhappy because of unrequited love.
Mr Purcell had a habit of doing something after the routine of opening his shop was completed. Each morning, he would sit on a high stool behind the counter, unfold the morning paper, and read and understand the day’s news. One could see various facial expressions whenever the owner would read the newspaper. He would smirk, frown, purse his lips, knowingly lift his eyebrows and nod in grave agreement. He would read everything, including the section in the newspaper which gives advice to those people who are unhappy and unlucky in getting into a relationship. He also read the detailed columns of advertisements. This shows that he loved to read and he liked to be aware of each and every detail which proves that he was indeed a fussy man.
It was a rough day. A strong wind blew against the high, plate-glass windows. Smoke filmed the wintry city and the air was grey with a thick frost. Having completed his usual tasks, Mr Purcell again mounted the high stool, and unfolded his morning paper. He adjusted his glasses, and glanced at the day’s headlines. Chirping and squeaking and mewing vibrated all around him; yet Mr Purcell heard it no more than he would have heard the monotonous ticking of a familiar clock.
Filmed: become or appear to become covered with a thin layer of something.
wintry: characteristic of winter, especially in feeling or looking very cold and bleak.
Frost: deposit of small white ice crystals formed on the ground or other surfaces when the temperature falls below freezing.
mount: move on to a raised surface
monotonous: dull, tedious, and repetitious; lacking in variety and interest.
In this passage, we learn about the day when the strange customer came to the shop. It was a rough day, with strong winds blowing against the high, plate-glass windows of the shop. The city looked dark and bleak. This look became more prominent with the smoke and the thick frost that was in the air. Hence, the city looked very dark and mysterious, setting up the perfect ambience or scenery for something strange to happen. However, Mr Purcell, who did not believe in ghosts, did not pay much attention to the weather. Instead, he did his usual routine. After completing his usual tasks, Mr Purcell sat on the stool, unfolded his morning papers, adjusted his glasses, and glanced at the day’s headlines. The various noises of the animals – squeaking (of mice and hamsters), chirping (of birds) and meowing (of cats), could be heard in the shop. But Mr Purcell gave no attention to these sounds as they were as monotonous as the ticking of the familiar clock. This means that he did not find something unusual or different, or something interesting in those sounds. He had heard these sounds so much that these noises became as familiar as the ticking of a clock.
There was a bell over the door that jingled whenever a customer entered. This morning, however, for the first time Mr Purcell could recall, it failed to ring. Simply he glanced up, and there was the stranger, standing just inside the door, as if he had materialised out of thin air.
materialise: (of a ghost, spirit, or similar entity) appear in bodily form.
There was a bell over the door which was the entrance to the shop for the customers. The bell would jingle whenever a customer entered the shop. The bell had always worked except for that morning (this day is the same day that is mentioned in the previous passage). That morning was the first time the bell did not ring. He simply looked up and saw that there was a stranger standing just inside the door. Since the bell did not ring and the stranger’s entry caused no noise, Mr Purcell felt as if the stranger had materialised out of thin air, meaning that the stranger did not enter the shop by normal means (like ghosts).
The storekeeper slid off his stool. From the first instant he knew instinctively, unreasonably, that the man hated him; but out of habit he rubbed his hands briskly together, smiled and nodded.
“Good morning,” he beamed. “What can I do for you?”
slide off: to slip off of something and fall or stand
beam: smile radiantly.
The storekeeper slipped from his stool. He automatically knew from the first instant that the man (the stranger) disliked him. He also felt instinctively that the man’s hatred towards him was without any reason. However, he was the owner of the shop and a friendly person by nature, so, out of habit, he was friendly towards the customer. He rubbed his hands quickly, smiled and nodded. He greeted the customer with a radiant, bright and charming smile. He then asked the stranger what he could do for him.
The man’s shiny shoes squeaked forward. His suit was cheap, ill-fitting but obviously new. He had a shuttling glance and close-cropped hair. Ignoring Purcell for the moment, he rolled his gaze around the shadowy shop.
shuttling glance: constantly looking to and fro
close-cropped: cut very short
The man’s shiny shoes squeaked as he walked further into the shop. The suit that the man was wearing was cheap, had an ill-fitting but was new. He was constantly looking to and fro, meaning that he did not look at a particular thing closely or intently. He had close-cropped hair, meaning that his hair was cut very short. He ignored Mr Purcell. He was more interested in the shop. He looked around the shadowy shop. Since the weather and the city were bleak, the shop looked dark and bleak too.
“A nasty morning,” volunteered the shopkeeper. He clasped both hands across his melon-like stomach, and smiled importantly. “I see by the paper we’re in for a cold spell. Now what was it you wanted?”
The man stared closely at Mr Purcell, as though just now aware of his presence. He said, “I want something in a cage.”
clasp: grasp (something) tightly with one’s hand.
The shopkeeper did not receive any reply from the strange customer. He grasped his melon-like stomach tightly with his hands and smiled as if the stranger was important for him. He said that he saw that day’s newspaper in which he read that they (the citizens of that city) were in for a cold spell. Then, the owner asked the customer what he wanted to have. This passage shows us that Mr Purcell was trying to have a friendly conversation with the stranger. However, the strange man stared closely at Mr Purcell as if he had seen him just then, meaning that the stranger was not aware of the owner’s presence. He was gazing around the store so intently that he did not see Mr Purcell. He then answered the owner’s question, saying that he wanted something that was kept in a cage.
“Something in a cage?” Mr Purcell was a bit confused, “You mean—some sort of pet?”
“I mean what I said,” snapped the man. “Something in a cage. Something that is small.”
“I see,” hastened the storekeeper, not at all certain that he did. His eyes narrowed gravely and he pursed his lips. “Now let me think. A white rat, perhaps? I have some very nice white rats.”
snapped: said angrily
Mr Purcell was a bit confused when he heard the man’s reply. He was so confused that he could not even understand that the ‘something’ the man had asked for was obviously a pet. The man got angry at him. He did not like the slow service Mr Purcell was providing to him. The man repeated his demand, adding that the pet should be small in size. The shopkeeper quickly said yes and pretended that he understood the order even though he was not at all certain that he did. Mr Purcell’s eyes narrowed with seriousness, meaning that he was now focussing on finding the right animal for the customer. He also pursed his lips, meaning that he was annoyed by the peculiar and rude behaviour of the customer. The shopkeeper then thought about it. He asked if the man wanted a white rat. He also said that he had some very nice white rats.
“No,” said the man. “Not rats. Something with wings. Something that flies.”
“A bird!” exclaimed Mr Purcell.
“A bird’s all right.” The customer pointed suddenly to a suspended cage which contained two snowy birds. “Doves? How much for those?”
suspended: something that was hanging
The man however told the merchant that he did not want rats. He further added that he wanted a pet animal that had wings, something which had the ability to fly. There was only one type of pet which could do this and that was a bird. Mr Purcell suggested this to the customer and the customer approved this. The customer then pointed suddenly to a suspended cage (a cage which was hanging from the ceiling). The cage contained two doves which were as white as snow. The customer then asked if those birds were doves and also how much the pair cost.
“Five-fifty,” came the prompt answer. “And a very reasonable price. They are a fine pair.”
“Five-fifty?” The man was obviously crestfallen. He hesitantly produced a five dollar bill. “I’d like to have these birds. But this is all I’ve got. Just five dollars.”
Mentally, Mr Purcell made a quick calculation, which told him that at a fifty cent reduction he could still reap a tidy profit. He smiled magnanimously.
reap: produce, result in
magnanimously: generously (He gave a broad smile.)
The shopkeeper quickly told the price to be fifty dollars five cents. The man was disappointed to know the price. He was reluctant as he took out a five dollar bill from his pocket and told the shopkeeper that he would like to have the doves but he did not have the remaining fifty cents. Mr Purcell did a mental calculation and he got to know that a discount of fifty cents would not harm his business. Even with the reduction, he would earn a good profit. He smiled magnanimously, indicating that he was being generous towards the customer.
“My dear man, if you want them that badly, you can certainly have them for five dollars.”
“I’ll take them.” He laid his five dollars on the counter. Mr Purcell tottered on tiptoe, unhooked the cage, and handed it to his customer. The man cocked his head to one side, listening to the constant chittering, the rushing scurry of the shop. “That noise,” he blurted. “Doesn’t it get you?”
tottered: moved unsteadily
blurted: said abruptly
get you: annoy you, divert your attention
The merchant told the customer that if he wanted to have the pair of doves so desperately, he could have it for just five dollars. The man said that he would take them and he laid the five dollars on the counter. Mr Purcell walked unsteadily on his toes and took out the cage. He handed it to the customer. The man was listening to the noises of the animals. He tilted his head to one side as he listened. Then he spoke up suddenly, asking the merchant if the noises were not a source of distraction for him.
“Noise? What noise?” Mr Purcell looked surprised. He could hear nothing unusual.
The customer glared. “I mean all this caged stuff. Drives you crazy, doesn’t it?”
Mr Purcell drew back. Either the man was insane, or drunk. He said hastily, “Yes, yes. Certainly, I guess so.”
glared: stared angrily
Mr Purcell looked surprised because he did not really know what the man was talking about. He was so used to the noises of the caged animals that he did not find the noise to be disturbing. The customer was angry to see Mr Purcell’s reaction. He pointed out the caged animals and asked if the noises drove him crazy. Mr Purcell was shocked and scared. He felt that the man was either drunk or mad. This was because Mr Purcell could hear nothing unusual but the customer could. He hastily lied to the man and said that yes, the noises did drive him crazy.
“Listen.” The staring eyes came closer. “How long d’you think it took me to make the five dollars?”
The merchant wanted to order him out of the shop. But, oddly enough, he couldn’t. He heard himself dutifully asking, “Why—why, how long did it take you?”
oddly: weirdly, strangely
The customer was still staring at the owner and he had come a few steps closer to the owner. He told the merchant to listen to him. He asked him to guess how long it took the man to earn the five dollar note. The merchant was afraid of the customer’s peculiar behaviour. Firstly, he could hear strange noises in the shop and now he was asking weird questions from him. So, he wanted to order or command the man to get out of his shop. But he could not do so, perhaps he was scared. He heard himself dutifully ask him how long it took. He sounded as if it were his duty to know the answer.
The other laughed. “Ten years—at hard labour. Ten years to earn five dollars. Fifty cents a year.”
It was best, Purcell decided, to humour him. “My, my; ten years. That’s certainly a long time. Now…”
The customer laughed and answered that it took ten years of hard work to earn five dollars. He earned only fifty cents a year. Mr Purcell realised that he could not order the man out of his shop easily. He decided that the best way of getting rid of him was to laugh with him. Hence, he decided to keep talking with him and to entertain himself. Then, he said that ten years was certainly a long time. Then he decided to talk about something else.
“They give you five dollars,” laughed the man, “and a cheap suit, and tell you not to get caught again.”
Mr Purcell mopped his sweating brow. “Now, about the care and feeding of your doves. I would advise…”
The man however continued the same topic. He laughed and said that the people gave him five dollars and a cheap suit, in exchange for him not getting caught again. This line made the man seem like a criminal, someone who had been doing bad things and had got caught
once. Mr Purcell wiped off the sweat from his sweaty eyebrows. He was scared of the man. He again tried to change the topic. He started talking about the process of caring and feeding the doves.
“Bah!” The man swung around, and stalked abruptly from the store. Purcell sighed with sudden relief. He waddled to the window and stared out. Just outside, his peculiar customer had halted. He was holding the cage shoulder high, staring at his purchase. Then, opening the cage, he reached inside and drew out one of the doves. He tossed it into the air. He drew out the second and tossed it after the first. They rose like windblown balls of fluff and were lost in the smoky grey of the wintry city. For an instant the liberator’s silent and lifted gaze watched after them. Then he dropped the cage. He shoved both hands deep in his trouser pockets, hunched down his head and shuffled away. The merchant’s brow was puckered with perplexity. So desperately had the man desired the doves that he had let him have them at a reduced price. And immediately he had turned them loose. “Now why,” Mr Purcell muttered, “did he do that?” He felt vaguely insulted.
balls of fluff: something which was soft and fluffy and had a ball-like shape
shoved: put something hurriedly without much care
hunched: raise (one’s shoulders) and bend the top of one’s body forward.
shuffled away: to walk away while dragging the feet
muttered: said in a low voice
waddle: walk with short steps and a clumsy swaying motion.
pucker: tightly gather or contract into wrinkles or small folds.
The man interrupted him, saying that he did not care about the care and feeding of the doves. The man turned around and suddenly walked out of the store. Purcell sighed with sudden relief. He walked in shorts steps and clumsily, up to the window and stared at the customer through it. He saw that the strange customer had stopped walking and was standing just outside the shop. He had held the cage at shoulder height. He was staring at his purchase, the purchase being a cage containing two snowy doves. He then opened the cage, reached inside and drew out one of the doves. He threw it in the air. He did the same with the second dove. The doves rose in the air like light balls of fur which rise in the air when the wind blows. Soon, they could not be seen in the smoky air of the wintry city. The liberator is the one who liberates or frees someone. In this case, the customer was the liberator. At first, he was just looking at the birds. Then, he dropped the cage. With his hands pushed inside his pockets, he dropped his head down and walked away. The merchant’s brow was contracted as he was immensely confused. He did not understand why the man had freed the doves. After all, he had been so desperate to buy them. The merchant had even reduced the price for him. But he let them loose. Feeling slightly insulted, he asked himself why he had done that, why did the man give away all his earnings of ten years of hard work just to let it go away from him. He did not understand this, and he felt insulted by this behaviour.
I Want Something in a Cage Question and Answers
Comprehension Check – 1
Q1. Write ‘True’ or ‘False’ against each of the following statements.
(i) Mr Purcell sold birds, cats, dogs and monkeys. __________
(ii) He was very concerned about the well-being of the birds and animals in his shop. __________
(iii) He was impressed by the customer who bought the two doves. __________
(iv) He was a successful shop owner, though insensitive and cold as a person. __________
Ans. (i) True
Q2. Why is Mr Purcell compared to an owl?
Ans. Mr Purcell’s appearance is compared to that of an owl. He wore glasses, which magnified the size of his eyes. An owl too has very large eyes in proportion to the rest of the body. Hence, Mr Purcell looked like an owl.
Q3. From the third paragraph pick out
(i) words associated with cries of birds,
(ii) words associated with noise,
(iii) words suggestive of confusion and fear
Ans. (i) cheeps, squeals, squeaks
(ii) stir, rustle, scampered
Q4. “…Mr Purcell heard it no more than he would have heard the monotonous ticking of a familiar clock.” (Read para beginning with “It was a rough day…”)
(i) What does ‘it’ refer to?
(ii) Why does Mr Purcell not hear ‘it’ clearly?
Ans. (i) ‘It’ refers to the constant stir of movement in the pet shop. It refers to the various noises caused by the animals.
(ii) Mr Purcell could not hear ‘it’ clearly because he was the owner and the shopkeeper of the pet shop and was used to the noise of the pets. He found the noise as something he heard on a daily basis so he did not find it strange.
Comprehension Check – II
Q1. Do you think the atmosphere of Mr Purcell’s shop was cheerful or depressing? Give reasons for your answer.
Ans. I think that the atmosphere of Mr Purcell’s shop was depressing. The caged animals were always in a confused state. They were afraid that they would be separated from the others. They were always moving as they could not bear to stay still inside a cage. The owner was professional and particular about his work, but he did not understand the feelings of the pets nor he could hear their constant frantic noises. The animals did not like this place and the owner held no feelings for them.
Q2. Describe the stranger who came to the pet shop. What did he want?
Ans. The stranger who came to the pet shop was an unusual person. He was quite alarming for Mr Purcell as when he came in the bell of the shop did not ring as it was supposed to. The stranger wore a new but cheap and ill-fitted suit. He had close-cropped hair with a shuttling glance. He was the least interested in the owner. He did not even notice the owner at first.
The stranger wanted to purchase something (a pet) in a cage.
Q3. (i) The man insisted on buying the doves because he was fond of birds. Do you agree? (ii) How had he earned the five dollars he had?
Ans. (i) The man insisted on buying the doves. The reason was not because he was fond of birds, it was rather because he wanted to see those caged birds fly and be free. Seeing a bird take off from a cage directly symbolises setting someone free from captivity. We see this when he said that ‘they’ gave him a cheap suit and told him not to get caught again. And so, he sympathised with the caged animals. The man did not like to see all the animals being in a cage, and he wanted to set them free.
(ii) The man had been imprisoned before. We see this when he said that ‘they’ gave him a cheap suit and told him not to get caught again. He had been imprisoned for ten years, during which he had done hard labour while earning fifty cents per year. The total earnings of his ten years of hard labour resulted in fifty dollars. This was the way he had earned the five dollars that he had.
Q4. Was the customer interested in the care and feeding of the doves he had bought? If not, why not?
Ans. No, the customer was not interested in the care and feeding of the doves he had bought. He wanted to set the doves free. Since he did not want to keep the doves as his pets, he knew that knowing the care and feeding of the doves would not benefit him.
- Discuss the following topics in groups.
Q1. Why, in your opinion, did the man set the doves free?
Ans. The man had spent ten years of his life in jail. Hence, he knew the bitterness and cruelty of being imprisoned. He had earned fifty dollars for his ten years of hard labour. Instead of utilising his earnings on himself, he wanted to free someone from captivity. Hence, he set the doves free.
Q2. Why did it make Mr Purcell feel “vaguely insulted”?
Ans. Seeing through the window, Mr Purcell saw that the man had set the doves free. This vaguely insulted Mr Purcell. He had gone through the man’s peculiar behaviour and tried his best to please him. He put up with each and every unusual occurrence. He had even sold the doves at a reduced price. The man had acted as though he were desperate to have the doves as his pet. Mr Purcell did not realise that the man was desperate to have the doves because he wanted to set them free. This led him into thinking that the man had set the doves free even though he wanted to have them as his pets, which irritated him.