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01_A SHADY PLOT_ class 10

 

Summary

  • “A Shady Plot” is a story within a story.
  • It is a humorous ghost story with a twist.
  • The narrator is an author of short stories about ghosts.
  • In this story he reveals how he gets the plot for his latest ghost story.
  • The narrator had been told by the editor of the magazine that frequently published his stories to write a ghost story as his ghost stories were well-liked by the readers.
  • John Hallock’s publisher Jenkins wants him to write a “supernatural story” to cater to the growing public demand for such fiction.
  • As Hallock sits in his study he hears a strange voice in response to remark he made to himself aloud.
  • The voice belongs to a ghost, Helen of New York.
  • She slowly materialized in a dark corner of the room like a moving picture cartoons being put together.
  • First an arm came out, then a bit of sleeve of a stiff white shirtwaist, then a leg and a plaid skirt.
  • The ghost was angry at being called for help.
  • In fact, she informed the narrator that it was she who had been supplying him with plots for his ghost stories.
  • She claimed she had been a writer in her other life.
  • Now she, and some other ghosts who had been writers earlier, had organized “The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau.”
  • She claims that she has helped him with ideas and inspiration on many occasions in the past.
  • Though initially they had done this willingly, but lately they had been called out too often and so they wanted to put an end to the practice.
  • The ghost wanted the narrator to get all his friends and acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board.
  • Just then Hallock’s wife, Lavinia appears on the scene.
  • Lavinia informed her husband that she had bought an Ouija board.

 

  • The next evening, when the narrator returned, their maid Gladolia met him in the hall.
  • She informed him that his wife had organized an Ouija board party that evening.
  • The guests were mainly elderly people belonging to Lavinia’s Book Club.
  • Hallock’s wife wanted him to join one of her friends Miss Laura Hinkle, whose partner Mrs. William Augustus Wainright had failed to make it to the party.
  • When the Ouija board began to move, the narrator at first thought that Laura Hinkle was cheating with that board.
  • But then the board spelt out aloud the word ‘T-r-a-i-t-o-r.’
  • The spirit identified herself as Helen.
  • The narrator’s wife looked at him suspiciously.
  • Angry and suspicious, Lavinia slept in the guest room that night.
  • The next morning she threatened she would be going back to her grandmother and that her lawyer would communicate with the narrator.
  • At breakfast next morning, it is a note by Lavinia that greets Hallock instead of the lady.
  • At that moment Helen emerges from nowhere.
  • The two are in a conversation when Gladolia interrupts them by announcing that she was going to quit the job because of the hoodoos and the Ouija board.
  • Since Helen was there in the room, the narrator tried to get her to leave.
  • Hallock behaves strangely on hearing Lavinia’s decision and, not wanting to let her see the ghost – Helen of New York – he tries to hide the latter.
  • This arouses Lavinia’s suspicion further.
  • Hallock tries in vain to distract Lavinia, but she thrusts him back forcibly to find out who was behind him.
  • Lavinia then suspiciously asked him who was hiding in the room.
  • Helen spoke to Lavinia and introduced herself as Helen of Troy, New York.
  • This revelation calms Lavinia down and she realizes her folly of unnecessarily suspecting her husband of cheating on her.
  • Lavinia forgave her husband who declared he had the best plot for a ghost story.

 

Questions& Answers

 

Q.1    What genre of stories does Jenkins want the narrator to write? Why?

Ans.   Jenkins wanted the narrator to write a ghost story because readers want to read his ghost stories, and his ghosts are well-defined characters like living beings.

 

Q.2    Briefly describe the ghost.

Ans.   The ghost was long and angular, with enormous fishy eyes behind big bone-rimmed spectacles, with her hair in a tight wad at the back of her head and a solid jaw. She wore a stiff white shirtwaist and a plaid skirt.

 

Q.3    Why does John want the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene? What impression of his wife’s character do you form from his words?

Ans.   John says that his wife is very sensitive. The sight of the ghost in the house may drive her to hysterics. Also she may not like the presence of a woman in the house, even if the woman was a ghost. Lavinia leaves the impression of a self-centred woman, given to jealousy and hysteria.

 

Q.4    What new fad had Lavinia adopted? What was the irony in this?

Ans.   Lavinia had picked up an Ouija board from a bumper sale as they were the latest craze. The Ouija board was her latest whim. This was ironic because the ghost had just told John to get his friends and acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board.

 

Q.5    What party had Lavinia organized? What feelings did this evoke in John?

Ans.   Lavinia had called her friends for an Ouija board party. John was anxious and looked around with trepidation as he expected the ghost of Helen to materialize. He was worried how his wife would react.

 

Q.6    Whom did John have to partner? Why?

Ans.   Lavinia told John to partner Laura Hinkle as her actual partner, Mrs. William Augustus Wainright had not come. When the narrator approached, Laura looked at him with a flirtatious smile that implied danger for him as she was untrustworthy.

 

Q.7    What message did the ghost convey to the assembled group? What was their reaction to the message?

Ans.   The ghost called John a traitor and asked the Ouija board users to ask him why she was calling him that. The people using the Ouija boards reported that they had received a similar message and began talking about it.

 

Q.8    How did the ghost of Helen appear in sections before John Hallock?

Ans.   Helen’s appearance before Hallock was queer. She did not materialize in one go. Instead she appeared in bits and parts out of nowhere. First, one of her arms came out, then a bit of sleeve of her stiff white shirtwaist, then a leg and a plaid skirt, until she assumed her complete shape. Hallock feels her gradual appearance is like cartoons being put together.

Q.9    What does Helen mean when she says to Hallock, “We’re going on   strike!”?

Ans.   Helen and many other ghosts like her had an organization called ‘The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau’ that helped writers like Hallock to write whenever they were stuck. The members of this organization were sick of receiving calls from Ouija board asking them silly questions. This had not only made them overwork but also prevented them from harmlessly haunting people for their own amusement. These ghosts had therefore, decided to go on strike to protest against their ill-treatment and to make people desist from bothering them unnecessarily.

 

Q.10  What makes Helen, the ghost, and her other co-ghosts organize ‘The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau’?

Ans.   In her other life Helen had been an author and had often struggled for ideas and inspiration. And when she became a ghost, she found many others who had suffered similarly. So, she along with many of her co-ghosts, decided to organize ‘The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau’ to help writers without ideas write successfully by sending ideas and inspiration to their soft and impressionistic minds secretly. It was purely a selfless service that the Bureau members rendered to their mortal counterparts.

 

Q.11  How does the ghost undermine the narrator’s faith in his ability to write ghost stories?

Ans.   A few successful ghost stories made Hallock feel a bit cocky about his ability to write such fiction but Helen (the ghost) undermines this belief of his by revealing to him that it was she who had given him ideas about his ghost stories on a number of occasions in the past. She told him how on many occasions she had leaned on his shoulders and put ideas and plots in his head and inspired him to write whenever he had felt stuck up.

 

Q.12  Why did Lavinia buy a Ouija board?

Ans.   Lavinia had such a craze taking up new fads. She bought a Ouija board because she had found it to be the ‘duckiest, darlingest’ thing and had got it at a bargain sale. She supposedly bought it so that her husband Hallock could use it to get ideas for new stories but actually the real motive behind her buying it was to have fun working it with her Book Club friends.

 

Q.13  When Hallock told Lavinia not to use the Ouija board and to return it, she bluntly refused. Why? 

Ans.   Lavinia did not heed Hallock’s request not to use the Ouija board on two grounds. Firstly, she argued that the shopkeeper she had bought the board from would not exchange things bought at a bargain sale. Secondly, she said that she was interested in using it, even if he was not.

 

Q.14  How did Hallock manage to pay his grocery bills and pay for Lavinia’s fancy shopping?

Ans.   Hallock was not a full time writer and writing did not yield income sufficient enough to meet all his expenses. So he worked as a bookkeeper for a lumber company to help him earn a little extra to pay his grocery bills and the bill of Lavinia’s fancy shopping.

 

Q.15  Do you agree with the narrator calling the assembly of women ‘manipulators?” Give reasons.

Ans.   The narrator rightly calls the women in the Ouija Board Party manipulators. They were obviously manipulating i.e. moving the planchette with their fingers to extract the vicious message from the board so that they could gossip about it hungrily.

 

Q.16  Who is Gladolia? Why  does she decide to quit her job? What makes her finally stay back?

Ans.   Gladolia is an African woman working as a cook with the narrator. She is terribly afraid of Ouija boads and hoodoos. What happens at the Ouija Board Party of Lavinia scares her so much that she decides to quit her job. However, when Lavinia tells her to use the board to kindle wood in the fireplace, she hesitantly agrees to stay back.

 

Q.17  John’s apprehensions about his wife’s reaction to her encounter with the ghost are unfounded. Justify.

Ans.   Considering Lavinia to be extremely timid, John feared that she would swoon or become hysterical on seeing a ghost but nothing of the sort happened when she came face to face with Helen, the ghost. Instead a satisfied smile spread on her face and she said to the ghost. ‘I thought you were Helen of Troy.’ Thus, John’s apprehensions about Lavinia’s reaction to her encounter with the ghost were unfounded.

 

WORKSHEET

 

  1. I) Answer the following in 30-40 words:
  2. Why does the ghost appear before the writer?
  3. How does the writer react when ghost appear before him?
  4. Why does the ghost want the writer to stop his guests from using Ouija Board?
  5. Why do Helen and other ghosts organize the writer‘s inspiration bureau?
  6. What happened when Hallock sat down on his desk and waited for getting ideas for his ghost story?
  7. How did the narrator react to the appearance of the ghost?
  8. How was Helen different form the ghosts the narrator used to write about in his stories?
  9. What did the ghost tell about herself which didn‘t sound that she was a ghost?
  10. What did the ghost tell the narrator of her present assignment and what for did she request him?
  11. What made Lavinia buy Ouija board? How did the narrator react to her doing so? How could he get help form it?
  12. ‘My wife is never so pretty as when she is doing something she knows I disapprove of ―What did she do which he unapproved of?
  13. What happened when Laura Hinkle worked on the Ouija board?
  14. How did the Ouija board make things easier to understand after Miss Hinkle asked it to explain itself more fully?
  15. When did Helen, the ghost appear before the narrator?
  16. ‘It is all your fault. She glared at me.What was the narrator‘s fault as per the ghost? Why did the narrator blame the ghost?
  17. Describe how Lavinia faced Helen, the ghost?
  18. Explain the appropriateness of the title ―A Shady Plot.
  19. How does the narrator rate himself as a ghost story writer?
  20. Why does the ghost appear before the writer?
  21. How does the writer react when ghost appears before him?
  22. Why does the ghost want the writer to stop his guests from using Ouija Board?
  23. Why do Helen and other ghosts organize The Writer‘s Inspiration Bureau?

Long answer type

  1. Describe the character of John Hallock.
  2. A Shady Plot is a humourous ghoststory. Do you agree with this? Justify your view.
  3. Justify the title of the lesson ―A Shady Plot.
  4. There are no scenes of horror or thrill but still the story is interesting. What are the elements that make the story interesting?
  5. Describe the first meeting between the narrator and the ghost of Helen. How does she materialize and how does the narrator react to it?
  6. Describe the meeting of the members of the Lavinia‘s Book Club at her house with Ouija boards.
  7. Describe the second meeting of the ghost of Helen with the narrator when Lavinia happens to be there.
  8. Imagine the ghost of Helen writes a diary page about how it appears to help the narrator and what happens. Write the diary page on her behalf.
  9. Imagine the narrator writes a letter describing how he gets the idea of a ghost story. Write that letter on his behalf.

 

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