The Medicine Bag: ISC Class 12 English workbook solutions, notes

The Medicine Bag
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Get summary, workbook solutions, questions, answers, notes, pdf, and extras to the story “The Medicine Bag” by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, which is a part of Class 12 English syllabus for students studying under ISC.


Martin felt conflicted about his mixed ancestry. His mother belonged to the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota, while his father was a white man. Every summer, Martin and his little sister Charyl eagerly anticipated their visit to see their 86-year old grandfather on the Rosebud Reservation.

Grandfather truly embodied the spirit and traditions of their people. The kids would return home full of vivid stories about ancient ceremonies, healing rituals, and Grandfather’s wisdom that seemed to transcend time. Martin and Charyl’s friends relished these tales that brought to life a culture so different from their own.

But Martin never showed any photos of Grandfather to his friends. He knew Grandfather’s weathered face, long braided hair, and vibrant tribal clothing would seem exotic and strange. Martin dreaded the day his two worlds would collide.

One hot July morning, the family spotted a solitary figure walking slowly down their street. To Martin’s horror, he realised it was Grandfather. The old man greeted them warmly, unaffected as dogs barked loudly at this unfamiliar visitor. Martin cringed with embarrassment while his mother awkwardly patted his grandfather’s back. Only little Charyl wrapped her arms around him in a joyful welcome.

That first evening, as he helped Grandfather prepare for bed, Martin was shocked to discover rolls of bills stuffed inside the old man’s worn boots. Grandfather had cashed in his meagre life savings to afford the long journey to see them one last time. He simply longed for family as the end drew near. Awash in shame, Martin’s family realised they had abandoned Grandfather to die alone.

The next day, Grandfather waited expectantly in the living room to meet Martin’s friends—the very encounter Martin had always dreaded. But to Martin’s surprise, the boys were utterly captivated by Grandfather, sitting raptly at his feet as he shared legends passed down by their ancestors through generations. For the first time, Martin glowed with pride in his noble heritage.

Finally, Grandfather turned to Martin and explained that his visit had a deeper purpose. He unclasped the leather pouch from around his neck. It was the family’s sacred medicine bag, which Grandfather now wished to bestow upon Martin to carry on their ancient ways. Martin trembled as he received the weighty honour.

Shortly after, Grandfather peacefully passed on. In a moving ceremony, Martin’s family returned his body to the earth of his beloved reservation. With his head held high, Martin wore the medicine bag proudly at Grandfather’s side, cherishing the culture it represented. He placed sweet prairie sage inside to carry Grandfather’s spirit forward. Though worlds apart in life, in death, Grandfather and Martin were joyfully united.

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Workbook answers

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

1. The narrator and his family lived in:

A. Iowa B. Dakota C. Italy D. India

Answer: A. Iowa

2. On one of his visits Grandpa gave Martin:

A. moccasins B. a horse C. a decorated drum D. a golden ball

Answer: B. a decorated drum

3. They had not shown Grandpa’s picture to their friends because:

A. they were ashamed of him B. the glorious tales told about him did not match him. C. they did not have any picture of their Grandpa D. Mom had asked the children not to show the picture to anyone.

Answer: B. the glorious tales told about him did not match him

4. When Grandpa came to visit Martin’s family, Martin:

A. was very happy B. could not recognize him C. felt ashamed and embarrassed D. went out to tell his friends

Answer: C. felt ashamed and embarrassed

5. Grandpa carried with him:

A. a tin suit case B. a gold chain C. a beautiful toy for Martin’s sister D. a medicine bag

Answer: A. a tin suit case

6. The Grandpa’s get up and appearance:

A. was out of place in Iowa B. did not look impressive and royal C. was quite natural at Martin’s place D. was disliked by all

Answer: A. was out of place in Iowa

7. Martin picked up Grandpa’s suitcase and:

A. asked him to go back B. told him to hide somewhere C. guided him to take him home D. informed his mother about Grandpa’s visit

Answer: C. guided him to take him home

8. Grandpa had saved the money:

A. for Martin’s education B. to buy sweets for the children C. to donate D. for his own funeral

Answer: D. for his own funeral

9. Martin’s Dad felt sorry as:

A. he had not gone to receive the old man B. he had not recognised Grandpa C. he had not helped the old man D. he had not thought of bringing Grandpa with them

Answer: D. he had not thought of bringing Grandpa with them

10. The old man said that it was time for Martin to have the medicine bag:

A. he wanted to pass on the bag to the oldest male child B. as Martin was ready to keep it C. because grandpa thought that he was going to die D. Both (a) and (c)

Answer: D. Both (a) and (c)

Logic-Based Questions

1. Martin who lived in the city did not know the reality about the Indians because

Answer: he had only seen them in movies and TV shows, which often exaggerated or glamorised them.

2. Martin never showed his Grandpa’s picture to his friends because

Answer: Grandpa’s real appearance did not match the impressive image Martin had portrayed to his friends.

3. Martin thinks that his friends would have laughed at Grandpa’s picture because

Answer: Grandpa did not look like the stereotypical tall, stately Indian shown on TV/movies. He looked frail and old.

4. Martin says, ‘I was so ashamed and embarrassed I could have died’ because

Answer: when his friends saw his shabbily dressed, elderly Grandpa tottering down the street, it shattered the impressive image he had painted for them.

5. Now it sounded as if a whole pack of mutts were barking together in one place” . Martin says this because

Answer: earlier the dogs on the street barked at strangers individually. Now a whole pack was barking together, indicating something unusual.

6. Why was Grandpa’s get- up not out of place on the reservation, but it sure was there where Martin lived?

Answer: Grandpa’s traditional Native American clothes were normal on the reservation but seemed out of place in Martin’s suburban neighborhood.

7. At first, Martin seems to dislike the Grandpa’s visit to his place but after a few moments he guides the Grandpa to his house because

Answer: though initially embarrassed, Martin’s concern for Grandpa overcame his shame when he saw how tired and frail Grandpa looked.

8. Grandpa’s shoes fit him very tight because

Answer: he had stuffed them with the $100 he had saved up for his funeral expenses.

9. Grandpa had saved one hundred dollars because

Answer: he wanted to have money set aside for his funeral so he would not be a burden on Martin’s family.

10. Martin’s Dad felt sorry because

Answer: he regretted not thinking of bringing Grandpa to live with them, which would have spared him the difficult journey.

Short Answer Questions

1. What does the narrator say about his description of the Grandpa and the place he lived in?

Answer: The narrator, Martin, admits to having exaggerated his descriptions of both his Grandpa and the place he lived. Martin, who lives in the city, created an idealized and embellished version of his Grandpa and the Rosebud Reservation, portraying them in a glamorous, almost mythical light to impress his friends.

2. Describe the things Martin got from Grandpa during one of his visits.

Answer: During one of his visits, Grandpa gave Martin various items that held cultural and familial significance. These included a pair of moccasins, which are traditional Native American footwear, and a peace pipe, which is a symbol of peace and an important element in Native American culture. These gifts were a way for Grandpa to share his heritage with Martin.

3. Give some details about Grandpa’s appearance that the narrator provides.

Answer: The narrator provides vivid details about Grandpa’s appearance, highlighting his traditional Native American attire. Grandpa wore a tall, black hat adorned with a feather, which is a significant symbol in many Native American cultures. His suit was black and rumpled, giving him a distinctive and somewhat out-of-place look in Martin’s suburban neighbourhood.

4. Under what circumstances did the narrator go to his grandpa in the street and guide him to his house?

Answer: The narrator, Martin, went to his grandpa in the street under unexpected and somewhat embarrassing circumstances. Grandpa had arrived unannounced at Martin’s suburban home, creating a scene in the street. Martin, feeling a mix of shame and surprise, had to navigate his internal conflict about his cultural identity and public image as he guided his grandpa to his house.

5. What happened when the narrator’s friends met Grandpa?

Answer: When the narrator’s friends unexpectedly met Grandpa, the encounter turned out to be a positive and transformative experience for Martin. Despite his initial apprehensions, Martin’s friends were respectful and impressed by Grandpa. This interaction significantly changed Martin’s perspective, helping him appreciate his heritage and Grandpa’s significance in his life.

6. Give an account of Grandpa’s journey from Dakota to Iowa.

Answer: Grandpa’s journey from Dakota to Iowa was a challenging and significant trip. He travelled a long distance, facing difficulties along the way. Despite these challenges, Grandpa was determined to reach Martin’s family in Iowa. His journey was a testament to his resilience and the importance he placed on connecting with his family and passing on his cultural heritage.

7. How and what did the narrator find in Grandpa’s boots?

Answer: The narrator, Martin, discovered money stuffed in Grandpa’s boots. This discovery was unexpected and revealed a poignant aspect of Grandpa’s character and situation. The money saved by Grandpa for his funeral expenses symbolised his practicality, foresight, and the sacrifices he made for his family.

8. What does Grandpa say about the money he has saved?

Answer: Grandpa explained that the money he had saved, which was found in his boots, was intended for his funeral expenses. However, he insisted that the family use the money for their needs instead. This gesture highlighted Grandpa’s selflessness and his desire not to be a burden on his family, reflecting his deep care and consideration for them.

9. How did Martin feel when Grandpa told him that he was to hand over the medicine bag to him?

Answer: When Grandpa told Martin that he was to hand over the medicine bag to him, Martin felt a mix of shock, apprehension, and responsibility. The medicine bag was a symbol of his heritage and family’s past, and its transfer represented a significant cultural and familial rite of passage. Martin’s initial reluctance gradually turned into acceptance and pride in his heritage.

10. What did Grandpa carry in the leather pouch around his neck?

Answer: Grandpa carried a unique and culturally significant item in the leather pouch around his neck: a shell of iron. This item was not only a family heirloom but also a symbol of his Native American culture and traditions. The Iron Shell held deep spiritual and historical significance, representing the enduring legacy of Grandpa’s ancestry and the heritage he wished to pass on to Martin.

Long Answer Questions

1. Explain the reason of Martin’s feeling upset upon finding his grandpa there near his house.

Answer: Martin is upset when he finds his grandpa near his house because he feels embarrassed by his grandfather’s appearance and behaviour. Martin has portrayed a glorified image of his grandfather to his friends, and he fears that the real appearance and behaviour of his grandfather, who does not conform to the stereotypes often shown on television, will disappoint his friends and damage his own reputation among them.

2. How does the narrator describe the commotion in the street at the time of Grandpa’s arrival there?

Answer: The narrator describes the commotion in the street during Grandpa’s arrival as a noisy and confusing situation. This commotion is caused by the unusual appearance of Grandpa, which attracts attention and perhaps causes a disturbance among the people in the neighborhood. This scene emphasises the cultural and generational contrasts between Grandpa and the more modern, urban environment he enters.

3. What happens before Grandpa is taken to the bed?

Answer: Before Grandpa is taken to bed, he experiences a moment of weakness and requires assistance. This incident reveals his frailty and possibly the exhaustion from his journey. It is a moment that underscores the vulnerability of Grandpa and perhaps initiates a change in Martin’s perception of him, leading to a deeper understanding and respect for his grandfather.

4. Give an account of Grandpa’s journey from Dakota to the narrator’s house.

Answer: Grandpa’s journey from Dakota to the narrator’s house is depicted as a challenging and arduous trip. He travels a long distance, reflecting his determination and commitment to visit his family. This journey symbolises the bridging of cultural and generational gaps as Grandpa brings with him the traditions and values of his Native American heritage to his family living in a different cultural environment.

5. Why does Grandpa want to give the medicine bag to Martin? What is Martin’s reaction to learning this?

Answer: Grandpa wants to give the medicine bag to Martin as it symbolises the passing down of cultural heritage and family traditions. The medicine bag holds significant emotional and cultural value, representing a connection to their Native American roots. Martin’s initial reaction is one of shock and reluctance, as he feels unprepared and hesitant to carry this significant symbol of his heritage. However, this eventually turns into acceptance and pride as he understands its importance.

6. Give a description of Grandpa’s outlook and behaviour after Martin’s friend Hank tells him about his brother’s meeting with the old man.

Answer: After Martin’s friend Hank mentions his brother’s meeting with Grandpa, Grandpa’s outlook and behaviour demonstrate a mix of dignity, cultural pride, and wisdom. He is portrayed as someone who, despite his old age and different cultural background, understands how to adapt and interact respectfully with the younger generation. This interaction highlights Grandpa’s ability to bridge the cultural divide and positively influence Martin’s friends.

7. Explain the vision quest of Grandpa’s father.

Answer: The vision quest of Grandpa’s father is a significant cultural and spiritual journey, fundamental to Native American traditions. During this quest, he seeks spiritual guidance and a deeper connection with nature and his cultural roots. This quest is symbolic of the search for personal and cultural identity, and it plays a crucial role in the transfer of traditions and values within Grandpa’s family.

8. Write a note on Iron Shell’s life.

Answer: Iron Shell, an important figure in the story, led a life deeply rooted in Native American culture and traditions. His life represents the perseverance and strength of character necessary to maintain cultural integrity and heritage. Iron Shell’s experiences, particularly his vision quest and the creation of the medicine bag, are pivotal in preserving and passing down the family’s traditions and values to future generations. His life story is a testament to the importance of cultural heritage and identity.

Extra MCQs

1. Where did Martin and his sister Cheryl visit every summer?

A. New York B. South Dakota C. Los Angeles D. Chicago

Answer: B. South Dakota

2. What did Cheryl get from Grandpa during one visit?

A. A drum B. A bag C. Moccasins D. A hat

Answer: C. Moccasins

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25. How do Martin’s friends react upon meeting Grandpa?

A. They laugh at him B. They ignore him C. They are scared of him D. They are impressed by him

Answer: D. They are impressed by him

26. What is the overall message of the story?

A. Appreciate your elders B. Modern life is better C. Respect cultural heritage D. Let go of old traditions

Answer: C. Respect cultural heritage

Extra questions and answers

1. Where did the narrator Martin and his sister live?

Answer: Martin and his sister Cheryl lived in Iowa with their parents.

2. How often did Martin and Cheryl visit their grandfather?

Answer: Martin and Cheryl visited their grandfather every summer on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

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22. How does the character of Cheryl contrast with her brother, the protagonist, in their attitudes towards their grandfather?

Answer: Cheryl’s character contrasts with her brother’s through her uninhibited acceptance and pride in their grandfather. Unlike the protagonist, who initially feels embarrassed and conflicted about his grandfather’s traditional appearance and customs, Cheryl shows no such reservations. She openly embraces and is proud of her heritage, evident in her eagerness to introduce her friends to their grandfather. This contrast highlights the varying responses to cultural heritage within the same family, and Cheryl’s attitude helps in shifting her brother’s perspective.

23. Discuss the significance of the protagonist’s internal conflict regarding his identity. How does this conflict drive the narrative?

Answer: The protagonist’s internal conflict regarding his identity is a driving force in the narrative. This conflict, rooted in his struggle to balance his urban American lifestyle with his Sioux heritage, shapes his character development. Initially, this conflict manifests in his embarrassment about his grandfather, but as the story unfolds, he begins to understand and appreciate the depth and richness of his heritage. The resolution of this conflict, symbolized by his acceptance of the medicine bag, signifies his journey towards self-acceptance and cultural pride.

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