Here, you will find a summary and questions/answers to drama (one act play) “The Boy Comes Home” by A. A. Milne which is a part of Class 12 Alternative English syllabus for students studying under the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE).
Summary: “The Boy Comes Home” by A. A. Milne is a comedy. The drama examines the issues associated with the generation gap. The older generation believes that the younger generation is immature and unaware of its responsibilities to its family and society. In fact, the younger generation is more responsible and mature. It also shows respect for the elderly. Philip is a twenty-three-year-old young man who has just returned from four years in the war. James, his uncle, is looking after him. He adores his aunt Emily. Uncle James is a man of tight discipline. He seeks perfection in all aspects of his life.
At 10:00 a.m., Philip enters the dining room for breakfast. Breakfast should not be served after 8 a.m., according to Uncle James’ regulation. As a result, Philip discovers nothing on the table. When he requests that Mary, the parlour maid, bring him some boiled eggs and a cup of tea, she responds that Mrs Higgins, the chef, may not accept this. Meanwhile, his aunt Emily arrives. She is a lovely lady. Philip is smitten with her. He communicates his affection for her while also expressing his disdain for Uncle James’ commanding demeanour.
When Marry comes from the kitchen, she informs Aunt Emily that Mrs Higgins wishes to speak with her. Philip stops her as she is ready to depart and asks Marry to bring Mrs Higgins. This action demonstrates his maturity in dealing with the servants. Mrs Higgins claims that breakfast has been served at eight o’clock in the morning since she came and that she cannot modify it until she receives an order from the master. The disagreement has reached the point where Mrs Higgins has issued a one-month notice. Philips instantly responds by handing her a check for one month’s salary in advance and instructing the chef to resign from her job and leave the house.
Mrs Higgins is surprised by his conduct. She immediately alters her demeanour and brings breakfast to Philip. Aunt Emily notes the transformation Philip has undergone since the war. Philip handles this problem diplomatically and authoritatively, demonstrating that he is no longer the youngster who fled home four years ago.
Philip makes his way to the dining area to eat his breakfast. Uncle James walks in and tells Aunt Emily that he has been waiting for Philip to talk about the business for a long time. He shares his hope that Philip will join the company when the time is appropriate. When Aunt Emily advises that he inquire about Philip’s readiness, he dismisses the idea, claiming that four years of army service would not result in a change in his maturity level. Uncle James is adamant that the army would not give Philip decision-making skills, implying that he will be unable to choose a career for his future.
Aunt Emily requests that Uncle James wait for Philip until he has finished his breakfast. Uncle James falls asleep and has a dream in which he sees Philip as a rough young man smoking a pipe in front of his uncle. He demands the money that Philip’s father left for him. Despite the fact that Uncle James has already assured Philip that he will pay the money as soon as he is twenty-five, he requests it. To demonstrate his maturity in handling his father’s money, he recounts an episode in Somme.
The Somme was the battleground where Philip’s company would launch an attack the following day. They were in a trench. The German army attacked, and the leader desired to flee. However, he did not obtain approval from the C.O. The commander was assassinated the next day. Philip was appointed as the new commander. He had three choices. They might initially remain there and await further directions. Second, they may defy the C.O. and relocate to another trench. Third, he may meet with the C.O. and explain the problem. He was in a precarious situation. Many soldiers’ lives depended on him. He transferred the company to another trench, returned to the C.O., and described the issue before returning to the company.
He’s learned a lot from his time in the service. He was a young man with little experience before going to war. He merely carried out the directions. He is mature enough to make his own decision after four years of experience. When Uncle James invites him to join the jam business, he declines. He expresses an interest in studying architecture. He even threatens Uncle James with a revolver, and when Uncle James protests, he pulls out a bomb. Uncle James gladly agrees to accomplish his will. Uncle James awakens to discover that he has been having a dream.
Uncle James awakens from his slumber to find Philip entering the room in reality. Uncle James is terrified by the dream. Philip apologises for being late. With his consent, he lights his pipe. Uncle James talks about his future plans. Philip is adamant that he will not wear the outfit again. Uncle James inquires if he wishes to pursue a career in architecture.
Philip is perplexed by this suggestion. He denies it, claiming that he has passed that age. When Uncle James asks Philip whether he wants to join the jam business, he agrees without hesitation. He informs Uncle James that he wants to sell the revolver because it has no purpose in London. Uncle James feels relieved since Philip does not behave as he did in the dream. Uncle James’ perspective toward Philip and the youthful generation alters as a result of the dream.
Answer the following questions briefly.
1. How does the playwright describe Aunt Emily?
Answer: Aunt Emily is described by the playwright in the play “The Boy Comes Home” as a kind-hearted mid-Victorian lady who has never wanted to vote.
2. What is the central conflict in the play and which characters are party to it?
Answer: The central conflict in ‘The Boy Comes Home’ is the generation gap and the social crisis that defined postwar England. Master Philip and Uncle James are the main characters in the conflict.
3. How does Uncle James threaten Philip?
Answer: In his dream, Uncle James threatened Philip that he would not give him the allowance his father had left for him. Uncle James stated that he had the authority to determine what to do with the allowances.
Explain the following lines with reference to the context.
1. ‘All you young boys seem to think you’ve come back from France to teach us our business. You’ll find that it is you who will have to learn, not we.’
a. What does this statement indicate about the speaker?
Answer: The speaker in the given statement is Uncle James from A.A. Milne’s play “The Boy Comes Home.” Here, he accuses Philip of behaving badly after returning from four years of war and believes that Philip should learn to fit in with modern society and respect others. The statement implies that the speaker believes that young people returning from war are acting above their station and disrespecting social norms at home. We also understand that the speaker was one of those people who were at home during the war and felt that they had done more on their part by contributing through their hard work and taxes for the soldiers and thus felt exploited.
b. What social problem is being highlighted with the statement?
Answer: The social problem highlighted in the extracted statement from the play “The Boy Comes Home” is primarily the psychological difference between the old and young generations, where the old is an authoritarian and proposes strict discipline, while the younger generation is filled with dreams and ready for adventures and experiences. The older ones regard the younger ones as schoolboys and believe that the older generations should make all decisions for them.
2. ‘You’ll find that juries have kept pretty much the same idea, I fancy.’
a. Who makes this statement and why?
Answer: The given statement is spoken by Uncle James in the play “The Boy Comes Home,” when he was responding to Master Philip when they were discussing the sanctity of human life. Uncle James is shaken by Philip’s statement that he is not afraid to use his revolver to get his way when confronted by his Uncle’s authority, and he attempts to convince Philip that force has no place in their home now that the war is over. We discover that Philip’s four years in the army has altered his personality and he is not afraid to use force because he has discovered that it works everywhere. His Uncle is pointing out that if he pulls the trigger, the law will undoubtedly punish him.
b. What is the time period being implied in this statement?
Answer: The author depicts the political and economic situation of the time, when young men were returning home after a war and the older ones thought them to be undisciplined and proud, and that they should teach them about the ways of the world and its social norms. We find opposing viewpoints of the young and old who are competing to come over as the ones who have contributed the most during the wartime effort: the ones at home giving their strengths at the frontline. The end result was a confrontation between the two, with each using force to control the other.
Answer the following questions in detail.
1. Prepare a character sketch of Philip.
Answer: Master Philip is a twenty-three-year-old carefree and joyful type of person in A.A Milne’s play “The Boy Comes Home.” He is very close to his aunt Emily, but he is not at ease in the company of his guardian, Uncle James, because he is a strict man who wants to live a disciplined life. He is the play’s main protagonist, a youthful hero with an ideal personality who knows how to manage and control people.
Philip proves his skill when he summons the rude and arrogant Mrs Higgins, whom everyone appears to fear, by ordering breakfast that she refuses to serve. However, he persuades her by cutting a check and firing her from her job, which causes her attitude to shift. Philip also respects his Uncle and joins him in his business. Uncle James surrenders before Philip in a dream and gets him into his business through word of instruction and anything of his liking. From thematic and symbolic standpoints, it appears that the playwright has even more serious concerns about society and extremism while delineating the character of Philip. The character of Philip depicts what happens to the same old values and honourable things that we do in general during the war. He mocks us all by exposing the heinous face of war and heroism in the face of war. Philip’s character is a living example of how war destroys innocence and teaches brutality.
2. Why does Uncle James think Philip’s service in the war is not of great importance?
Answer: In the play “The Boy Comes Home”, uncle James believes Philip’s service in the war was insignificant because he believes Philip learned little during his time on the front lines. He sees him as a young schoolboy who is unconcerned about social norms and discipline in a civil society. To Uncle James, Philip has returned exactly as he left home, still unrefined to fit into modern society. Uncle James believes Philip’s service in the war was insignificant because he believes Philip learned little during his time on the frontlines. He sees him as a young schoolboy who is unconcerned about social norms and discipline in a civil society. To Uncle James, Philip has returned exactly as he left home, still unrefined to fit into modern society.
3. Why does Philip say he has turned twenty-five?
Answer: Philip claims to have turned twenty-five when he was attempting to demonstrate to his Uncle that he has matured sufficiently to live an independent life on his own. This conversation occurs when Uncle James refuses to give Philip the allowances or rather the inheritance left behind by Philip’s father before his death, which was kept under Uncle James’ guardianship with the clear instruction that it should be given when Philip turns twenty-five. Philip must have gone through physical and emotional turmoil during the long four-year war in France with the Germans, making difficult decisions and taking lives. In some ways, we can be certain that Philip eventually matured as a true man as a result of his experiences as a leader to his troops and setting examples on numerous occasions when taking command of a life-or-death situation. The horrors of war clearly shaped Master Philip into a young but true man who has witnessed the extremes of what a man can do to another man on the battlefield.
4. Explain the generation gap in society in the context of the conflict between Uncle James and Philip regarding the latter’s employment.
Answer: Through the play, the playwright has cleverly depicted the sharp contrasting conflict between the generations in society when two people representing different generations are put together. Towards the end of the play, Uncle James is attempting to place Philip in employment who believes that he should take charge and eliminate other choices that Philip may make, which may indicate the persuasive role played by the older generation in suffocating the new dreams of the younger generation through economic and social morality powers and norms. We start to comprehend the opposing roles played by both protagonists, who use their own power of force to contradict one another. Perhaps, just as in Uncle James’ dream, where Philip is willing to sacrifice another four years to study and become an architect, Philip’s zeal to even go to the extent of losing another equal long four years to achieve his dreams is crushed by Uncle James’ authoritarian weight, who wants him to start earning. Following the dream, the entire scene becomes ironic, as Philip agrees to his Uncle’s wish and decides to join the jam production company owned by his Uncle, thus crushing the young generation’s dream of achieving what they have truly aspired for.
Think and discuss
1. Who did you sympathise more with in this play- Uncle James or Philip? Give reasons.
Answer: I’d rather sympathise with Philip. We find him to be a jovial and decisive character, and as the play progresses, we see that he also has dreams of his own. Though we are unsure of what he truly desires, Uncle James’ dream indicates that he wishes to be an architect.
Philip dislikes his Uncle’s authoritative demeanour and strict house discipline; he treats Philip like a schoolboy and believes that he should make all decisions for Philip, ready to use his patronage. Uncle James also uses monetary power to refuse to give Philip the money left to him by his father. However, we see that Philip has matured sufficiently, as stated by Aunt Emily herself, who claims that the war has made him a man now. Philip has mastered the art of dealing with others and is now capable of making his own decisions. We feel sorry for Philip and see him as one of many young people who are dictated by the authority of the older generation.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. Write a note about Philip’s character.
Answer: Philip is the play’s main character. He is a pleasant-looking 23-year-old man. He is a visitor to his uncle’s home. His uncle serves as his guardian. Philip has just returned from the front lines. He now considers himself mature and wishes to be treated as such.
He aspires to be the master of his own will. He also believes in the policy of using force to subdue others; he is skilled at subduing others. Philips is anti-war and anti-military life. Perhaps the war has turned him into a defiant and reactor. He no longer enjoys strict discipline and orders. He wakes up late and demands breakfast before the appointed time. When James reminds him of the importance of punctuality, he announces that he is leaving his house. Philip is the play’s main source of amusement and fun.
He’s very witty, funny, and entertaining. In a nutshell, Philip is a powerful and domineering character. At the end of the play, we admire him for his obedient, gentle, and submissive demeanour.
2. Write a short note on the character of Uncle James.
Answer: Uncle James is a pivotal figure in the play. He is Philip’s guardian. He is uninteresting and unattractive. He is a strict enforcer of the rules. He is always under the impression that others must be punctual, civilised, and submissive. He does not allow anyone to challenge him.
Uncle James adheres to traditional values and practices. His wife convinces him that Philip is no longer an immature adolescent, but rather a mature adult. Uncle James is baffled by Philip’s transformation. As a result, he attempts to impose his will on him through thick and thin. As a result, he receives tit for tat. Uncle James is pleased with his generation. He considers the older generation to be wiser and more practical than the younger. James has a distinct personality. He appears to be brave, but he is actually a coward.
Philip shudders and knocks down for mercy when he sees a revolver and a bomb. However, after seeing the dream, he becomes a different person. He learns to be respectful, polite, and considerate of Philip. In fact, the dream enlightens and enlightens him. When the events of his dream come back to him, he laughs heartily. We dislike him at the start of the play because he is strict, rigid, coercive, and uncivilised. But, by the end of the play, his new behaviour has won our hearts.
3. What are your thoughts on the play’s title?
Answer: The title of the A. A. Milne’s play “The Boy Comes Home” refers to a boy who has returned home after a long absence. This boy happens to be Philip, a young British soldier who has been fighting in France. He is a promising young man with a strong and pleasant personality. He is twenty-three years old and has learned a lot from his wartime experiences. His personality has matured, and he is unaffected by any situation. When he returns home, he finds himself at odds with his guardian’s strict personality and his unbending rules at home. The entire plot revolves around how he handles the conversation with his uncle. This conversation occurs as frequently in reality as it does in Uncle James’ dream. Uncle James’s insecurity and sense of inadequacy in front of a young man compel him to succumb to his nephew’s demands.
4. Discuss the episode of the breakfast?
Answer: In the beginning of the play “The Boy Comes Home” Philip wakes up late in the morning because he had just returned home the night before. He summons the parlour maid, Marry, and requests that she bring him breakfast. Marry informs him that the breakfast was cleared away an hour ago. Philip claims that he is aware of it, which is why he has called her. He orders two eggs and ham, as well as coffee rather than tea… Marry pauses and says she’s not sure what Mrs Higgins will say. Marry informs him that breakfast at eight a.m. is still the rule in this house, just as it was before he went to war. Philip says, with a smile, that he did a lot of stupid things before going to war. Aunt Emily enters after Marry leaves. She is a gentlewoman who never asserts herself. She discusses general topics with Philip. Marry returns and informs Aunt Emily that Mrs Higgins wishes to see her. Philip immediately steps in and asks Marry to inform Mrs Higgins to come there. Aunt Emily pauses and says, “I’m not sure what Mrs Higgins will say.” Philip says cheerfully that he wants to know what she will say once and for all.
An extremely aggressive lady enters and talks to Philip in a domineering manner, telling him that she will not make any breakfast after 8 a.m. Philip addresses her in a commanding tone and instructs her to prepare breakfast. She demands that she be given advance notice of the implementation of a new rule in the home. Philip gives her her wages instead of notice and tells her she can leave at any time. This is a successful strategy, and she is greatly intimidated. Finally, she says, “If it’s just a little breakfast, I don’t say but what I might not get if asked decently.”
This episode establishes the tone for the entire play by demonstrating the strength of Philip’s personality. Furthermore, it demonstrates that no one will be able to force him to agree to his or her wishes.
5. Describe Uncle James’ dream?
Answer: In the play “The Boy Comes Home” Philip returns to his uncle’s house after a four-year absence. There, he is welcomed by the strict adherence to his uncle’s irrational rules. Philip’s father has passed away, and Uncle James is now his guardian. Uncle James wishes to discuss Philip’s future with him on the first morning following his arrival.
Uncle is an old-fashioned man with traditional views on how to treat young children. He believes he can order Philip to do whatever he wants. He is a short-statured man with an unimpressive physical appearance, but he has cocooned himself in severity. His inner weakness clashes with his outward severity, causing him to have a strange dream. Because of his unconscious fear and insecurity, he sees Philip as a rude and bullying boy who tries to get his demands met with the threat of a gun. His nightmare is filled with violence and threats. He sees himself completely subjugated in the face of his arrogant nephew’s terrorization and use of weapons. He imagines Philip as a brazen and impertinent man who will go to any length.
Uncle James is so engrossed in his dream that he is unable to recognise that it is merely a fantasy. Uncle is negatively influenced by the dream, and when Philip speaks to him in real life, he acts in a very kind and considerate manner in order to avoid the menacing situation of his dream. Uncle James’ conscious and unconscious minds merge to form his dream, which then directs his subsequent real attitude.
6. What was the play’s main conflict?
Answer: The two main characters in the play “The Boy Comes Home” are uncle James and Philip. They represent a range of ages and generations. Their worldviews and ways of thinking are diametrically opposed. Their assessments and motivations differ.
The main conflict in the play is over the boy, Philip, who has recently left the army and is now free. The boy is energetic and willing to try anything, whereas his uncle is traditional and prefers to lead the boy by the nose. Both the boy and his uncle want to have their own say in this matter. The boy wants to make a bold decision and become an architect, whereas his uncle prefers to stay on the beaten path and invites him to join his business. Here begins a heated and violent argument. The boy employs the power of a weapon, whereas the uncle proposes the use of the power of a purse. His uncle is threatened and bluffed by the boy. He uses a revolver and bombs to make his point, and he eventually convinces his uncle to listen to him as well. As a result, the uncle agrees to the boy’s wish, and the boy agrees to his uncle’s wish.
The entire dream is a psychological study of a middle-aged man who is experiencing internal conflict. His unconscious causes him to have a dream that weakens him, and he submits to the boy.
7. What were the uncle’s expectations for the boy?
Answer: Uncle James is Philip’s guardian in the play “The Boy Comes Home”, and he tries to sway his decision about his future. Uncle James is a traditionalist who does not allow others to express themselves. His servants and wife have all completely obeyed his orders. That’s why he expects Philip to act similarly. The boy is a very strong and decisive individual who cannot be led by his nose. As a result, his uncle’s expectations of him are unfounded. This is something he is aware of subconsciously because, in his dream, he sees Philip as a rude and violent boy, but the boy is not like this. His uncle imagines him as a stubborn and haughty man, but he immediately agrees to his uncle’s suggestion. So Uncle James’ expectations are flimsy and unfounded, and they all turn out to be incorrect. All of these expectations expose his own mental tangles and frailties. He bullies Philip into joining his business, believing that he will refuse. Then he imagines himself as a violent rogue. Philip, on the other hand, does not live up to any of his expectations and proves to be a sensible boy with proper manners.
8. What role does the dream play in the drama “The Boy Comes Home”?
Answer: For a variety of reasons, the dreams sequence is crucial in the play “The Boy Comes Home.” The first and most important reason is that it appears very awkward and immoral for a nephew to point a revolver at his uncle and force him to kneel and beg for his life. That is why the author used a dream sequence to describe this awkward and immoral situation. He convinces the reader that everything has happened in a dream and that he should not take it seriously.
Second, we see that the dream sequence puts an end to the feud between Philip and Uncle James. Uncle James’s commanding demeanour and strict discipline irritate Philip. He’d like to live somewhere else. He wants his money and wants to learn a trade. Uncle James, on the other hand, does not want to give him the money until he is 25. Uncle James appears to be a different man after his dream. There is no longer any conflict between them. He has matured into a rational being. He now understands the issues confronting today’s youth.
9. How has Philip’s personality changed as a result of the war?
Answer: The war had a profound effect on Philip’s personality. Philip was just like any other inexperienced young man before going to war. He’s matured into a man now. Before going to war, he used to do what he was told. He is now responsible for his own actions, and no one can tell him what to do. He’s learned a few things from his time in the army. He’s not the same person he used to be. He’s learned how to deal with people now. Mrs Higgins is taken aback by how well he handles her. He has also learned to use power to his advantage. As a result, we can conclude that the war had a significant impact on Philip’s personality. He has matured into a man. He’s learned how to deal with people and use force against force.