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Look At A Teacup – Summary | Magic of Words

Unit-2: Men, Women and Children
Chapter 3: Look At A Teacup [Patricia Hampl]


‘Look at a teacup’ depicts the effect of II world war and cultural change in the post-war period. Description of art, loss of faith in marriage and gap in attitude are the major concern of this story. The teacup is the symbol of tradition, art and culture and its fading color indicates the declining traditional ethos (norms). Patricia Hampl explains the teacup which was bought in 1939 by her mother. 1939 was the marriage year of her mother. It was also the beginning year of the 2nd world war. Her mother had bought many teacups and saucers from the sale market.

They were made in Czechoslovakia and had stamped on the bottom. Patricia says that at present there is tea in a cup and from outside the level of tea can be easily seen. There is also a thin band of gold around the edges of the saucer and cup. There is also a band of gold on the inner circle of the saucer, but it has been worn out. The cup is in a water-pale green color and shiny. No, any two flowers are the same. Inside the cup different flowers are scattered, some are at the bottom. Because of fine decorations, teacup and saucer are bright, delicate and definite.

Patricia Hampl says that nothing sad full situation occurred in her mother’s life. For the mother’s family life, the happiness of her husband and children were important but Hampl’s work was most important. Mother desires marriage, husband, and family for daughter. Hampl says that her separation with mother might begin when she found her parents kissing and hugging each other. During the Second World War, her mother was happy in her family, although there was great destruction outside. The mother wants to talk about the present but Hampl goes back to the past.

Each piece of the past takes her back to think about the destruction of war. She wants to write history of the 2nd world war. Patricia has got all the cups and saucers from her mother. Patricia wants to know all about the past but her mother doesn’t like to talk about it. Mother asked her daughter to look ahead; it means marriage, family, and children. In her time, sexuality was impossible before marriage. But, just the opposite of it, marriage is painful for Hampl. It’s just falling into the net. She wants to live without doing marriage.

Patricia Hampl says that 1939 was the period of the end. Everything fell down this year. There was fear of the bomb. Millions of life and property were destroyed. After the war, marriage and conjugal life collapsed. People lost their faith in marriage. Hample argues that to write history teacups and her mother’s description and attitudes were enough? Looking at teacup could explore total history. ‘Look at the teacup’ is the highly significant story as it gives a total description of the deadly effect of the 2nd world war, fading culture and tradition, loss of faith in marriage, and the generation gap.

For mother marriage, family life, decoration of the house and planning for a happy future are important. She has not even thought about marriage. The teacup is a symbol of past, speaks and total history. It s fading color indicates declining cultural norms and values. Falling flowers stand for the death and destruction of the 2nd world war. For mother, the teacup is the continuation of family life but for daughter it the history, which is full of terror, death, and destruction.

Short Answer Questions

1. Explain the statement “Many things fell that year”.

The essay/ story, “Look at a Teacup” tells something of being a woman. The writer Patricia Hampl is also a woman, thus translates the female realities in the story. In the essay, she divides the women into two parts: one who is like her mother who involves in marriage, sex, romance, and family affairs and the like herself who never like these stereotypical female roles. She is the one who seeks the identity of the women who see thinks is possible by not putting bras, lipsticks, and by sleeping on the bed with their husbands but by working.

Thus the essay speaks something of being a woman. Hampl indeed is various serious about a woman. Being a woman doesn’t mean that they have to be the tool of romance and machine to breed children. Therefore, she doesn’t like marriage. She thinks, the modern women never can create the history of their own race by involving in the traditional more thank that. Thus, Hampl’s story is the story of women who lack voice and confidence because they accept the roles. She says being a woman is more than that or not that.

Hampl says that in the generation of Hampl’s mother, there was great faith in marriage and family relations. The traditional women wanted to hand over their traditions and culture to their daughters. They considered that women should marry for sexual relations. For the family life was greater than work. But modern women don’t families for them. Marriage and family life is a tragedy for her generation. Thus the essay tries to explore the female identity.

2. What does the story tell us about being a woman?

The phrase “many things fell that year” is quite meaningful in the essay. Indeed the essay is written in the periscope of the Second World War. That year 1939, the year when the Second World War started, when many things got devastated: culture, the faith of the people in life, environment, religion, lives, bombs, property and hopes not only the flowers into teacup or bodies in the bed.

The war caused many things to fall, for example, human bodies fell dead in the streets by falling bombs. The writer has related all the falling through the design of the fallings of flowers of the cup. As the flower seems to fall the cup, many other things also fell down. “Many things fell that year” also means many things lost their values. For example, in the year 1939, countries cities, industries, etc. fell. In Europe, many people’s bodies fell after they were killed by bombs and bullets.

Bombs and bullets fell on innocent women and children so people’s faith in traditional values has been destroyed. Their belief in marriage has also been fallen. Countries were captured by other enemies. Fallings of bombs and bullets declined the destiny of women. So, with the falling of the different countries, the art, culture, architecture was also destroyed. The morality of the people of that time was also dead.

The sentence “Many things fell that year” also refers to people falling into marriage and falling onto their marriage beds together. Many people got married in 1939 because they were worried about the war. Men were worried that they could be killed. So, they got married before they were sent away to fight. In this way, many people married that year and after marriage, they slept together.

That is the falling of bodies in bed and also the falling of virginity of the woman who slept together with their husband for the first time. The writer’s mother also married at that time, so she also lost her virginity. Even the arts of making flowers in the cup fell or came to an end when the country itself destroyed. In this way, many things fell that year.

Long Answer Questions

1. What does the essay tell us about marriage?

Hampl says that in the generation of Hampl’s mother, there was great faith in marriage and family relations before marriage. The traditional women wanted to hand over their traditions and culture to their daughters. They considered that women should marry for sexual relations. For the family life was greater than work. But modern women don’t follow the traditional values and work is greater than families for modern women. Marriage and family life is a tragedy for Hampl’s generation.

According to the writer, Hampl before the Second World War marriage and family life was considered a great thing. The mother used to hand over culture and their possession to their daughter. Hampl’s mother also did the same thing as other women used to do. Her mother gave her teacup as a gift. The teacup reminds the writer of her mother’s marriage, a happy life, etc. They didn’t have sexual relations before marriage.

This essay also tells us about the importance of happy family life before the Second World War. But during the Second World War, many married women lost their husbands and family members on the battlefield and compelled to fall in the beds of strange ones and these women cursed themselves of being women. After the Second World War, the importance of married life fell down. The Second World War caused fear in young women. Married life means to means to Hampl and Hampl’s generation is a tragedy.

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