On the Face of It

by

Susan Hill

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on On the Face of It can help.
The other protagonist of On the Face of It, Derry (whose full name is Derek) is a boy of fourteen with a badly burned face. Of the accident that left him scarred, all he says is “I got acid all down that side of my face and it burned it all away. It ate my face up.” Because of this, people treat him differently—he complains that others fear and pity him, and usually actively avoid him. This has led Derry to isolate himself and create a tough, reserved exterior. He wants to avoid being hurt, and so he avoids everyone he can, and when he does interact with other people he is both wary and angrily defiant. He also has internalized the way others see him and seems to consider himself monstrous because of his disability. He assumes that the world is a harsh and alienating place, and acts accordingly—for example, climbing over Mr. Lamb’s garden wall instead of checking the gate, which is always left open. At first Derry assumes that Mr. Lamb will treat him like other people do, but he is soon intrigued by the old man’s “peculiar” questions and open nature, suggesting that Derry does in fact long for human connection even as he fears the potential pain of being rejected. This is confirmed when Derry runs away from his mother—who, it’s suggested, treats him with a dehumanizing kind of pity—to go back to Mr. Lamb’s garden, where he just wants to sit and talk with the old man.

Derry Quotes in On the Face of It

The On the Face of It quotes below are all either spoken by Derry or refer to Derry. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the National Council of Education Research and Training edition of On the Face of It published in 2015.
Scene One Quotes

DERRY: I thought it was empty….an empty house.

MR LAMB: So it is. Since I’m out here in the garden. It is empty. Until I go back inside. In the meantime, I’m out here and likely to stop. A day like this. Beautiful day. Not a day to be indoors.

DERRY: [Panic] I’ve got to go.

MR LAMB: Not on my account. I don’t mind who comes into the garden. The gate’s always open. Only you climbed the garden wall.

DERRY: [Angry] You were watching me.

MR LAMB: I saw you. But the gate’s open. All welcome. You’re welcome. I sit here. I like sitting.

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

MR LAMB: You want me to ask….say so, then.

DERRY: I don’t like being with people. Any people.

MR LAMB: I should say….to look at it…. I should say, you got burned in a fire.

DERRY: Not in a fire. I got acid all down that side of my face and it burned it all away. It ate my face up. It ate me up. And now it’s like this and it won’t ever be any different.

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

MR LAMB: Some call them weeds. If you like, then….a weed garden, that. There’s fruit and there are flowers, and trees and herbs. All sorts. But over there….weeds. I grow weeds there. Why is one green, growing plant called a weed and another ‘flower’? Where’s the difference. It’s all life….growing. Same as you and me.

DERRY: We’re not the same.

MR LAMB: I’m old. You’re young. You’ve got a burned face, I’ve got a tin leg. Not important. You’re standing there…. I’m sitting here. Where’s the difference?

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Related Symbols: Weeds
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

DERRY: […] Do you know, one day, a woman went by me in the street — I was at a bus-stop — and she was with another woman, and she looked at me, and she said….whispered….only I heard her…. she said, “Look at that, that’s a terrible thing. That’s a face only a mother could love.”

MR LAMB: So you believe everything you hear, then?

DERRY: It was cruel.

[…]

MR LAMB: And is that the only thing you ever heard anyone say, in your life?

DERRY: Oh no! I’ve heard a lot of things.

MR LAMB: So now you keep your ears shut.

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

DERRY: I don’t like being near people. When they stare….when I see them being afraid of me.

MR LAMB: You could lock yourself up in a room and never leave it. There was a man who did that. He was afraid, you see. Of everything. Everything in this world. A bus might run him over, or a man might breathe deadly germs onto him, or a donkey might kick him to death, or lightning might strike him down, or he might love a girl and the girl would leave him, and he might slip on a banana skin and fall and people who saw him would laugh their heads off. So he went into this room, and locked the door, and got into his bed, and stayed there.

DERRY: For ever?

MR LAMB: For a while.

DERRY: Then what?

MR LAMB: A picture fell off the wall on to his head and killed him.

[Derry laughs a lot]

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Page Number: 61-62
Explanation and Analysis:

MR LAMB: I’m not fond of curtains. Shutting things out, shutting things in. I like the light and the darkness, and the windows open, to hear the wind.

DERRY: Yes. I like that. When it’s raining, I like to hear it on the roof.

MR LAMB: So you’re not lost, are you? Not altogether? You do hear things. You listen.

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

DERRY: Do you have any friends?

MR LAMB: Hundreds.

DERRY: But you live by yourself in that house. It’s a big house, too.

MR LAMB: Friends everywhere. People come in…. everybody knows me. The gate’s always open. They come and sit here. And in front of the fire in winter. Kids come for the apples and pears. And for toffee. I make toffee with honey. Anybody comes. So have you.

DERRY: But I’m not a friend.

MR LAMB: Certainly you are. As far as I’m concerned. What have you done to make me think you’re not?

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

DERRY: Those other people who come here….do they talk to you? Ask you things?

MR LAMB: Some do, some don’t. I ask them. I like to learn.

DERRY: I don’t believe in them. I don’t think anybody ever comes. You’re here all by yourself and miserable and no one would know if you were alive or dead and nobody cares.

MR LAMB: You think what you please.

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

DERRY: I think you’re daft….crazy….

MR LAMB: That’s a good excuse.

DERRY: What for? You don’t talk sense.

MR LAMB: Good excuse not to come back. And you’ve got a burned-up face, and that’s other people’s excuse.

DERRY: You’re like the others, you like to say things like that. If you don’t feel sorry for my face, you’re frightened of it, and if you’re not frightened, you think I’m ugly as a devil. I am a devil. Don’t you? [Shouts]

[Mr Lamb does not reply. He has gone to his bees.]

DERRY: [Quietly] No. You don’t. I like it here.

Related Characters: Mr. Lamb (speaker), Derry (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Two Quotes

DERRY: I hate it here.

MOTHER: You can’t help the things you say. I forgive you. It’s bound to make you feel bad things….and say them. I don’t blame you.

DERRY: It’s got nothing to do with my face and what I look like. I don’t care about that and it isn’t important. It’s what I think and feel and what I want to see and find out and hear. And I’m going back there. Only to help him with the crab apples. Only to look at things and listen. But I’m going.

MOTHER: You’ll stop here.

DERRY: Oh no, oh no. Because if I don’t go back there, I’ll never go anywhere in this world again.

[The door slams. Derry runs, panting.]

And I want the world….I want it….I want it….

Related Characters: Derry (speaker), Derry’s Mother (speaker), Mr. Lamb
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Three Quotes

DERRY: […] Mr Lamb, It’s all right….You fell….I’m here, Mr Lamb, It’s all right.

[Silence]

I came back. Lamey-Lamb. I did…..come back.

[Derry begins to weep.]

Related Characters: Derry (speaker), Mr. Lamb
Page Number: 68-69
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire On the Face of It LitChart as a printable PDF.
On the Face of It PDF

Derry Character Timeline in On the Face of It

The timeline below shows where the character Derry appears in On the Face of It. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene One
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
...is sitting in his garden on a beautiful September day. There he sees a boy, Derry, walking through the long grass. Mr. Lamb calls to him to be careful not to... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Derry gets defensive that Mr. Lamb was watching him, and declares that he doesn’t want to... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Mr. Lamb asks why other people might be afraid of Derry, and Derry says he knows they always are, even if they pretend otherwise—he says they... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Mr. Lamb, unruffled, says he would guess that Derry was burned in a fire. Derry says no—he was burned by acid all down the... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry argues, saying that he and Mr. Lamb aren’t the same. Lamb says “You’ve got a... (full context)
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Mr. Lamb says, “It’s all relative. Beauty and the beast.” This angers Derry, who says he’s been told that “fairy story” before, but he knows that in real... (full context)
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Derry asks Mr. Lamb if his leg ever hurts him, and he says, “it doesn’t signify”... (full context)
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry says that once he heard two women whispering about him, and one said, “That’s a... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry is confused but intrigued, and he tells Mr. Lamb that he says “peculiar things.” Lamb... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
...when one day a picture fell off his wall and hit him on the head. Derry laughs at this story. (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry asks Mr. Lamb what he does all day. Lamb says he likes to “sit in... (full context)
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry says he hears his family talk about him, wondering “what’s going to happen to him”... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry asks Mr. Lamb if he has any friends, and Lamb says he has “hundreds.” He... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Derry explains that one person said that he’d have been better off staying at the hospital... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry says that he’d like to have a place like Mr. Lamb’s: “A garden…a house with... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Derry asks Mr. Lamb if he lost his leg in “the war,” and Lamb says, “Certainly.”... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Derry says that if he’s going to help Mr. Lamb with the apples, he’ll need to... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry asks about the other people who Mr. Lamb said come to visit him. Derry then... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Derry says he thinks Mr. Lamb is “daft” and “crazy,” but Lamb rebukes him, saying that... (full context)
Scene Two
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Now back at his house, Derry speaks with his mother. Derry’s mother says she has heard rumors about Mr. Lamb—has been... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
Derry’s mother again forbids him from going, and Derry declares that he “hates” it at home.... (full context)
Scene Three
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Just then Derry rushes up, stating that he has come back, despite Mr. Lamb’s doubts. Then he sees... (full context)