The majority of the play takes place in Mr. Lamb’s garden, and at one point the old man directs Derry’s attention to a certain part of the garden near the far wall. “What can you see?” he asks, and the boy first responds, “Rubbish,” and then, “Just...grass and stuff. Weeds.” Mr. Lamb then points out that there is only an arbitrary distinction between what is considered a flower and what is considered a weed. Lamb says, “It’s all life...growing. Same as you and me.” Weeds therefore act as a symbol of perspective and perception, particularly regarding the disabilities faced by both Derry and Mr. Lamb (Derry’s burned face and Mr. Lamb’s amputated leg). A plant can be seen as a flower—something positive and desirable—or as a weed—something negative and undesirable—just like a disability can. The plant (or person with a disability) itself does not change, but when society’s perspective of it changes, it can go from being something rejected and avoided to something cultivated and admired. And while the plant obviously cannot change its perception of itself, humans can—and in this brief exchange about weeds, Mr. Lamb suggests that Derry could do so. He cannot change society’s perspective (whether others treat him like a flower or a weed), but he can change the way he thinks about himself. Instead of feeling ashamed and angry, he can recognize that he, like all other people, is just “life...growing” and valuable in his own way.
Weeds Quotes in On the Face of It
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?