On the Face of It

by

Susan Hill

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Weeds Symbol Icon

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

The On the Face of It quotes below all refer to the symbol of Weeds. 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

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:
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On the Face of It PDF

Weeds Symbol Timeline in On the Face of It

The timeline below shows where the symbol Weeds 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
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
...certain part of the garden and describe what he sees. Derry says “rubbish,” and then “weeds.” Lamb asks why some plants are considered weeds and some are considered flowers. He says... (full context)
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
...plenty of other things for people to stare at instead, “like crab apples or the weeds or a spider climbing up a silken ladder, or my tall sun-flowers.” (full context)