On the Face of It


Susan Hill

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Themes and Colors
Human Connection and Openness Theme Icon
Disability and Perception Theme Icon
Loneliness and Alienation Theme Icon
Nature, Observation, and Contemplation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in On the Face of It, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Human Connection and Openness

On the Face of It, a short play that mostly consists of a conversation between an old man, Mr. Lamb, and a fourteen-year-old boy, Derry, is largely concerned with the relationships between people and the things that divide them or bring them together. Derry has a burned face and Mr. Lamb has lost a leg, and so society treats them differently from other people. In response to this, Derry has learned to…

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Disability and Perception

The two main characters of On the Face of It both have a physical disability, but they react to their disabilities in very different ways. The fourteen-year-old Derry had half of his face badly burned by acid in an accident, while Mr. Lamb lost one of his legs in World War II. Because he has been treated poorly by society as a person with a visible physical disability, Derry avoids others and assumes that everyone…

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Loneliness and Alienation

The play largely consists of a single conversation between an old man, Mr. Lamb, and a boy, Derry, who had previously never met but who eventually find a sense of connection and companionship with each other. A large part of the poignancy of this brief connection (brief because Mr. Lamb presumably dies before their relationship can grow further) is the fact that both characters live in a society that makes them feel alienated…

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Nature, Observation, and Contemplation

While On the Face of It is primarily concerned with issues of human connection and alienation, it also touches on the value of simply sitting in nature, contemplating one’s experience, and observing the world and other people. Again, this is mostly presented through the character of Mr. Lamb, and also in the way that Derry is converted to Lamb’s contemplative worldview over the course of their conversation. In connection to its theme of remaining…

read analysis of Nature, Observation, and Contemplation