Treasure Trove A Collection of ICSE Short Stories Workbook Answers Chapter 6 Notes An Angel in Disguise  – ICSE Class 10, 9 English


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About the Author

Timothy Shay Arthur was born in New burgh, New York on June 6, 1809. He had a very distinguished writing career, during which he wrote more than 150 novels and was an editor or the managing editor at over a dozen magazines. Being born to highly religious parents, many of T. S. Arthur’s works are moralistic in nature. He was also a strong proponent of temperance, and his most famous work is his essay, ‘The Nights in a Bar ­Room and What I Saw There’ (1854). His short story, ‘‘An Angel in Disguise’ features both his characteristic moral message, and his strong views on the consumption of alcohol.

Due to poor health, Arthur had little formal education. He grew up hearing Bible stories and many tales about his grandfather who was an officer in the Revolutionary War, from his mother. Arthur educated himself through reading and became an apprentice for a Baltimore craftsman. Later on he became an editor for the Baltimore Athenaeum and Young Men’s Paper. Three years later he started the Baltimore Literary Monument. It was during this period that Arthur learned of the Washingtonian Temperance Society, which inspired him to write many novels on prohibition. His novels were such a success that during the decade after the civil war, the only author that outsold him in American fiction was Harriet Beecher Stowe with “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. The older T.S Arthur got, the worse his eyesight became, his world narrowed during the early years of the 1880s, although he continued editorial work with the aid of amanuenses. By February 1885, he was unable to leave his home and died on March 6th, 1885. He was buried in Philadelphia’s old Chestnut Street Cemetery.

T.S. Arthur was often regarded as a litterateur of unrefined taste, and lack of brilliance, which was claimed to have been the reason why he was not as well known as most American authors, during the 19th century. However, despite the derogatory assessment, T.S. Arthur was also appraised for his realism, simplicity, and sentimental/ moral poignancy in his genre of nonfiction and fictional stories, that many found reassuring. All of these qualities mentioned are apparent in one of his more demure, yet enchanting works, An Angel in Disguise.

About the Story

“An Angel in Disguise” was written in 1851 by TS Arthur. This time period consisted of many historic happenings including: Failure of the Wilmot Provisio to pass in the US Senate, which could have prohibited slavery in all territories acquired from Mexico in the Mexican-American War. The prohibition era of the United States, in which many Americans protested to ban alcohol completely. Children’s Labor laws began to be established. For example, children were forbidden to work for more than ten hours per day and many national institutions, such as the New England Association of Farmers, began to condemn child labour.


  1. Introduction: Three children: John, Kate and Maggie are left alone, when their mother dies in a drunken fit right in front of their eyes.
  2. Occasion: The occasion that causes this story to unfold is the death of a single mother of three children who are left alone as orphans. The mother’s cause of death is alcoholism, and her children are left with no where to go, since it was unexpected.
  3. Rising Action:After the funeral, John and Kate were taken separately by two villagers while nobody wants to take care of the sick Maggie; until Mr. Thompson takes her in for the night.
  4. Climax: Mr. Thompson arrives at his house carrying Maggie but his wife doesn’t like it and wants the child to be sent to the poorhouse.
  5. Falling Action: Mr. Thompson finds his wife talking to Maggie. After their supper he talks Maggie and then later on Mrs. Thompson arrives with the child’s food. Mrs. Thompson decides to let Maggie stay.
  6. Resolution: Mr. Thompson doesn’t see the Guardian of the Poor. They decides to let Maggie stay and live with them at their house.


This short story has an amazing message or theme. It tells of how three children were sadly orphaned with their mother dying. Their mother hated by the village, died leaving the children without any other family or friends because the mother had no friends. The first born child, a stout 12-year-old boy by the name of John, was taken in by Farmer Jones for the fact that he could work. Then the second born child, 10-year-old Kate, was a “bright, active girl”. She was taken in by Mrs. Ellis, who was looking for a bound girl (indentured servant). Then finally there was Maggie, the youngest. She had sustained serious injuries to her back/spine and had been rendered unable to move from her bed without her mother’s help. This being so no one in the village wanted the orphan sick child. Except for one sympathetic, compassionate wheelwright man. His name was Joe Thompson. He takes her to his home, to his bitter and cold wife not knowing what to expect. After establishing the fact that he plans on taking her to the poor house possibly the next day and tactical words from Joe,his wife settles down from her riled up state. Joe pleads with his dour wife, “Look at her kindly, Jane; speak to her kindly,’’Think of her dead mother, and the loneliness, the pain, the sorrow that must be on all her coming life.”After spending the day/night with the small child, Mrs. Thompson’s heart softened with every moment while she tended to the small orphan. Not having a child of her own or any interests or things to take care of had made her less compassionate. Caring for the orphaned child gives her a sense of purpose and meaning in her life. Thus, changing not only her attitude but also her life. The little girl brought light and joy into their home. Unveiled the theme shows that ‘Good comes to people who do good.’

Besides the above given theme the subject of this short story is also disease. The story begins by displaying the negative things that disease brings with it, like the mother’s death due to her addiction and Maggie being stuck alone because no one wants to adopt the child who cannot walk. Conversely, the end of the story demonstrates the happiness that accepting disease can bring, when the Thompsons take Maggie in and are finally happy.

Highlights of Speech/or Summary

Outside of her home, a woman drops dead of excessive alcoholism. Everyone saw it coming, and really, she wasn’t all that well liked in her community. But now what must the village do with her three children? Her two eldest are old and fit enough to be put to work in one way or another but the youngest, Maggie, is chronically ill and of no use to anyone for anything. The general consensus is that she must be taken to the poorhouse if she has no relations to take her in, and no charitable heart around her to fill the role of guardian. Everyone is quick to sentence poor Maggie to her fate, however, no one is willing to actually drop her off into a life of assured misery. A man named Joe Thompson finally goes to check on her, he is instantly charmed by her cherubic demeanour and innocent look. He decided to take her in for the night but planned on bringing her to the poor house the next morning, because he knew his wife would not approve of her. When Joe brought Maggie home in his arms, his wife Mrs. Thompson was enraged that he had brought that “sick brat” into her house. Joe convinces the dour Mrs. Thompson to take poor Maggie in for a short while. He says, Joe begged her to “Look at her kindly, Jane; speak to her kindly,”, “Think of her dead mother, and the loneliness, the pain, the sorrow that must be on all her coming life.” While Joe was out at work Mrs. Thompson spent the day with Maggie and grew very fond of her. The Thompsons ended up keeping Maggie, and she became a blessing, “It had been dark, and cold, and miserable there for a long time just because his wife had nothing to love and care for out of herself, and so became soar, irritable, ill-tempered, and self-afflicting in the desolation of her woman’s nature. Now the sweetness of that sick child, looking ever to her in love, patience, and gratitude, was as honey to her soul, and she carried her in her heart as well as in her arms, a precious burden” – Maggie was an angle in disguise.


The writer reveals all the characters by means of both direct and indirect characterisation. For example, at the very beginning of the story the author introduces us some characters by direct characterisation: ‘This woman had been despised, scoffed at, and angrily denounced by nearly every man, woman, and child in the village judging by these words, we may assume that the woman’s life was very hard, there was nobody to support her, to help her.


Maggie is the youngest of her family, and is tragically crippled from falling from a window two years prior. She is unable to leave her bed unless carried in someone’s arms. Maggie symbolizes innocence and dependency, because she literally cannot survive without the love and care of someone else. This is seen as a burden at first glance, but Maggie turns out to be a blessing in the Thompson home because she gives Mrs. Thompson purpose. Maggie’s character illustrates the main theme of the short story,that humans cannot survive without other humans to love and care for them.

Maggie, is described as a weak person, but quite experienced. She didn’t talk a lot, the author pays special attention to her personality indirectly, but very masterfully. From the very beginning of the story one can feel how much Maggie was afraid to stay alone: ‘But no one said ‘[’11 take Maggie’. Pitying glances were cast on her wan and wasted form and thoughts were troubled on her account. Mothers brought cast-off garments and, removing her soiled and ragged clothes, dressed her in clean attire. The sad eyes and patient face of the little one touched many hearts, and even knocked at them for entrance’. She kept silent, her eyes told more. By all means, she understood that “But none opened to take her in. Who wanted a bed-ridden child?’, thus the author shows us a remarkable piece of realistic character drawing. The author renders the atmosphere of her loneliness very artfully.Usage of such words as ‘tearful’, ‘scarcely’, ‘a sobbing farewell’, ‘refraining from a look’, ‘alone’ evoke an emotional response and the reader gets the vivid notion of the situation described. ‘O, Mr. Thompson!’ she cried out, catching her suspended breath, ‘don’t leave me here all alone!’, it has a very specific emotional colouring and the author conveys much while saying little. The author gives a very bright indirect characterization of Maggie’s personality: ‘…somebody’s arms must carry her, and mine are strong enough for that task’. On the one hand, this example shows how weak and helpless Maggie is and, on the other hand, the example demonstrates Mr. Thompson’s responsibility, his strong character. Besides, the author uses speech characterization to reveal Maggie’s personality. There is a dialogue which shows the personality of a small child, who is in despair, who has just lost her family but now has other parents, who is happy and sad at the same time, who doesn’t know what to expect next. In the dialogue Maggie gives very short replies. For example: “Yes, sir’, ‘He used to come’, ‘No, sir’. She is very polite,always said ‘sir’.

Mrs. Thompson

Mrs.Thompson is first introduced as a very cruel harsh character with little compassion * for Maggie, calling her a “sick brat”. Mrs Thompson was a bitter and angry person before Maggie came into her life.She had nothing to love and care for out of herself, and so became sore, irritable, ill-tempered, and self-afflicting in the desolation of her woman’s nature. But after spending time with Maggie, Mrs. Thompson is transformed and decided she wanted to take care of Maggie for a few more days, which eventually turned into the rest of her life. Mrs Thompson ends up falling in love with Maggie, and finds purpose in taking care and looking after her. Maggie and her love changed Mrs Thompson. The sweetness of that sick child, looking ever to her in love, patience, and gratitude, was as honey to her soul, and she carried her in her heart as well as in her arms like a precious burden. Mrs. Thompson’s character illuminates the theme of caring, and how caring for and loving others can bring the best out of someone and give someone a purpose for living. T. S. Arthur tells,‘Joe Thompson’s wife, who happened to be childless, was not a woman of saintly temper, nor much given to self-denial for others’ good…’. As for this phrase we may predict that Mr. and Mrs. Thompson are likely two poles apart.

Mr Thompson

‘Though rough in exterior, Joe Thompson, the wheelwright, had a heart, and it was very tender in some places. He liked children, and was pleased to have them come to his shop… ’ judging by this phrase we get to know that Mr. Thompson is really a kind-hearted sort of person, who loves to spend his time with children. Mr. Thompson is a strong man, but the experience with Maggie touched him greatly, that’s why he cried a little bit. And what is more, those tears proved that he was happy that his wife changed.

Minor characters

Farmer Jones and Mrs. Ellis, are minor characters and presented in the story, so to say, just directly: ‘Farmer Jones, after the coffin was taken out, placed John in his wagon and drove away, satisfied that he had done his part.

Mrs. Ellis spoke to Kate with a hurried air, ‘Bid your sister good by,’ and drew the tearful children apart ere scarcely their lips had touched in a sobbing farewell’.

‘ However, we may imagine what kind of people they are. They weren’t interested in Maggie’s life, they took children as things. They left Maggie alone and no one cared about her future life, to send Maggie to the poorhouse was the easiest way out.


The title of the story “An Angel in Disguise” is symbolic. Maggie is an angel in disguise. She has some problem with her health but she makes the life of other people more interesting, happier and fills of sense. She gives a speck of happiness for Mr. and Mrs. Thompson. She is as a honey to Mrs. Thompson’s soul. She is a little girl with a pure, clear and light soul. Maggie was the angel who came into their house. She came disguised as a sick, helpless, and miserable child, and filled all its dreary chambers with the sunshine of love. The author says she is disguised because her true self of love and beauty was hidden from the eyes of everyone and only when the Thompsons selflessly cared and loved her did the angel shower them with happiness in their lives.


The events of the story happen in the village, where every man or woman knows each other. The setting of the events is presented in a general way. The setting of the events is realistic. The author doesn’t describe the place, but we can imagine this place from the context. This village is dark and gloomy, because all descriptions in the story are in dark colors. But at the end of the story this description changes and the author uses in description words with positive semantic.


The speaker in this story is a third person omniscient narrator (all-knowing). The story is in the third person narration, because the narrator is not an active participant of events and does not have any special insight into the characters’ perceptions. This technique is used when the author wants to make the narration more objective and free from any personal attitude, positive or negative.

The narrator has a bias toward the children, especially Maggie, due to her predicament of being an orphan whom everyone is reluctant to take in. The narrator demonstrates this bias when he describes Maggie as having “sad eyes and a patient face”, that once you’ve read it, it stays forever engraved in your heart.

Critical Appreciation

‘An Angel in Disguise’ is a story about love, kindness, human feelings and bereavement. This story is about an angel with open heart and pure soul. At the beginning this story is very sad, because three children: John, Kate and Maggie are left alone, when their mother dies in a drunken fit right in front of their eyes. Maggie is the youngest child. She is hopelessly diseased, because two years before her mother’s death, she had fallen out of a window and had injured her spine. No one wants to take her to their house; no one wants to bother with her, except Mr. Thompson.

The title of the story “An Angel in Disguise” is symbolic. Maggie is an angel in disguise. She has some problem with her health but she makes the life of other people more interesting and happier. She brings a spark of happiness for Mr. and Mrs. Thompson. She is as a honey to Mrs. Thompson’s soul. She is a little girl with a pure, clear and light soul.

The author’s message is to help other people, because we should be kind, sympathetic and tender, because there maybe an angel in disguise for us. The main theme of the story is that people can change and feel love for others.

The story is in the third person narration, because the narrator is not a participant of events. So the narrator is not an active participant in the story and does not have any special insight into the characters’ perceptions. This technique is used when the author wants to make the narration more objective and free from any personal attitude, positive or negative.

The author uses a neutral vocabulary but there are emotionally positive words (love, tender, sunshine of love etc.) and negative words (idles, vice, burial and others), high-flown words (farewell, chord, garments) and low word (brat). All these words make the story bright and interesting. There are some dialectal words: ‘tis, ‘ere, sha’n’t they help us to get to know about the character’s social status and occupation.

The author uses metaphors: ‘Though rough in exterior, Joe Thompson’ (the author uses it to make the description of Joe brighter, to show that he has a kind heart), ‘white face’ (to show Maggie’s inner condition, to show her paleness), ‘pity took the place of anger’ (to show the feelings of people to these children more vivid). One more example of the metaphor is ‘he wrapped her with the gentleness almost of a woman’ (it is used to describe the real feeling of Mr. Thompson.). ‘Her voice struck a chord that quivered in a low strain of music’ (it is used to show how the little girl is afraid). The author uses the metaphor to encourage us to draw a comparison between seemingly unrelated things.

The author masterly uses rich and vivid epithets, such as ‘a decent interment of the body’, ‘a bound girl’, ‘sobbing farewell’, ‘miserable work’, ‘pitying glances’, ‘a rough man’, ‘a sad place’. The epithets make the images described by the author more creative and interesting.

The author uses personifications ‘… love was springing into life’, ‘a few words came’ (they are used to help us understand the situation better), ‘a soft feeling crept into the heart’, ‘a weight lifted itself from his heart’. The personifications are used to make plain sentences more interesting.

There is one example of oxymoron: ‘death touches the spring’ (in most cases spring means that everything revives, come to life, but in this case it means death). The author uses it to create an ironic sense.

There are some examples of repetition: the end of the sentence is repeated: ‘Now, it is a small thing for us to keep this poor motherless little one for a single night; to be kind to her for a single night; to make her life comfortable for a single night’. It is used to make the story more interesting and pay attention to the last word.

The author uses elliptical sentences, such as: ‘Right soon’, ‘Yes, sir’, ‘But not lately?’, ‘Take her to the poorhouse’. They are used to avoid unnecessary words, be brief and draw our attention to more necessary words.

Exclamatory sentences are used: ‘She was alone!’, ‘O, Mr. Thompson’. ‘Women’s hearts are not half so hard as men’s!’, ‘How his heart swelled in his boson!’ They are used to put a great importance to these sentences and draw our attention to these sentences.

Rhetoric questions are used_not only to draw our attention, but to touch the soul of every reader.: ‘Who wanted a bed-ridden child?’.

Inversion is used to point out the most prominent part of a sentence: ‘On entering, Joe did not go immediately to the little chamber’.

This short story seems to target both an audience of alcoholics and those who discriminate against handicapped or disabled people. It targets alcoholics because it displays the tragedy that alcohol can inflict on a family. It also targets those who discriminate because the story illustrates the joy and love that disabled people can bring to ones life, and how valuable their life truly is.

The tone of the short story begins as a melancholy one, because a woman, who no one seemed to previously care about, has passed away and the townspeople suddenly act as if they are in mourning. This tone continues as the narrator reveals that the children are orphans, and especially when none of the townspeople are willing to take little Maggie in. Once Joe Thompson takes Maggie to his house, the tone shifts from melancholy to hopeful; although Mrs. Thompson wants to send Maggie to the poorhouse, her kindness toward the child foreshadows a possible change in mind. Finally, once Mrs. Thompson realizes that Maggie is bringing the couple happiness, the tone ultimately shifts to loving and optimistic for the future.

The recurring motif of disease or sickness which begins with the mother’s alcoholism and continues with Maggie’s injury and sickness demonstrates that a simple character flaw can cause positive and negative things to occur in one’s life. T. S. Arthur wrote this short story in order to illustrate the importance of caring and loving for others. Not only does Maggie need the care and love of another to survive, but Mrs. Thompson also needs Maggie as someone to care and love for to live a happy purposeful life. This displays that humans cannot survive without other humans to give them purpose and direction. T. S Arthur proves that love is essential for human survival.


  1. Idleness: the state of being indolence; laziness
  2. Temperance: Moderation of passion; patience; calmness
  3. Scoffed: to jeer; laugh at with contempt and derision
  4. Poorhouse: a charitable institution where poor or homeless people are lodged
  5. Saintly: like a characteristic of a saint
  6. Mended: to repair
  7. Shrink: to become smaller
  8. Apt: suitable, appropriate; fit
  9. Errand: a trip to accomplish a small mission or to do some business
  10. Countenance: Appearance, esp. The feature and expression of the face

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