THE DAY THE DAM BROKE BY JAMES THURBER

2.THE DAY THE DAM BROKE BY JAMES THURBER

Question 01) How does a panic appear to have started?

Ans)James Thurber has given an amusing account of human follies in the chapter “The Day the Dam Broke”. The Columbus, Ohio, broken-dam rumor begins, about noon of 12 March 1913. High street the main canyon of trade is loud with the placid hum of business. Suddenly, somebody begins to run. It may be that he has simply remembered, all of a moment, an engagement to meet his wife, for which he is frightfully late. Somebody else begins to run, perhaps a newspaper carrier in high spirits. Another man breaks into a trot. Within ten minutes, everybody on High Street starts running. So, the disorder and panic is caused by a rumor about the collapse of a dam built on the river.

Question 02) How did Thurber’s mother cope with the situation?

Ans)Thurber’s mother turned out all the fires and that she took with her a dozen of bread eggs and two loaves of bread. It was her plan to make Memorial Hall, just two blocks away, and take refuge somewhere in the top of it, dusty room in one of the du But the seething through, shouting “Go East”, drew her along and the rest of her family with her.

Question 03) What caused the Lieutenant Colonel of infantry to lead a fleeing company of three hundred persons?

Ans)A little child cried in a piping voice, as she ran past the porch on which drowsed a lieutenant colonel of infantry. He used to take quick decisions, trained to immediate obedience, soon passed the child. The officer asked the child what it was. The child gasped, “The dam has broke! After listening to it he started roaring ‘Go east’! ‘Go east’! He was soon leading, with the exhausted child in his arm, a fleeing company of three hundred persons.

Question 04) How long did the panic last and how the order was restored?

Ans)The panic lasted, the order was restored and the fear dispelled finally by means of militiaman riding about in motor Lorries bawling through megaphones: ‘The dam has not broken!’ At first, this tended only to add confusion and increase the panic for many stampeders thought the soldiers were bellowing ‘The dam has now broken!’ Thus setting an official authentication on the calamity.

 

 

Question 05) How did the panic start in the cinema on High Street?

Ans)An aunt of Thurber, Edith Taylor, was in a movie theatre on High Street when, over and above the sound of the piano in the pit, there rose the steadily increasing tramp of running feet. President shouts rose above the tramping. An elderly man, sitting near his aunt, mumbled something, got out of his seat, and went up the aisle at a dogtrot.

Question 06) Why did Dr Mallory think that floodwaters were about to engulf him?

Ans)There was a boy behind Dr Mallory on roller-skates, and Dr Mallory mistook the swishing of the skates for the sound of rushing water. When the boy on the skates swirled past him at the Columbus School for Girls and he realized for the first time what he had been running from. Looking back up the street, he could see no sign of water, but after resting a few minutes, he jogged on east again.

Question 07) Why did the citizens of Columbus not care to talk about the events of the 12 March 1913?

Ans)The next day the city went about its business as if nothing had happened, but there was no joking. It was two years or more before you dared treat the breaking of the dam lightly. Even then, twenty years after, there were a few persons, like Dr. Mallory, who would have shut up like calm if you had mentioned the Afternoon of the Great Run.

Question 08) Why did Dr. Mallory think that the floodwaters were about to engulf him?

Ans)There was a boy behind him on roller-skates, and Dr. Mallory mistook the swishing of the skates for the sound of rushing water. He eventually reached the Columbus School for Girls, at the corner of Parsons Avenue and Town Street. The boy on the skates swirled past him and Dr. Mallory realized for the first time what he had been running from. Looking back up the street, he could see no signs of water, but after resting a few minutes, he jogged on east again.

Question 09) Write the main theme of story The Day the Dam Broke ?

Main Theme of Story

Ans) “The Day the Dam Broke” is an amusing, interesting, entertaining and humourous short story in which writer, JAMES THURBER depicts the mob mentality with great dexterity. It is a good example of Thurbber’s sardonic but affectionate view of human behavior. It also represents Thurber’s remarkable power of observation of human nature .The author wishes to bring out the foolish and harmful effects of mob mentality which drives people to commit great blunders. It also shows that in calamity, people of sound reason and profound understanding also behave in a ridiculous manner. It presents an amazing and very realistic picture of people’s unreasonable behaviour on hearing an alarming rumour.

“Humour is an emotional chaos recollected in tranquility.”[James Groves Thurber]

Question 10) Write the summary

SUMMARY
Ans)
The author recalls an interesting incident of his early childhood when he lived in the city of Columbus, situated near the Ohio River in the USA with his parents. The city of Columbus had to face great upheaval and disorder when the rumour of the collapse of the dam sparked off on 12th March 1913. The rumour was running riot and whole city was ringing with it within fraction of time. The rumour spread like a grass fire and panic prevailed in the entire area in no time.

“Behind great panics and chaos there are just trivial chats.” [Felon]

The city was caught in a wild frenzy and excitement when the people on High Street were led away by the word “Damn” which was misunderstood as “Dam” and which developed into the dread words, “The Dam has broken.” Two thousand peoples were running post-haste at break-neck speed. No one knew who had started the thing but once they took to their heels, they never dared to stop and confirmed the news.

“People do what the mob do.” [Dickens]

Mean while someone shouted “Go East for safety” as East is away from the river and also the eastern side of the city is higher than the western side. Now go east was the order of day and everybody was running wildly towards East. About two thousand people were abruptly in full flight, “Go east” was the clarion cry, being heard everywhere.

“The mob had many heads but no brain.” [Riverol]

Reaction of Author’s Family

The author brings out the reaction of different kinds of peoples to the rumour. The author’s Grand-father displayed on extra-ordinary courage. He thought that they were being attacked by cavalry and prepared himself accordingly. He asked the young people to get ready to face the onslaught. However, on realizing that perhaps the dam had really broken, he also took to his heels.

“Stuffing the ear with false report” ----- (William Shakespeare)

At the time when everybody was anxious and frightened, the writer’s mother was neither upset nor nervous. Before leaving the house, she put the fire in the hearth and took two dozens of eggs and bread with her and tried to reach safe spot at the earliest.

“Rumour not only amuses us but also exposes some of the human weaknesses and foolish.” [Swift]

Lieutenant Colonel & Dr. Mallory’s Reaction

It was amazing to note that people of sound reason and profound understanding were taken leave of their senses. Even Lieutenant Colonel of infantry of started running when a small child raised the alarm that the Dam had broken.

The author’s Aunt, Edith who had been at a theatre also fled along with Dr. Mallory who took the swishing of the skates to be the sound of rushing and gushing water.
Restoration of Order

The panic lasted for a couple of hours and during this time a few people had run as far as twelve miles. The city father announced on megaphone that Dam had not broken. At first, this further added to the confusion, for many stampeders thought that militiamen announcing, “The dam has now broken”, thus setting an official seal of authentication on calamity. But after repeated announcements, misunderstanding was removed and order was restored. The people took a sign of relief when they heard “dam has not broken”. The people returned to their houses and started their normal business. They didn’t joke about the happenings of the day before as everyone was involved in this foolishness. On realizing their mistakes, they felt ashamed could not speak a word about the incident for a long time.

CONCLUSION
The rumour and the people’s reactions to it proved that in critical situation and occasions of panic, people are deprived of their common senses and behave in a foolish manner.

“Sometimes a majority simply mean that all the fools are on the same side.”

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