Short Summary of The Boy Comes Home

“The Boy Comes Home” is a comic one act play written by A. A. Milne. Philip is a young man of twenty three. He returns to London after four years of his service in the war front. He lives with his Uncle James and Aunt Emily. Philip is fond of his Aunt Emily. He likes his uncle but hates his strict authoritative behaviour. When the play opens Philip enters the dining room at 10 o’ clock for breakfast. As per Uncle James’ rules, breakfast should be served at 8 o’ clock. Mrs. Higgins refuses to serve breakfast to Philip until he gets proper order from her master. She even goes to the extent of giving one month notice. Philip handles the situation smartly that he makes the cook serve him breakfast. Aunt Emily feels tremendous difference in Philips character. Uncle James waits for the arrival of Philip. He falls asleep and in his dream he visualizes Philip as a rude young man asking for the money left by his father. He threatens his uncle with a revolver to do as he desires. He even smokes pipe in front of him. Uncle James is afraid of Philip now. In reality Philip behaves in a different way. Uncle James attitude towards Philip is also changed. When Uncle James asks him whether he is willing to join his jam business he readily agrees.

Complete Summary

Characters

Uncle James – Philip’s Uncle

Aunt Emily – Wife of James

Philip – Th boy who has returned from war

Mary – Parlour Maid

Mrs Higgins – Cook

Scene – A room in Uncle James’ house in the Cromwell Road.

Time – The day after the war.

Milne’s “The Boy Comes Home” is a comedy. The play analyses the problems of the generation gap. The old generation thinks that the young generation is immature and it does not know its responsibility to its family and society. In fact, the young generation is mature and more responsible. It also gives respect to the old generation. Philip is a twenty-three-year-old young man who returns from the war after four years. He is under the care of his uncle, James. He is fond of his aunt Emily. Uncle James is a strict disciplined man. He wants perfectness in everything.

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Philip goes into the dining room at 10 0’ clock to have breakfast. As per Uncle James’ rule, breakfast should not be served after 8 O’clock. So Philip finds nothing on the table. When he asks Mary, the parlour maid, to bring some boiled eggs and a cup of tea, she answers that Mrs Higgins, the cook, may not accept this. In the meantime his aunt Emily comes in. she is a lovable woman. Philip is so fond of her. He expresses his fondness for her and also shows his contempt for Uncle James’ authoritative behaviour.

Mary returns from the kitchen and informs Aunt Emily that Mrs Higgins wants to meet her. When she is about to leave, Philip stops her and asks Mary to bring Mrs Higgins. This action shows his maturity in handling the servants. Mrs Higgins argues that breakfast has been served at eight o’clock in the morning since she arrived at the house and she cannot change it until she gets order from the master. The argument reaches to the level of Mrs Higgins issuing one month notice. Philips immediately reacts by a giving a cheque for one month salary in advance and asks the cook to quit her job and leave the house immediately.

Mrs Higgins is taken aback at his actions. She immediately changes her attitude and serves breakfast to Philip. Aunt Emily notices the change Philip has attained after the war.. Philip handles this situation with diplomacy and authority proving he is no longer the boy that left home four years ago.

Philip goes to the dining room to have his breakfast. Uncle James enters and informs Aunt Emily that he has been waiting for Philip for a long time to talk to him about the business. He expresses his wish that it is right time for Philip to join the business. When Aunt Emily suggests that he should ask Philip’s willingness about it, he rejects the idea, telling that four years of his service in army would not bring any change in his maturity level. Uncle James firmly believes that army does not teach him decision making, that is, Philip cannot decide his career for his future.

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Aunt Emily asks Uncle James to wait for Philip till he finishes his breakfast. Uncle James falls asleep and in his dream, he visualizes Philip as a rude young man, smoking pipe in front of his uncle. He demands his money which was left for Philip by his father. Though Uncle James has already promised Philip that he would settle the money as soon as he turns twenty five, he asks for it. To prove that he has attained the maturity to handle the money left by his father, he narrates an incident in Somme.

Somme was the battlefront where Philip’s company had launched an attack the next day. They were in a trench. The German army attacked them and the commander wanted to move. But he did not get permission from the C.O. The next day the commander was killed. Philip became the new commander. He lost half of the company. He had three options. First, they might stay there and wait for further orders. Second, they might move to another trench against the C.O.’s order. Third, he himself might meet the C.O. and explain the situation. He was in a critical position. Lives of many soldiers depended on him. He moved the company to another trench and went back to the C.O. and explained the situation and then moved back to the company.

The army has taught him a lot. Before going to the war, he was an inexperienced boy. He simply obeyed the orders. After four years of experience, he is matured enough to make his own decision. When Uncle James asks him to join in jam business, he refuses. He says that he wants to study architecture. He even threatens Uncle James with a revolver and when Uncle James argues, he takes a bomb in his hand. Uncle James readily agrees to do what he wants. Uncle James wakes up and finds that it is a dream.

Uncle James wakes up from his sleep and finds Philip entering into the room in real. The dream frightens Uncle James. Philip asks sorry for being late. He lights his pipe with his permission. Uncle James discusses his future plan. Philip is very clear that he will not wear the uniform once again.

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Uncle James asks him whether he is interested in studying architecture.

Philip gets confused at this suggestion. He rejects by saying that he crossed that age. When Uncle James asks Philip whether he is willing to join the jam business, he agrees without hesitation. He informs Uncle James that he wants to sell the revolver as there is no use for it in London. Uncle James is relieved because Philip does not behave as he behaves in the dream. The dream changes Uncle James’ attitude towards Philip and young generation.

Questions and Answers

i. How does Mrs. Higgins argue when he is asked to serve breakfast at 10 o’ clock?

Answer: When Mrs. Higgins is asked to serve breakfast at 10 o’ clock, Mrs. Higgins argues that breakfast has been served at eight o’ clock in the morning since her arrival to the house and she cannot change it until she gets order from the master.

ii. Why does Philip want to sell his revolver?

Answer: Philip feels that there is no use in keeping the revolver in London as it is a peaceful city.

iii. How does Philip deal Mrs.Higgins’ problem?

iv. How does Philip prove that he has attained maturity?

v. What happens when Philip goes to the dining table at 10 O’ clock?
iv. How does Philip threaten Uncle James in dream?

vi. Why does Philip refuse to join in the jam business in Uncle James’ dream?

vii. In reality what does Philip want to do with the revolver?

viii. Bring out the changes that Uncle James has attained after his dream.

ix. Give details about Philip’s money which is at present with Uncle James.

Essay Questions

i. Sketch the character of Uncle James.

ii. Narrate the dream sequence.

iii. What changes does the war bring to Philip’s personality?

iv. Sketch the character of Philip.

vi. Bring out the humorous elements in “The Boy Comes Home”.

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