I want Something in a Cage 

Mr Purcell was physically a small man. He had red cheeks and a tight tummy. He was fussy by nature. He wore large glasses which made that he was described as a wise owl.He owned a pet shop. He sold cats and dogs and monkeys. He also sold fish food and bird seed. The birds and other small creatures were closed up in cages. They moved about madly in circles. They made a lot of noise. But Purcell was used to that. The atmosphere was dull and cheerless inside Mr Purcell’s shop.

He considered himself a professional man because he sold pets in cages and earned money. He took pleasure in encasing birds and animals. He had a craze for earning money and was short-tempered.

Each morning Purcell sat on a high stool behind the counter to read the morning paper. As he read, he smiled or frowned. It was a rough day. A fainted wind was blowing. A bell at the door rang whenever a customer entered the shop. That morning it didn’t ring. A stranger entered the shop and stood before the owner.

The man wore a cheap, ill-fitting suit. His hair was cut short. He ran his eyes around at the cages. He said he wanted something in a cage, something small, a bird. He pointed to a cage which contained two white doves. Purcell demanded the price of five dollars and fifty cents. The man felt sad. He wanted to have those birds but he had only five dollars. Purcell finalised the deal and handed the cage to his customer. The man asked Purcell if he was not disturbed by the noise. Purcell, however, didn’t hear any noise.

The stranger then told Purcell that he had earned those five dollars after ten years of hard labour in prison, fifty cents a year. He turned around and walked out of the store. Just outside, he held the cage high and drew out one of the doves and then the second one. He set them free into the air. Then he dropped the cage and walked away.

Purcell stood perplexed. He wondered why the man had let the birds free. Anyway, he felt sort of insulted. While he was robbing the pets of their freedom, the stranger had spent his total earning on buying and then liberating them.

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Mr Purcell did not give much importance to freedom. But the customer was a different kind of man. His prison life had made him realise the value and meaning of freedom. He bought a pair of doves from the cages and tossed them into the air. He took pleasure in freeing the encased birds. Thus, we can say that both Mr Purcell were shortly different from each other.

The message that the author wants to convey through this story is that captivity cannot prevent freedom to be acquired. Freedom is for all . The man had sympathy with the birds in the cage because he knew the feeling of being locked up so he set the birds free because he had realized the importance of freedom.


1. Write ‘True’ or ‘False’ against each of the following statements.
(i) Mr Pure ell sold birds, cats, dogs and monkeys. ___
(ii) He was very concerned about the well-being of the birds and animals in his shop. ___
(iii) He was impressed by the customer who bought the two doves. ___
(iu) He was a successful shop owner, though insensitive and cold as a person. ___

Ans. (i) True (ii) False (iii) False (iu) True

2. Why is Mr Purcell compared to an owl?
Ans. Purcell appeared like an owl when he looked through his glasses.

3. From the third paragraph pick out
(i) Words associated with cries of birds.
(ii) Words associated with noise.
(iii) Words suggestive of confusion and fear.
Ans. (z)Whispered, twitter, squeal, cheeps.
(ii) Stir, rustling, scampered.
(iii) Bewildered, blindly seeking.

4. Mr Purcell heard it no more than he would have heard the monotonous ticking of a familiar clock” (Read para beginning with “It was a rough day ………… “)
(i) What does it refer to?
(ii) Why does Mr Purcell not hear it clearly?
Ans. (i) Here, ‘it’ refers to the chirping, squeaking and moving of the birds and animals in the shop.

(ii) Mr Purcell did not hear the noise clearly because he has become so used to those noises that he does not mind them. He
owned the pet shop and thus, these noises seemed usual to him, like the monotonous ticking of a clock. He was used to the noise.


1. Do you think the atmosphere of Mr Purcell’s shop was cheerful or depressing? Give reasons for your answer.
Ans. The atmosphere of Mr Purcell’s shop was cheerful because of the presence of so many chirping and squeaking birds and animals.
However, all these birds and animals were in cages, and no one can be happy when inside a cage. Hence, the atmosphere was in a
way depressing as well.

2. Describe the stranger who came to the pet shop. What did he want?
Ans. The stranger who came to Mr Purcell’s shop was wearing shiny shoes, a cheap, ill-fitting, but a new suit. He had a shuttling glance and close-cropped hair. He had been released from jail after ten years of imprisonment. His eyes moved all-around in the shop. He wanted something in a cage.

3. (i) The man insisted on buying the doves because he was fond of birds. Do you agree?
(ii) How had he earned the five dollars he had?
Answer : (i) No, it does not seem that he insisted on buying doves because he was fond of birds. He did not ask for them straightaway. He only said that he wanted something in a cage. Later, he added that he wanted something that flew. This manner in which he conveyed what he wanted doves not show that he bought the doves because he was fond of them.
(ii) He had earned the five dollars in ten years. He said that he had been given five dollars and a cheap suit, and had been told not to get caught again, implying that he had earned the money in prison and had recently been freed.

4. Was the customer interested in the care and feeding of the doves he had bought? If not, why not?
Ans. No, the customer was not interested in the care and feeding of the doves. He did not want to keep them as pets. So he paid no attention to what Mr Purcell said about the feed and care of birds. Soon after stepping out of the shop, he freed the birds and dropped the cage.


Q. 1: Why, in your opinion, did the man set the doves free?
Answer : The man set the doves free because he himself had been set free. The description that he gave about how he had earned the five dollars show that he had been in prison for ten years. On release, he had been given the five dollars and a cheap suit. He had been told not to get caught again. Knowing the importance of freedom, he identified with the birds in the cage wanting to fly and to be free. Therefore, he bought the two doves using the money he had, and then set them free.

Q. 2: Why did it make Mr Purcell feel “vaguely insulted”?
Answer : Mr Purcell owned the pet shop and considered himself a professional man. Customers bought birds and animals from him to keep as pets in their houses. He thought that the man had desired the doves desperately as he had spent all his income on it. That is why he sold the doves to him at a reduced price. Mr Purcell was annoyed with the man because of his behaviour. The man did not show any interest when Mr Purcell started telling him about the care and feeding of doves. Instead, he walked out of the shop and freed the two doves he had bought, throwing away the cage on the road. This made Mr Purcell feel “vaguely insulted”.

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