Potato People by Angela Wright 1. Write about an important event in the story.

An important event in the novel “Potato People” is when Patrick and Marie sneaked into a rich English lord‟s mansion to steal some food. They climbed up a tree, jumped over the wall into the compound of the house to make their way into a room with a table of luxurious meal. To Patrick, the rich lord‟s house is like paradise. It is clean, bright and free from disease and starvation. Patrick had never tasted chicken in his life. Marie on the other hand, was grabbing handfuls of cake and swallowing some of them as well. At the same time, she was filling her bag with scraps of food from the table. Patrick followed her lead and hid a loaf of bread in his shirt. It was the first time that Patrick had his stomach full in more than two years. 2. Write about a happy event in the story. A happy event in the novel “Potato People” is when Patrick Flynne experiences „paradise‟ for the first time in a rich lord‟s mansion as he and Marie sneak in to steal some food. For the first time, Patrick gets to see a table full of luxurious food. He has never eaten so much food before. It is the first time in more than two years that his stomach is full. I find the chapter “The Feast” a happy event because the people in this big mansion are dressed in lovely, expensive clothes. They are dancing and enjoying themselves. The place makes Patrick forget about the sufferings happening outside. To Patrick, the house is like paradise, as it is clean, bright and free from diseases and starvation. 3. Write about a sad event in the story. A sad event in the novel “Potato People” is the destruction of Patrick Flynne‟s village. Twenty British soldiers in red coats accompanied Mr Oswald Graystone to Patrick‟s village to tear and burn down the village of Skullgoragh. Mr Graystone‟s men emptied the houses and placed all the furniture in the middle of the village. The doors of the houses were pulled out and used to start a fire to burn the villagers‟ belongings and houses. The villagers stood watching helplessly. They were hungry and desperate. Many men were crying like children. The women and children were crying and wailing loudly. Mr Graystone had ordered them to leave Skullgoragh in two days and never to return. 4. Write about an interesting event. In the novel “Potato People”, I find the arrival of British soldiers to the village of Skullgoragh to be an interesting event. Patrick Flynne ran to alert the villagers about the arrival of the soldiers who had come to evict the villagers from their homes. Behind the soldiers were Mr Graystone and his men. Sean picked up a rusty axe to head the villagers. The villagers though thin and hungry looked desperate to protect their homes from going up in flames. They had heard that two weeks ago, the villagers in Dunlow were driven away from their houses. The villagers of Skullgoragh refused to let the same incident happened to them. In the chapter „Army of Ghosts‟, the reader‟s sense of sympathy was aroused. Besides, there was also a sense of suspense. The villagers looked frightened but they nodded their heads in agreement to defend their village. However, they failed to do so. All their homes went up in flames. They were forced to leave Skullgoragh and never to return. 5. Describe the most important part of the story. The most interesting part of the story “Potato People” is the day when the „Zeus‟ was to sail and Patrick found out that Sean was not there. Patrick insisted on going back to the inn to look for Sean and what he saw must have shocked him tremendously. They saw Sean in chairs with blood on the front of his shirt with soldiers all around and a huge crowd. Patrick wanted to go towards Sean but Marie pulled him back. The reality was there was nothing they could do. They would be hanged together because the money Sean stole had been handed to them. The truth was that Sean had been arrested for murdering and robbing Mr Graystone to get the money for Patrick to leave for America and he was prepared to accept the consequences of his action. What a shock it must have been for Patrick. I think it is interesting because it is a touching moment for both Sean and Patrick and the reader as well.

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6.

Write about a lesson that you have learnt. A valuable lesson that I have learnt from the novel “Potato People” is to be brave in facing any hardships in life. In Patrick and Marie, we see great courage. Though they had lost their families in the epidemic caused by the potato blight, they did not give up on life easily. They remained hopeful and determined to achieve what they had set out to do. They were determined to leave Ireland and head for the New World (America). They were determined to free themselves from hunger and strife. Despite great trials and hardships along the way, Patrick and Marie were able to come out triumphant. They watched their families died in the epidemic outbreaks following the Great Hunger. They arrived safely on American soil after a difficult crossing at the Atlantic Ocean in the ship Zeus. They worked hard and often went hungry. Marie worked hard alongside Patrick in the first few years of their difficult new life in America. Their determination to overcome their hardships finally paid off. Thay managed to settle down as successful and wealthy ranches in California. 7. Write about a character that you like in the story. The character that I like in the novel “Potato People” is Marie. Marie was a streetwise, smart girl who had travelled widely. This made her know many things. She was also wise to prevent Patrick Flynne from acknowledging Sean when the latter was caught by the British soldiers. If she had not done so, both of them would have never made it to America. She was also full of life and free-spirited. She was always smiling and dancing. Being very optimistic, she remained cheerful at all times even though she lost her family in the Great Hunger. She looked at things positively. I also found Marie to be independent. She was able to survive on her own. Being resourceful, she knew where to find food and directed Patrick to the houses of a rich Lord who was feasting to steal some food. 8. Write about a character who inspires or fascinates you. In the novel “Potato People”, the character who inspires me the most is Patrick Flynne, the hero of the novel. Patrick inspires me mainly because he is brave and loyal. As the lookout who warns the villagers when Mr Graystone‟s men are on the way to cause trouble, he is quick, alert and responsible. This is why he is able to warn the villagers quickly when he sees British soldiers approaching. Patrick also inspires me because he remains innocent, trusting and sweet-natured in spite of his tough childhood and Mr Graystone‟s cruelty to him and the villagers. After the village is burned, Patrick may have become bitter and set off to avenge himself on Mr Graystone, as Sean does, but instead, he remains sweet and innocent. He listens to Sean, and goes to America to start afresh. He trusts Sean and remains loyal to him even after finding out that Sean killed mr Graystone and stole Lord Egham‟s money. When he finally finds success in America, Patrick does not forget his past, and cheerfully and readily helps those in need as he once was. The third reason why I find Patrick inspiring is that he works hard to improve his lot in life. Patrick wisely takes full advantage of the opportunity to start life afresh in America, and he works very, very hard to do this. Patrick deserves the success he achieves in America. 9. Write about a character whom you found wicked. In the novel “Potato People”, Mr Graystone was a wicked character. Mr Oswald Graystone was the overseer of Lord Egham. I find him wicked because he took hash and brutal action against the farmers who did not pay their rent. He showed no mercy towards the Irish farmers. He ordered his men to flatten three nearby villages and drive the people off. In Skullgoragh, he told the farmers to leave Lord Egham‟s land and that they must never return. Besides that, Mr Graystone was a hard man who ruled the estate like a king with an army of slaves under him. He employed people like Big Finn McDonald as he was a fighter and a bully to carry out his orders. Mr Graystone was always seen with his two gigantic Irish wolfhounds and riding a black horse, cracking a whip. 10. Who is the hero or heroine in the story? In the novel “Potato People”, I would pick Sean as my hero. Sean‟s family had once owned all the land that now belonged to Lord Egham. Sean was a lord without land and spent most of his time playing the Irish harp and singing sad and beautiful songs while facing starvation. During the struggle with the British soldiers, he was the poor people‟s unofficial leader but he was a sad man with nothing but rags on his body. He was the one who asked Patrick to get out of Skullgoragh and never come back. He asked Patrick to go to America so that this sad episode in Ireland would never be forgotten. He murdered Mr Graystone, his two dogs and stole from him to give Patrick the money to buy the ticket on the „Zeus‟. It was only when the soldiers came to get Sean that Patrick and his companion Marie knew the truth but it was too late to help Sean. Sean would be hanged for murder and robbery. He had done all this for Patrick and for the love of Ireland. He made the ultimate sacrifice for a fellow Irishman and his country. He is therefore, my hero.
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11.

Show how the world of the main characters is full of problems and challenges. In the novel “Potato People”, the world of the Irish people and Patrick Flynne in particular, in a village called Skullgoragh is falling apart. It was the potato blight of the 1840s and there was mass starvation. It was also the time when the rich landlords owned the land on which the peasants lived. The potato blight caused so much hardship that even rich Irish families like Sean‟s lost their land. Soldiers were sent to evict them. Any showdown meant that the villagers, thin, desperate and ragged were no match for the soldiers. In most cases, the soldiers left the places in ashes and smoke. It was also a time when people went on without food for days. People lived on weeds roots and even contaminated meat of a half-dead dog. It is against the background of suffering that Sean asked Patrick to leave for America and never come back. 12. Describe two good qualities shown by one character in the novel. In “Potato People”, Marie, the gipsy girl is a good role model. She was cheerful and optimistic even when things were down. Though hungry when she met Patrick, she could tell him stories about her exotic origin and she was heading to America for a better future, all alone. Marie knew how to smile unlike the people in Skullgoragh and Patrick was thankful he had met her. Besides this, Marie was resourceful and without her, Patrick would not have been able to manage. She taught Patrick how to defend himself with a stick as the road to Cork was littered with starry-eyed hungry people. She taught Patrick how to climb over a wall into a rich man‟s home to steal food. When they finally met Sean at the „Three Cats‟, she was quick enough to realize that Sean had murdered and robbed Mr Graystone for the sake of Patrick. She also stopped Patrick from helping Sean at that point because it meant endangering all of them. 13. Describe a pitiful character in the story. In “Potato People”, the most pitiful character is Sean. Sean‟s family had been rich and powerful and he was a nobleman living in an old castle. Now, Sean owned nothing except the rags on his back. He spent most of his time playing the Irish harp and singing beautiful, sad songs. The potato blight had done him it. He was a pitiful character, being constantly harassed and humiliated by Lord Egham‟s men and the British soldiers. However, his fierce Irish pride was still very strong. He asked Patrick to go off to America so that someone would live to tell the tale of the Irish potato famine. In the act of ultimate sacrifice, he murdered and robbed Mr Graystone in order to sponsor Patrick‟s trip to America. The sight of him being taken away by the British soldiers to be hanged for murder and robbery is heartwrenching. Nothing and nobody could save him. He is the most pitiful character. 14. Which character in the novel do you admire the most? a. The character I admire the most in the novel “Potato People” is Marie. She had a very hard life but she was always cheerful and happy. No problems could dampen her spirit. Her high spirits were so infections that Patrick felt energetic to be with her. She had travelled a lot and seemed to know a lot about the world. Marie was also a wise girl. She advised Patrick not to try to help Sean when he was being arrested by the British soldiers. She also told Patrick not to talk about Sean while on board the ship to America. They might get into trouble. b. The character I admire the most in the novel “Potato People” is Patrick Flynne. He was not a selfish man. He was always thinking of others. When he heard that Mr Graystone was coming to collect the rent, he offered to be the villagers‟ lookout. When he saw Mr Graystone‟s men destroying the village, he felt pity for the villagers. He was so concerned about the villagers that, he, later when back to the village to see how the people were faring. When Sean was arrested by the soldiers for murder and robbery, he wanted to help him. If Marie had not stopped him, he would have done so. He would also have been arrested. Patrick was also faithful to the woman he loved. He never abandoned Marie. In fact, he took her to America with him and later married her. c. The character I admire the most in the novel “Potato People” is Sean. He was once rich. He once owned all the land on which the village of Skullgoragh stood. He was always humble towards the village people. He tried to protect them against Mr Graystone when he came to collect the rent. However, he was helpless when Mr Graystone brought British soldiers with him to destroy the village. Sean was a wise and good leader. He did not want the villagers to be hurt or killed by the British soldiers. So, he gave way to them. He lay down his axe. The villagers did what he had done. Thus, a fight was avoided. Mr Graystone‟s men destroyed the village. Sean could only watch helplessly. Later, he took revenge for the villagers. He killed and robbed Mr Graystone. He was also a true friend. He told Patrick to go to America to escape the hunger and diseases in Ireland. He promised to pay for his passage to America. He kept his promise.

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15.

Write about a character that you admire the most. I like Marie best in “Potato People” because she is a brave girl who faces difficulties with laughter. She helps Patrick by being a good friend who lifts his spirit. Unlike many of the people he has known, Marie gives him hope for the future. She is used to a life of wandering and her many experiences have taught her how to take care of herself well. Next, Marie is a likeable girl because of her rich imagination. Although the stories he tells Patrick about herself are hard to believe, they are very funny and they cheer Patrick up. Marie may not really be a Princess and her family may not have even been to Egypt, but her tale about her family living in a pyramid makes me smile. Finally, Marie is a wise girl who understands much about the world and people. She gives good advice to Patrick and helps him to leave Ireland safely. 16. Write about any event or events that you find memorable in the novel. The most unforgettable part in “Potato People” is when Patrick and Marie go to the house of an English lord. Patrick was so amazed at the brightness of the grand house, which makes the house seem like heaven to him. I will also never forget how the happy faces of the rich ladies and gentlemen are so different from the hot and red faces of the servants, who have to clear the long table after the grand dinner is over. The contrast between the rich and the poor is very clear in this part of the story. Finally, the description of Patrick and Marie stuffing their faces and pockets with food is both sad and funny. Their hunger and fear of being caught stealing leftovers make them eat as much as they can, as quickly as they can. 17. Write about how the main character deals with the problems he or she faces in the novel. The story “Potato People” takes place during the potato blight in Ireland in the nineteenth century. Many people starved to death. The main character in this story, Patrick, deals with his terrible hunger by eating all kinds of things that people would not normally eat. For example, he eats roots, weeds and even the flesh of a dead dog even though it has worms in it. When he cannot find anything to eat at all, he tries to forget his hunger and his suffering by dreaming about food. He uses his imagination to forget his real troubles for a while. Later, he decides that the best way to deal with his hunger and poverty is to leave his home country to seek a better life in America, like thousands of Irish are doing. With the help of friends like Marie and Sean, he makes it to the new country, and after years of hard work, becomes rich. 18. Write about the lessons you have learnt from the novel. The novel “Potato People” teaches me that sometimes people can be cruel and violent when they are driven to despair by poverty and hunger. Sean, for instance, is so desperate and angry that he kills and steals. The people whom Patrick and Marie come across in the jungle are so hungry that they might even eat human beings. I also learn that on the other hand, people can be cruel if they have too much of good thing, too. The rich, like Lord Egham, are greedy and do not care about the poor, starving people around them. Lord Egham wants to cast out his tenants and rear sheep on the land to bring in money since his tenants are too poor to pay rent. The third lesson I learn from this story is that we must be prepared to help ourselves and not expect others to help us all the time. Marie‟s independent spirit is an example of this. She has to steal leftovers from the rich man‟s table so that she does not starve to death. She does not wait for people to help her, but is willing to do what it takes to survive. In the end, together with Patrick, she becomes rich in America. 19. Write what you learn about relationships in the novel. The novel “Potato People” shows how friendships are formed when strangers are willing to help one another in time of need. Marie becomes a good friend to Patrick when he is kind enough to share his bread with her. In return, she cheers him up with her stories and happy smile. She also teaches him how to protect himself and how to find food. He, in turn, comforts her when she is frightened. Another thing I learn about relationships from this novel is that sometimes one should not be too trusting. Patrick thinks that the gold Sean has is his own as his family used to be rich and powerful. Marie, however, being more experienced, realises that Sean probably stole the money. In the end, Sean is indeed arrested for murder and robbery. Patrick and Marie leave for America unharmed because Marie was perceptive. Finally, the relationship between the English and Irish at that time was not very good because the English treated the Irish badly. This created a lot of ill feeling and mistrust. From this I learn that it is always good to treat people kindly and respectfully.

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20.

Write about a main theme of the novel. An important theme in “Potato People” is suffering. We see that suffering is often caused by greed and selfishness. When the potato famine makes it hard for the Irish farmers to pay their rent, their English landlords, like Lord Egham, force them to leave their homes. Their greed for more money blinds these landlords to the suffering of their tenants. What is worse is that rich and powerful landlords have little pity for the elderly folk and the children who are suffering from hunger. Instead, they send soldiers to force the poor out of their homes, which are then set on fire. Finally, the suffering of the Irish is not something that affects them badly only. They feel deep shame when the English threaten them with their rifles and fierce dogs. Some, like Sean, cannot take the humiliation and injustice, and become vengeful and violent. Sean ends up murdering Lord Egham‟s supervisors, Mr Graystone. 21. Write about the strengths and weaknesses of the main character. In the novel “Potato People”, the main character, Patrick, is a kind-hearted boy who shares the little that he has with others. For instance, although he himself is starving, he is willing to share his bread with Marie, a stranger. When he become prosperous in America, Patrick never fails to help the poor. Another strength we see in Patrick is his great to survive. When he is desperately hungry, Patrick eats anything he finds just to stay alive. He does not give up. He is also hardworking. He works very hard to succeed in life, and in the end he owns a ranch in America. However, one weakness of him is that he is too trusting. This is because he has not seen enough of the world. He believe that the money Sean gives him is legal. He is shocked and upset to find out later that Sean had murdered Mr Graystone and stolen the money from Lord Egham. 22. Write about you like or dislike about the story. In the story “Potato People”, I do not like the way the English treat the Irish. The rich English landlord use soldiers to force the poor and starving farmers out of their homes when they cannot pay their rent. They even send soldiers to patrol wheat fields to prevent the hungry people from taking wheat. They themselves continue to live comfortable lives, with rich food and music while the poor around them are left to die of hunger and illness. What I do like about Mother O‟ Daugherty, the soldiers give her bread and cheese. It is even more touching when she gives away this precious food to the hungry children of the village. I also enjoy the imaginative stories that Marie tells Patrick. It is especially amusing when he believes that her family lived in a pyramid and that her grandmother knew a Pharoah.

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