Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories Compassion

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This office was also the place where Miss Amelia received sick people, for she enjoyed doctoring and did a great deal of it. (Ballad.53)

Is it more about expertise or caretaking, for Miss Amelia? Which does she seem to take more joy in?

He always smelled slightly of turnip greens, as Miss Amelia rubbed him night and morning with pot liquor to give him strength. (Ballad.77)

It's as if Lymon is marked by her love, smelling of her country cures as he moves about town.

Miss Amelia would not leave him by himself to suffer with this fright. (Ballad.78)

It hurts Miss Amelia, it seems, to see Lymon suffer. So she must watch over him. Is this what love is for her?

But Miss Amelia used a special method with children; she did not like to see them hurt, struggling, and terrified. (Ballad.116)

Why does Miss Amelia care about the pain of children, when she doesn't seem to much care about the pain of adults?

There were times when Miss Amelia seemed to go into a sort of trance. [...] For Miss Amelia was a fine doctor, [...] whenever she invented a new medicine she always tried it out first on herself. (Ballad.164)

It's a significant sacrifice to try out these potions first. Or is it just about ethics? Liability?

[...] she denied these symptoms with bitter vehemence, but on the sly she treated Cousin Lymon with hot chest platters, Kroup Kure, and such. [...] But this did not prevent him from following along after Marvin Macy. (Ballad.181)

Miss Amelia spends all of this time and care on Lymon, and this seems to only worsen the blow of ultimately losing him.

The people would have helped her if they had known how, as people in this town will as often as not be kindly if they have a chance. (Ballad.227)

It takes a special knowledge to know how to take care of someone. Does Miss Amelia's lack of vulnerability doom her to a life of isolation?

Now all this wise doctoring was over. She told one-half of her patients that they were going to die outright, and to the remaining half she recommended cures so far-fetched and agonizing that no one in his right mind would consider them for a moment. (Ballad.227)

Now that Amelia has lost her love, she no longer has an emotional capacity to "take care."

What he must do, he told himself, was to regard the whole situation impersonally and look on Madame Zilensky as a doctor looks on a sick patient. (Madame.33)

Why does Mr. Brook take up this charge?

He was conscious of a warmth in his chest, and a feeling of pity, protectiveness, and dreadful understanding. For a while he was in a state of lovely confusion. (Madame.35)

The circumstance of caring and compassion is enjoyable for Mr. Brook, it seems.

"We'll have a quiet supper by ourselves up here. That's a good girl." Emily sat on the side of the bed and he opened the door for a quick departure. "I'll be back in a jiffy." (Domestic.34)

Martin speaks to his wife like a child. Does he take care of her this way because he wants to, or because it's better for the children?

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