The Man In The Well – CommonLit Answers Key

“The Man in the Well” is a gripping tale that delves deep into the psyche of children and the power dynamics that can emerge in unexpected situations. Written by Ira Sher, the story revolves around a group of children who discover a man trapped in a well. Instead of helping him, they engage in a series of interactions that reveal the complexities of human nature, especially when power dynamics are at play.

Story Overview

The narrative unfolds from the perspective of a nine-year-old who, along with his friends, stumbles upon an old well. To their surprise, they hear a man’s voice calling out for help from within. The children’s initial reactions are mixed, but a silent consensus emerges: they decide not to help the man. This decision sets the stage for a series of interactions that oscillate between curiosity, cruelty, and indifference.

The man, desperate and hopeful, tries to engage with the children, seeking their assistance. However, the children, perhaps intoxicated by the sudden power they wield over the man’s fate, respond with a mix of deception, evasion, and sometimes outright cruelty. They ask him trivial questions, lie about fetching help, and even bring him food and water, but never commit to rescuing him.

Key Themes

  1. Power Dynamics: The story vividly portrays how power can shift and how those who find themselves in a position of power, even unexpectedly, can sometimes misuse it. The children, realizing the man’s vulnerability, exercise a form of control over him, dictating the terms of their interaction.
  2. Loss of Innocence: The children’s actions, driven by curiosity and a lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation, highlight the thin line between innocence and cruelty. Their playful demeanor contrasts starkly with the dire situation the man in the well finds himself in.
  3. Human Nature: The story raises questions about inherent human nature. Are the children’s actions a result of inherent cruelty, societal conditioning, or simply the result of an unusual situation that they don’t fully comprehend?

Thought-Provoking Questions:

  1. Moral Ambiguity: What does the story reveal about the moral compass of children? Are they inherently good, or can they be swayed by circumstances and peer pressure?
  2. Responsibility and Consequences: How does the group mentality influence individual responsibility? Would any of the children have acted differently if they were alone?
  3. Empathy and Understanding: Why do the children fail to empathize with the man’s plight fully? Is it a lack of understanding, fear, or something more profound?

In conclusion, “The Man in the Well” serves as a mirror, reflecting the darker aspects of human nature and the complexities of power dynamics. It’s a tale that prompts introspection, urging readers to question and understand the deeper motivations behind actions and decisions.


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