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Leaf by Niggle
Transcript of Leaf by Niggle
The two main character in the story are Niggle and Parish. The Voices, the Shepherd, and Atkins are also important.
In the story, there are three main conflicts: human vs. self, human vs. fate/God, and human vs. society.
In the story the main character, Niggle, goes on a journey. On an allegory level the journey is from life, to purgatory, and then finally to heaven. So the setting is in four main places. Community (life one earth), Infirmary (purgatory), hills/garden (between purgatory and heaven, and the mountains (heaven).
It was upon seeing his painting, his life's work, perfected by God, that he becomes completely purified. He leaves it in the hands of God to make things perfect. He realizes that life is about preparing yourself for God, and our goal in life should be to get to Heaven and to try to get others to Heaven. Parish then joins him in this between state. He and Parish use their talents to make the land beautiful. Niggle becomes completely pure and ready for Heaven.
Catholic Christian Themes in Short Stories
In the Community (Life on Earth)
Before Niggle takes his journey, while was still here on earth, he lived in and was very involved in his community. "But houses come first. That is the law." (107) As this passage suggests, the community had laws for everyone to follow. The laws ensured that everyone helped the community. Niggle followed the laws and helped his neighbors, but he never liked to help them and he thought it was a waste of time. These laws also reference that their is a higher power, God, and he makes laws that we must follow.
Hills/Garden/Niggle's Country (Between Purgatory and Heaven)
"There were Mountains in the background." (114) This stage of Niggle's journey was right after purgatory, and right before heaven. Niggle could see heaven. In this place between purgatory and heaven he comes face to face with his life's work, the painting of a tree. He spent his life trying to complete that painting, but never could. This means that God can perfect anything and that God is the route of all creation. God took Niggle's painting and perfected it. After seeing this he realizes what is really important in life. Then Parish, Niggle's neighbor, joins him in this country. Together Niggle and Parish use their expertise to make the country they are in magnificent this shows that when we work with other God can elevate our creation. After he truly becomes pure by seeing his painting perfected, he is ready for the final stage of his journey.
"They saw a man, he looked like a shepherd: he was walking towards them, down the grass-slopes that led up into the Mountains. 'Do you want a guide?' he asked. 'Do you want to go on?'" This is Jesus asking Niggle if he is ready to complete his journey and go to the mountains, heaven. He has become completely pure through purgatory, and is being led to heaven by Jesus Christ our Savior.
The first place Niggle goes on his journey is to the infirmary. On an allegory level the infirmary is purgatory. "It was more like being in a prison than in a hospital. He had to work hard, at stated hours: at digging, carpentry, and painting bare boards all one plain colour." (108) Purgatory was not a joyous place, it was a place for Niggle to work off his sins and become pure. He had to dig because on earth he never kept up his garden, he had to do carpentry because he did not help his neighbor fix his roof, and he had to paint bare boards to redeem himself for only focusing on his painting and forgetting about more important things. He spent a long time in purgatory. Then he was finally ready for the next stage of his journey.
Niggle, the main character, was a little man. He was a painter of average skill and was not married. He was also a procrastinator, as his name suggests. He didn't have a family and lived away from the town. He had a kind heart and was a very generous man always helped his community. He didn't help with the right mind set though. He thought of helping his neighbors as and interruption, and a distraction from what really matters, his painting. He was very single minded and only wanted to focus on his painting. When he went on his journey he changed in many ways. He became very humble and was no longer a procrastinator. He changed a lot which makes him a dynamic character. Niggle's heart was good and with God he used it for good. We know a lot about Niggle which makes him a round character. "There once was a little man called Niggle, who had a long journey to make." (100) This quote sums up the essence of Niggle and this story. That he had a long journey ahead of him, but it would make him into a great man.
The only physical description given about the Shepherd is that he is a man and looks like a shepherd. The Shepherd leads Niggle to the Mountains. On an allegory level the Shepherd is Jesus leading Niggle to Heaven. The Shepherd is Jesus, so he is strong, powerful, all-knowing, and our Lord. The story does not reveal much about him and he does not change; therefor he is a static and flat character. Even though he is static and flat, he is very important because he guides Niggle to the end of his journey, Heaven. "'Do you want a guide?' he asked. 'Do you want to go on?'" This is the part of the story where Jesus, the Shepherd asks Niggle to end his journey and go to Heaven.
Atkins was a schoolmaster. He was one of the people who were taking about Niggle after he left for his journey, after he died. Most of the guys made fun of Niggle. They called him worthless because they only saw the worth of people for how useful they are, and they didn't think painting was very useful. This reflects why Niggle felt as though no one appreciated him. However Atkins thought otherwise of Niggle. Atkins was a caring and loving man who saw Niggle's worth. Atkins found one the leaves that Niggle painted. He kept the leaf and framed it and eventually it landed in a museum. Niggle led Atkins to Heaven. Going to Heaven and leading others there is what life is all about and is what truly lasts forever. "Atkins preserved the odd corner. It crumbled but one beautiful leaf remained intact. Atkins had it framed." (119) This shows the effect Niggle had on Atkins, and how Atkins saw Niggle's worth.
The Voices do not have physical attributes because in the story they are only Voices. These are not just ordinary voices though. These are the Voices of God. The Voices represent the trinity, Voice one being God, Voice two being Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is amongst them. The Voices are all knowing and powerful. They are reviewing Niggle's life and deliberating how he should progress through his journey. The Voices are flat and static because we don't know much about them and they do not change throughout the story. "There seemed to be a Medical Board, or perhaps a Court of Inquiry going close at hand, in an adjoining room with the door open, possibly, though he could not see any light." (109) This passage tells us about the voices an how they were judging Niggle's life. It references a Medical Board and a Court of Inquiry because God heals us and becuase the Voices are questioning Niggle's life.
Parish was Niggle's neighbor. He had a limp leg. He also had a wife. Parish was always in need of Niggle's help, and Niggle always helped him. On an allegory level the character Parish represents the whole community. He is very needy, just like the community. Even his name Parish means a community. Niggle had the obligation to serve Parish, because everyone has the obligation to serve his or her's community. Parish never appreciated Niggle's work. Then, he ended up in the stage between purgatory and heaven with Niggle. Together, he and Niggle made beautiful things. They appreciated each others talents. He changed from being ignorant to being loving and kind, which makes him a dynamic character. He did not go to heaven with Niggle, he waited for his wife. "Some of he most beautiful-and the most characteristic, the most perfect examples of the niggle style-were seen to have been produced in collaboration with Mr. Parish." (113-114) This tells us that Parish was always a part of Niggle journey, but in many different ways. We know a lot about him so he is a round character.
Human vs. Self
Niggle has conflict with himself in the story. He has neighbors that need help. His heart tells him to help them, but all he really wants to do is finishing his painting. So, he often has conflicts with himself.
Human vs. Fate/God
Niggle also has conflicts with fate/God. He has to go on the journey, die, eventually, but he does not want to. No one wants to die, but we all have to. Also, he isn't prepared to die, but no one can really be prepared to go on the journey because no one besides God knows when we will have to start the journey. For this reason Niggle had conflict with fate/God.
Human vs. Society
Niggle is in conflict with society in two ways. One because no one thinks he is worth anything and no one appreciates his art. Two because his neighbor, which represents his whole community, is always in need, He is constantly pulled away from what he wants to do by society. Therefor he has conflicts with society.
Niggle just wants to focus on his painting, but his neighbor Parish keeps being a distraction because he needs help and naturally Niggle has to help him. Also, Niggle knows that son he will have to go on a journey. H has to start his journey, which means that he dies. He is then transported to an Infirmary. This represents purgatory. It is a dark place where he remains for a long while. He has to work off all his sins and reflect one his life. While he is in purgatory he becomes pure. God examines his life and decides Niggle is almost ready to have eternal life with him and go to Heaven. So Niggle is sent out of purgatory, to a more pleasant place.
When Niggle gets to this between purgatory and heaven state, he gets on a bicycle. He rides his bicycle until he comes face to face with a Tree. It is his Tree. The tree that he spent his whole life working on. This has caused him to sin most, yet it was what he loved the most. Will he turn to the sin he once fell inot through this painting, or will he become completely pure?
This is a story about Niggle's journey. His is a journey from life here on Earth, to purgatory, and then eventually to heaven. Niggle doesn't want to go on this journey. He comes in conflict with himself, fate/God, and society.
A shepherd, which is Jesus, appears to Niggle. Jesus offers to guide Niggle to the Mountains, which are Heaven. Niggle accepts the offer and goes to live eternal life with God.
Point of View
Leaf By Niggle is written from a third person limited point of view. This is because the story is narrated by an author not in the story, and he does not have access to all the characters thought and feelings.
Catholic Christian Themes
Correlating Bible Story
God can perfect us through death and resurrection
This theme comes up in the story a lot. The story is about God perfecting someone through death and resurrection. When Niggle dies he is far from perfect. Then with God's intervention he becomes pure and ready for Heaven. "There once was a little man called Niggle, who had a long journey to make." (100) "Do you want a guide?" he asked. "Do you want to go on?" (117) This quote sums up the theme because it shows how Niggle, just like all of us, had to make a journey to perfect ourselves. And it shows that he was perfected by God through death and resurrection.
Two Catholic Christian Themes in the story are: God can perfect us through death and resurrection and material things don't last forever.
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
This bible story connects to the theme, God can perfect us through death and resurrection. It connects because in the parable of the prodigal son it says that the son was dead and then alive again. This means that he died in sin, and then resurrected to a new life perfected by God. This is has the same message as the theme, God can perfect us through death and resurrection.
How does the story connect?
Material things things don't last forever
This theme comes up in the end of the story. It comes up when Atkins finds a leaf from Niggle's painting and had it framed, then it was put in a museum. Then, the museum burnt down. This displays the theme because the painting didn't last forever because it is a material thing. However the painting had a spiritual effect on Atkins and eventually the painting led him to Heaven. The painting leading him to Heaven does last forever because it is more than just a material possession. "But eventually the Museum was burnt down, and the leaf, and Niggle, were entirely forgotten in his old country." (120) This represents the theme because the painting was only a material possession and it eventually perished.
How does the story connect?
The story connects to the theme, material things do not last forever. It connects because on earth the rich man lived a wondrous life with many riches and possessions. When he got to Heaven he didn't have his possessions any longer and they did not transfer over as anything. In God's eyes material things are not important. God is forever, however, material possessions are not.
Correlating Bible Story
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Idle, innumerable, lumbago, inaudible, and spadeful were all challenging vocabulary words in this short story.
"He went on digging, till his back seemed broken, his hands were raw, and he felt that he could not manage another spadeful." (108) Spadeful means a spade, which is a digging tool with a pointed edge, that is full of with what it is digging.
"For one thing, he was sometimes just idle, and did nothing at all." (100) Idle means not active or in use.
"It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it became a tree; and the tree grew, sending out innumerable branches, and thrusting out the most fantastic roots." (101) Innumerable means too many to be counted.
"Mr. Parish was laid up with lumbago; and visitors kept on coming." (102) Lumbago means pain in the muscles and joints in the lower back.
"'Quite so,' said Niggle with a sigh: one of those sighs that are a private comment, but which are not mad quite inaudible." (104) Inaudible means not able to be heard or understood.
Mr. Parish is an example of symbolism. He symbolizes the whole community. It is used throughout the entire story.
"He was up on the ladder, trying to catch the gleam of the westering sun on the peak of a snow-mountain, which he had glimpsed just to the left of the leafy tip of one of the Tree's branches." (103) Also on page 114 he can see a glimpse of Mountains, or Heaven. He catches a glimpse of the Mountains, which are Heaven. This foreshadows that he will later go to Heaven.
"But it could not be denied that he began to have the feeling of -well, satisfaction: bread rather than jam." (109) The author is comparing two unlike things, bread and jam. He is comparing them in the sense that bread is more substantial than jam. This can be looked at on the surface saying that bread has more health benefits and is more filling than jam. Or it can be looked at on an allegory level, meaning the bread is the bread of life and the the Eucharist is what can truly satisfy us.
In the story the Voices symbolize the trinity. This symbolism is found on page 109.
Even though it doesn't say so directly in the story, his painting of a tree is an allusion to the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. In both trees there is sin. This allusion is found throughout the entire story, for it is Niggle's life's work.
Could Niggle's journey be from life here on earth, to purgatory, and then eventually to Heaven?
I think Niggle's journey was from life on earth, to purgatory, and then eventually to Heaven. One reason I have come to this conclusion is because he talked about his journey as though it was his death. He dreaded it, he was not looking forward to it, there was not enough time before it came, and he was not prepared for it to happen these things are also true with death. Then he goes to an Infirmary which is where I believe is purgatory. I think it is purgatory because it is described differently from earth, but does not seem like a heavenly place. Also, while in the Infirmary, purgatory, he does jobs that in a way work off his sins and he becomes a better man. Then he is spoken about by two Voices. I believe the Voices are God and God lives in Heaven, so I know it must be in Heaven. And finally he is led by a shepherd to a holy place he has longed to go. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and he leads us to Heaven. So using evidence from the story I have come to the conclusion that Niggle's journey was from life here on earth, to purgatory, and eventual to Heaven.