The Hundred Dresses Part I and II
By El Bsor Ester
· The story ‘The Hundred Dresses’ is written in two parts by El Bsor Ester, an American writer who writes for the children.
· This story is about a Polish girl, Wanda Petronski who migrated to US with her family. Sadly, she was bullied by her class mates because her name appeared to be funny to them as well as she looked different from the citizens there. She was also teased because she was poor and lived in Boggins Heights.
· The story depicts that various people in our society face harassment, bullying and discrimination due their caste, colour, creed and community.
· The story teaches us that one should not bully or harrass other people just because they are different from the rest. More importantly staying quiet and not speaking against such injustice or harrassment is even worse.
Synopsis / Summary
The story is about a quiet and shy girl named Wanda Petronski, a Polish immigrant who had come to America with her family. She was a poor girl and lived in Boggin Heights. She attended school with American children who found her name to be funny, longer and probably, the weirdest in the classroom. This is because they all had easier names. She was poor and was always seen wearing a faded blue dress.
She used to sit in the last row of room no. 13 not because she was dumb or undisciplined but because she wanted to avoid the stares of class mates. Her classmates teased her because she claimed to have a hundred dresses “all lined up” in her closet albeit, always being seen wearing one. The ones who mainly teased her were the two best friends, Peggy and Maddie. Peggy was the most popular girl in school while anyone barely knew Wanda.
Peggy and Maddie used to wait for Wanda before school even if it meant to be getting late. Maddie herself did not like when Peggy made fun of Wanda. She wanted Peggy to stop making fun of Wanda, but could not gather courage to say so because doing so she might lose her best friend. She also feared that she herself might be their next target as she was also poor and wore second hand dresses of Peggy. However, Peggy’s intention was never to hurt Wanda but she was curious as to why Wanda had to lie that she had a hundred dresses all lined up in her closet.
Truth about ‘the hundred dresses theory’ unveiled on the result day of the drawing competition. The room was lined with one hundred drawings of colourful dresses, each one being equally beautiful and anyone of them could win the competition. That day, she truly had “a hundred dresses all lined up”, but in the classroom. At that moment, Peggy and Maddie, who were awestruck realised the truth behind the story of a hundred dresses and felt guilty about having treated her badly.
The lesson begins with the students of Room no. 13 having a look at the wonderful drawings of Wanda Petronski. Only then, a note is received by Miss Mason from Wanda’s father informing that none of his two children will attend the school as they are moving to a big city where no one would make fun of them for their long and unusual names. Miss Mason was left shocked and disappointed and conveyed her displeasure to the class over the issue.
Maddie was most affected by the letter of Wanda’s father. She instantly developed an urge to apologise to Wanda. Peggy and Maddie rushed to Boggins Heights hoping that the family hadn’t moved yet. But, there was no sign of life in and around the house which looked shabby but clean just like her faded blue dress. Maddie lost her sleep thinking what a coward she had been, who couldn’t stand against the wrong. That day she decided that she would never let anyone bully or harrass someone like that again.
That weekend Peggy and Maddie decided to write a letter to Wanda that was originally meant to be apologetic but they ended up writing a friendly note asking her if she liked the new city, school, teachers and friends. Weeks passed by, there was no reply but around Christmas Miss Masson received a letter in which Wanda wrote she missed everyone and conveyed her intention of gifting one dress each to Maddie and Peggy because she has a whole new lot of hundred dresses lined up in her new house. Both of them were happy to receive it and later realised that it was their faces she had drawn along with the dresses. Thus, they both concluded that Wanda did like them.
Noticing injustice and not speaking against it is worse than doing injustice.
The story teaches us a beautiful lesson that we should not bully or harrass other people just because they look different from us or they belong to different caste, religion or community. More importantly staying quiet and not speaking against any injustice or harrassment is even worse. Sometimes such bullying or harassment may result in grave issues such as suicides, mental trauma and psychological problems.
Important Question - Answers
Q 1. How does Wanda feel about the dresses game? Why does she say that she has a hundred dresses?
Ans. When Peggy and other girls teased Wanda by playing dresses game, Wanda didn’t reveal any feelings on her face. But, she must have felt embarrassed and humiliated as she was poor but she maintained her calm and remained silent. She was bullied due to her blue faded dress which was a mark of her poverty. The girls asked how many dresses she had. To avoid their bullies and make them quiet she replied that she had hundred dresses. As she was a self respecting and talented girl, she drew hundred beautiful dresses to prove herself right.
Q 2. Maddie thought that her silence was as bad as Peggy’s behaviour. Was she right? What do you think about it?
Ans. Yes, Maddie was right to think that her silence was as bad as Peggy’s behaviour. She could have stopped Peggy and saved her from humiliation. If we feel bad about any injustice being done to anyone and don’t do anything to stop it or don’t even express our displeasure about it, we are equally responsible for that injustice. On the contrary, we are worse than the one involved in injustice because the other person may not have the sensibility and sensitivity to realise what he/she is doing but we even after realising the gravity of issue don’t do anything to stop it, that’s why our passivity in such case is worse.
Q 3. What important decision did Maddie take? Why did she have to think hard to do so?
Ans. Maddie decided not to stand quiet and remain silent to see the injustice or bullying being done to anyone or people like Wanda but speak against it. She had to think hard to do so as she might displease her friend Peggy and lose her friendship in doing so. She also had to gather lot of courage to do so as she wasn’t habitual of such bravery. She had been by the side of Peggy thinking she might be bullied for her borrowed clothes. She, being a poor girl might be an object of such bullies, too.