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The Mother of the Child in Question by Doris Lessing

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“The Mother of the Child in Question” by Doris Lessing, is a short story from 1988. Theplot is that a social worker, named Stephen Bentley, has to try and convince a Pakistanifamily to send their youngest daughter to a special school because she is retarded. Thefamily in question is the Khans, an immigrant family consisting of Mr & Mrs Khan, theirson Hassan, their daughter Shireen and 2 older daughters whom we do not hear anythingspecific about in the story.The Khan family lives in what appears to be a ghetto in England, poor block buildings withmany apartments. Clearly a very lowly ranked social area, as the hallways in the buildingfor example is described as urine smelling and everything is grey concrete. On the eighthfloor of one of these buildings, we find the Khan family’s apartment, which at first sightseems very cramped with furniture, even though it’s very clean and presentable.The story itself is told through the eyes of Stephen Bentley; all the way through weexperience the story through his thoughts and observations. We follow his movements fromthe moment he first sets eyes on the building where the Khans reside, till he again leaves thebuilding at the end of the story.As I mentioned, Stephen Bentley is a social worker, he is our main character. He has beenassigned the case of the Khan family, and has made preparations by phoning Mr Khan theday before he shows up. His goal is to get Shireen into a special school for mentallychallenged kids; this is not the first attempt, and earlier another social worker had beenassigned to the case and failed.Secondly, we meet Hassan Khan, a young twelve year old boy; he greets Bentley in the doorand later turns out to be present as an interpreter and representative of his father. His fatherdid not show up for this encounter, even though he had promised to on the phone.

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