The Shadow and the Flash (Abridged from ‘The Shadow and the Flash’ by Jack London)
About the passage
A. Read to understand
Answer the following questions.
1. What was Lloyd’s theory about an object that was perfectly black?
Ans. Lloyd’s theory states that if the objects are perfectly black or absolutely black, we could not see them in light as well.
2. ‘Well, I have begun my experiments.’ What did Lloyd hope to discover through his experiments?
Ans. Through his experiments Lloyd hoped to discover the right pigments, an absolutely black paint which would make invisible whatever it was applied to.
3. When does a substance appear to be white? When does it look black?
Ans. When a substance reflects all the colours to the eye, it seems to us white. When it absorbs all the colours, it is black.
4. What was Paul looking to obtain through his experiments?
Ans. Through his experiments, he was seeking transparency: a state or quality of body which permits all rays of light to pass through. So, his line of enquiry was to do away with the shadow.
5. What surprise awaited the narrator when he reached Lloyd’s place of work?
Ans. When the narrator came upon the glade where Lloyd’s laboratory stood, he found no sign of the building. This meant that Lloyd’s succeeded in his experiment. Few coats of absolute black on the outside of the laboratory made it invisible.
6. What did the narrator discover when he went to meet Paul that same day?
Ans. Narrator went to meet Paul in the tennis court but he did not find him there. Suddenly a tennis ball struck him on the arm and as he turned about, he saw a rainbow flash appearing and disappearing and darting over the ground. This meant that Paul too has succeeded in his experiment. He had become invisible.
7. What would reveal Paul’s position on the other side of the net to the narrator?
Ans. Rainbow flash would reveal Paul’s position on the other side of the net to the narrator.
8. How did the narrator make sure of Lloyd’s presence at the tennis court?
Ans. In the midst of their play, close to the net, narrator saw a ball rebound in mid-air and empty space. He realized that Lloyd Inwood had come upon the scene. To make certain, he looked for his shadow, and there it was, a shapeless blotch moving along the ground.
B. Read to infer
1. Do you think Paul and Lloyd both succeeded in achieving perfect invisibility? Give reasons for your answer.
Ans. Paul and Lloyd both succeeded in achieving perfect invisibility, Paul using flashes of colour and Lloyd using absolute black.
2. The narrator said that he ‘tremble(d) for the success of either’ of his friends. What was it that he feared? How did his fears prove to be true?
Ans. Both of the narrator’s friends attacked the problem with all the tremendous energy but with bitterness. He feared that this rivalry may bring bad ends to them. This thought made the narrator trembled for the success of either. Narrator’s fear proved to be true as in the end when both came across each other, the idea of both having the same discovery brought up to their deaths.
3. ‘I can carry a sunshade, you know.’ What possible situation is Lloyd referring to, and how would carrying a ‘sunshade’ help in this situation?
Ans. In the light, Lloyd would carry a sunshade because in sunshade he will not cast a shadow.
4. ‘Look here, Paul, you’ll keep out of this if you know what’s good for you.’ What did Lloyd want Paul to ‘keep out of’?
Ans. Lloyd wanted Paul to ‘keep out of’ his search of the absolute black.
5. What do you think happened to Paul and Lloyd by the end of the story? What proof is available in the text to support this?
Ans. Both died by the end of the story as there were no more flashes, and the shadow had become long and stationary.
1. The over-competitiveness displayed by Paul and Lloyd was beneficial in term of scientific achievement but harmful with respect to their own lives. Discuss in class.
Ans. The over-competitiveness displayed by Paul and Lloyd was beneficial in term of scientific achievement but harmful with respect to their own lives. This so because when both came across each other the idea of both having the same discovery brought them to their death.
2. Do you think all scientific discoveries are useful to humans? Would invisibility be a beneficial or harmful discovery? Give a reason for your answer.
Ans. All scientific discoveries are useful to humans if used judicially. Invisibility can be beneficial if it could be used for humanity.
3. Have you read any other stories or seen any films which deal with the topic of invisibility? Share what you have read or seen with the rest of the class.
Ans. (Answer would vary)