Synopsis of An Angel in Disguise by T. S. Arthur from Treasure Trove

About the Author An Angel in Disguise

T.S. Arthur was a famous 19th Century American writer born in 6th June 1809. He was the editor and author of fiction and non-fiction works such as Ten Nights in a Bar Room. Ten Nights was the biggest and most successful of Arthur's career but equally, he was a great editor and publisher. His full name was Timothy Shay Arthur. He was weak in health since childhood; therefore his mother took up the job of a teacher so that she could read him the Bible stories and tell him the many tales of a father who was an officer in the revolutionary war. Around 1833, he served for a few weeks with the Susquehanna Bridge and Banking Company before this venture failed. At the same time, he was involved with Young Men's Paper as editor. In 1839, he began editing the Baltimore Merchant. He soon became a well-known writer on morals, advice, suggestions, compassion, values and ideas. He died in the year 1885.

Summary of An Angel in Disguise

The story basically is about a poor, miserable and wretched child who turns out to be an angel for the Thompson family. A poor woman who is hated throughout her life by almost all the people of the village is now surrounded by the same people when she dies in a drunken state on the threshold of her own house. She dies in front of her three children who included two daughters and a son. The village people take pity on these children. The boy was taken in by a farmer and Katy is taken away by Mrs Ellis. The youngest Maggie, who is disabled and bedridden, is left alone because nobody is ready to take her in that condition. Mr Thompson, the wheelwright, decides to take her home so that he can take her to the poor house the next day as he knows his wife would not like her to stay at home forever or accept her. When he carries her in his arms and reaches home, his wife Mrs Thompson becomes angry and her face is in a flame. She bursts out for bringing that 'sick-brat' into her house. Joe begs her to tolerate Maggie would be having in future. When Joe goes out for work, Mrs Thompson is all alone with Maggie the whole day, her attitude towards Maggie changes and slowly she becomes fond of her. Mr Thompson notices this change and realizes that it has been dark, cold and miserable in his house for a long time because his wife had nothing to love and care for, which was the reason for becoming her irritable, ill-tempered and self-afflicting. Now the sweetness of that sick child is described as honey to her soul. She carries her in her heart as well as in her arms. It a precious burden for her, she is an angel in their house disguised as a sick and helpless child.

Theme of An Angel in Disguise

The story has a symbolic title. The main theme of the story is that people can change and can get emotionally attached to others. It depicts love, kindness and human feelings. The importance of love has been emphasized and it is essential for human survival. The story is about a girl Maggie with an open heart and pure soul who proves to be an angel for the Thompson family. Her own life is full of darkness but she fills the life of Thompson's family with happiness and gives them a reason to live. The story opens with a sad note but gradually it gears up into a happy one. Compassionate Mr Thompson takes her home in spite of her hopeless disease. Thus selfishness is defeated by the selfless love. There is no proper description of the place but we could imagine that the setting is in a village which is dark and gloomy. The story is narrated in the third person. The story develops in a sequential way. It opens with the death of the mother and how the people gather in front of her house, how they behave and how they react. The two among the three children are taken away by different people and for Maggie who is suffering from the spinal problem, it is suggested to take her to the poor house. But Mr Thompson takes pity on her and carries her home. In the final paragraph of the story, Mr and Mrs Thompson find her as an angel who has come into their house disguised as a sick, helpless and miserable child and fills all its dreary chambers with the sunshine of love.

The message conveyed is to help other people. We should be kind, sympathetic and soft-hearted. A truly meaningful life is made up of a series of daily acts of kindness. Not only Maggie needs care and attention but Mrs Thompson also needs the same in return.

Character Sketches from An Angel in Disguise

Character Sketch of Maggie

Maggie is the youngest child of the three children whose mother died due to intoxication. She is hopelessly diseased. Two years back she fell from a window and injured her spine and because of that, she has not been able to leave her bed since except when her mother lifted her in her arms. She is the reflection of innocence, purity, dependency as she cannot survive without the love and care of someone else. She seems to be a burden for anyone but in the story, she proves to be a blessing for the Thompson family because she gives Mrs Thompson a purpose to live. She won her heart who is supposed to be a short-tempered and hard-hearted woman. She attracts the attention of many by giving them thought of her well-being. They feel pity for her and so brought discarded clothes for her. But it is said that nobody wants to adopt her as if she will prove to be a burden for them. Maggie is aware of all these things but she remains quiet. She talks a little but her eyes reflect everything. She possesses the childlike qualities to like afraid of being alone and so she asks Mr Thompson not to leave her alone. She is called to be brat by some lady but she proves her wrong. She is well behaved and well mannered. She is polite, meek, and humble. She always gives brief replies to Mr Thompson like 'Yes sir', 'No sir'. He feels like giving her fatherly love due to her innocence and purity of soul. On seeing her carefully, he finds her face attractive. The disease has not stolen her childish sweetness.
Initially, she was a burden but now she is a precious burden for Thompson family. Her character shows that humans cannot survive without other human's love and care.

Character Sketch of Mr Thompson

Joe Thompson's character is compassionate in the story. He finds it a cruel thing to leave Maggie alone when her mother is dead and elder brother John and Sister Kate is taken away by farmer Jones and Mrs Ellis. He does not want to leave her to the poor house as suggested by others because he knows it's not good for her. He cries a little when she is left alone and begs him not to leave her alone. He takes pity on her and brings her home lifting her in his strong arms. He is rough from the outside like a nutshell but soft from inside. He likes children very much and gets success in convincing his vinegar-tempered wife to allow her to stay in their home for a day before sending her to the poor house. He calms down his wife by giving her examples from the Bible on how Christ loves the children and rebukes his disciples who do not receive them. He asks his wife to be kind and gentle towards the poor child. Although he is not interested in the starting to bring her home the feeling of humanity doesn't allow him to leave her alone in that situation and then there is something attractive in her eyes and childish sweetness which catches his attention. His decision proves to be fruitful as their house has been changed from a dark, cold and miserable place to a happy and joyful home.

Character Sketch of Mrs Thompson

Mrs Thomson is introduced as a childless woman who is harsh and ill-tempered with no compassion at all for Maggie. She calls her a sick brat'. She has no willingness to do any good to others. When her husband brings Maggie home, she becomes agitated and doesn't talk to him. She asks him to drop her to the poor house as soon as possible. But soon when she spends time with her, she is completely changed and her feelings towards the little girl are transformed. She becomes calm and quiet. She is a woman of little words and doesn't count her husband much on the question of Maggie. She finds a purpose for living. When Mr Joe is ready to take her to the poor house she expresses her feelings to keep her for a few more days which then turn into the rest of her life. As she has been childless for many years, that may be the reason of her ill-nature. She has nothing to love or care for, so she becomes extra careful for Maggie and gives up the idea of sending her to the poorhouse. She accepts her as her child and carries her in her heart as well as arms.


intemperance - lack of moderation;
threshold - entry;
despised - worthless, regardless, feeling of contempt:
scoffed - mocked;
denounced - condemned;
denunciation - criticizing;
interment - burial;
wan - pale;
hovel - a small miserable dwelling;
resolutely - determined;
vague - not clearly explained;
ruffling - annoying:
vinegar tempered - bitter tempered;
non-combative - no battle, no opposition;
errands – short journey to do a job;
gainsaying – denying:
 irrepressible - not able to restrain;
unwonted - unusual;
eloquence - fluent and persuasive language;
manifest - show clearly:
bustle - move around in a busy way, excited activity;
asperity - harshness;
obliterate - destroy, remove, hide;
quivered - trembled;
sonic moments - speedy moments;
slumbering - sleeping:
desolation - feeling of being lonely or unhappy;
gratitude - being grateful;
disguise - concealing something:
dreary - dull.

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