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The Widow's Broom

By Chris Van Allsburg

Summary

One day a lonely widow named Minna Shaw, found a witch, who had fallen out of the sky, in her garden. Minna took the witch and her broom back to her house and let the witch rest. After the witch healed, she left Minna’s farm, leaving behind her broom she thinks lost its magic. Minna keeps the broom and uses it for her house chores. Although, one day she is shocked to find the broom sweeping the floor on its own! However, Minna’s neighbours are not so excited when they here about this magic broom and say it is wicked and dangerous. One day, after being continually taunted by two children, the broom gives the boys a well-deserved thrashing, which the neighbours use as proof if its evil spirit. They then attempt to get rid of the broom.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

By Dale Bailey and Kayla Lavallee

The philosophical context of this story relates to ethics and the treatment of people. The broom and the witches can be seen as a group of people that are strange, different and to be feared by the towns people. The way the people treat the broom is related to how the people treat the whole population of witches. The children taunt the broom just like a bully would taunt a child on the play ground who may be of a different race, sexuality or even just because they have glasses. Minna can be seen as someone who has good morals and brings the witch into her home in spite of vast differences between the two people. Minna teaches us that the human population is generally good hearted and differences that may appear strange and scary at first aren’t always the case when one begins to learn more. A lack of understanding can create walls and boundaries that aren’t necessary when the misunderstood may have more in common than it would appear at first.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Before Reading

  1. What do the title and the cover of the book suggest about the story?
  2. What is a widow?

During the Reading

  1. If there was someone like a witch injured on your yard, what would you do? Why?
  2. What happened to the dog?
  3. Did the neighbours really burn the real magic broom?
  4. How did Minna scare neighbours away?

Bravery

  1. Was it brave of Minna to help the witch?
  2. What makes someone brave?

Tolerance

  1. Why do you think the towns people did not accept the broom?
  2. Why do you think Minna accepts the broom into her life, even though it came from a witch?
  3. Would you not accept someone or something just because they were different?
  4. Can you think of a situation where the lack of acceptance caused suffering?

Fear

  1. Why do you think the rest of the neighbours feared the broom?
  2. Was there a time where you were scared of something that was different or unusual?
  3. Can you think of other situations where people feared something they did not understand?
  4. Should they have feared the broom? Why or why not?

This book module deals with ethics, specifically virtue. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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