An Insolvable Problem of Genetics - Summary | Major English Grade XI

Josef Skvorecky

An Insolvable Problem of Genetics

This story is based upon a real event that happened to the writer’s friend Jan Bich. This story presents the racism and hypocrisy of a family that ostensibly champions egalitarian ideals.

There were some African students in the narrator’s town. They were learning Czech language. The narrator’s elder brother, Adolf, loved a movie star Jana Brejchova secretly. But when he did not get reply from her, he started to love another girl Freddie Mourek. She was a beautiful girl with white skinny figure and dark and large eyes. Freddie was an illegitimate daughter of the Secretary of the Party cell at the Lentex linen factory in K.

One day, Freddie sang a black American song at Adolf’s house. Adolf’s father and mother became angry. When Adolf’s father asked her about her English name, Freddie said that her father’s name was Frederick Positive Wasserman Brown. He was a Black American migrant worker. Adolf’s father became very sad hearing this.

After the event, Adolf’s father borrowed books by Lysenko from the People’s Municipal Library and also started reading books by Friar Mendel. When Freddie sang Negro songs at his house the second time, Adolf’s father asked her about her father’s colour. she replied that he was completely black.

In the evening, the father told Adolf to break off his relationship with Freddie. According to Mendel, he said, Freddie would bear him a black child which would invite a scandal. People would think that the child was not of Adolf but of an African student. But Adolf said that it was too late. Adolf and Freddie had already had a physical relationship and she was pregnant.

The narrator overheard Adolf’s mother persuading Freddie’s mother for Freddie’s abortion. But she denied. Then, when it was sure that Freddie would be the mother of Adolf’s child, Adolf’s father, mother, sister, and Adolf himself started telling the people about the law of heredity. According to the law, as they explained, a completely white mother can give birth to a black child.

Freddie and her mother were angry at Adolf’s family for defaming them. Finally, Freddie ended her relationship with Adolf. She said that her father’s mother was a Japanese lady and her father’s grandfather was a Pygmy, a black African slave. So, according to Mendel’s law of heredity, she had the possibility of giving birth to a green dwarf. But after some time, she gave birth to twins, a boy, and a girl, who had a perfect pink complexion.

Important Questions Solutions:

1: Why is it significant that the events described in the story are told from the point of view of Adolf’s brother, a “third-grade student”?
Ans: The events described in the story are told from the point of view of Adolf’s brother. It is significant because he is not involved in the affair. So he can describe the events objectively. Though he is not involved in the affairs, he knows the secret thing hiding behind the picture of a statesman in his house. The evolution is not colored by any subjective feelings. So, Adolf’s brother, a third-person narrator, is appropriate enough to narrate the events objectively.

2: How does the fact that Adolf starts dating Freddie because she reminds him of the movie star Jana Brajchara emphasize the idea that people are not valued for themselves, but rather for their ability to enhance one’s social status? Why is coming from a family with an excellent class profile an example of this theme?
Ans: In every society, social status matters much. In society it is found that people want to enhance their status by any means in which 'Marriage' also is one. Adolf loved a film star 'Jana Brejchova' just because she was a famous actress and he could make a better position in society. But he left her when he knew that she was not interested with him and started loving Freddie. This shows that he had not loved the film actress wholeheartedly but only for the sake of social prestige. Freddie’s mother’s social status was also good because she was secretary of the party unit and had come from a family with a good class profile. Thus, Adolf’s interest in Jana and Freddie shows that people are not valued for themselves but for their ability to enhance one’s social status.

3: What might be the significance of “Positive Wasserman” in light of the fact that Freddie is pregnant?
Ans: Freddie’s father’s name was Frederick Positive Wasserman Brown. He was a black American. Adolf was in love with Freddie and she had become pregnant by him. According to the Mendel’s principle, the hereditary characters are transferred from parents to the offsprings. Freddie, though she was white, could give birth to black child because of the gene of her ancestor. In this sense Positive Wassermann’s mention is significant in the light of the fact that Freddie is pregnant.

4: How is the family’s hypocrisy illustrated in the changing attitudes of Adolf’s father when he discovers Freddie’s father was an (i) American (ii) a migrant worker, and (iii) black?
Ans: Adolf's father was the supporter of the protest against discrimination. So, he applauded Freddie's song to support the black. But when he knew that Freddie's father was migrated to America and was the member of the US Army, he became very sad. Again when he came to know that he was of black origin and belonged to working class, he decided not to make Freddie his daughter-in-law. In this sense, his hypocritical attitude is very clear. On the one hand, he loves black people. On the other, he supports social discrimination by not letting his son marry Freddie. In fact, he did not do like that intentionally but he was afraid of the scandal that would be spread in society with the birth of a black child in his family as he believed in Mendel's principle - "The heredity characters are transferred from parents to their offsprings".

 
5: What is the father really trying to discover by reading the works of the geneticists, Lysenko and Mendel?
Ans: Adolf's father wants to find out whether the hereditary characters are transmitted from the parents to the offsprings or not. He came to conclusion by reading the works of the geneticists, Lysenko and Mendel, that Freddie would certainly give birth to a black child due to the black genes she had acquired. As a result, he didn't accept her as daughter-in-law from her father.
 
6: What does the family's change of position on whether Adolf and Freddie are or are not too young to get married reveal about them?
Ans: Adolf's family went on changing the decision. Adolf loved a film star Jana. When he knew that she wasn't interested with him, he left her and started loving Freddie, daughter of a party secretary. Adolf loved and his family liked her because they could enhance their social status through her. But when they knew that Freddie was the daughter of migrated black American worker, they decided not to make her their daughter-in-law. They studied genetics and were afraid of the fact that she would give birth to a black child. Their changing attitude shows that they are hypocrites and opportunists. If Adolf and Freddie, or either of them were too young to get married, they could not marry legally. It could be a good reason for them to escape from that situation.
 
 
7: Why did father advise Adolf to end his relationship with Freddie?
Ans: Adolf's father was the white American and Freddie's father was a migrated black American. Adolf's father was much influenced by Mendel's books on heredity - "The heredity characters are transferred from parents to their offsprings". Thus, Adolf's father was afraid that Freddie would give birth to black children according to Mendel's theory of genetics. If Freddie gave birth to black baby the people would spread the scandal that the child is not Adolf's. They would think that the father was an African student. That's why father advised Adolf to end his relationship with Freddie.
 
8: Why did Freddie end the relationship with Adolf?
Ans: Freddie came to know that Adolf was also influenced by his father who believed that the hereditary characters transmitted from the parents to the offsprings. And she also knew that Adolf's love with her was only for the social prestige which he would get after marrying her. His love was selfish love and this was presented by his behaviour. After knowing the hypocritical and opportunists behaviour/attitude of Adolf, Freddie decided to end the relationship with Adolf.
 
9: Sketch the character of Adolf.
Ans: Adolf was a white person in love with a film actress-Jana Brejchova, who wrote two hundreds letters to her. But Jana didn't take much interest in him and he started loving a girl named Freddie. He was of middle class family and wanted to upgrade his status by marrying a girl of higher class profile. He was a hypocritical and opportunists person. Inwardly he was lured by the class profile of Freddie but outwardly he rejected her in charge of her black origin. He was not strong in decision. He was not successful in his plan.
 
10: Sketch the character of Freddie.
Ans: Freddie was a daughter of a party secretary and a migrated black American. She was in love with Adolf. She was very practical and just person. She accepted her status and the charge made by Adolf family but did not bow down in front of them. She agreed Adolf's attempt to break down their relationship by challenging him. She did not tell the lie to show false appearance. In this sense she was a true character.
 
11: How is Freddie's reaction to Adolf's parents a typical, although extreme, example of the generation gap that college students often experience? Can you identify with Freddie? If so, describe you experiences and feelings.
Ans: Freddie, though she was a girl reacted against the hypocrisy of Adolf's family. It was a typical example of generation gap that everyone of us experiences. Adolf did not marry Freddie because of his father. Father's generation did not keep their words. Their decisions went on changing. But Freddie once decided and broke off the relation. There is a big gap between older generation and younger. I can identify myself with Freddie. Like her, I am also a young college student. I cannot tolerate hypocrisy and insincerity. I think nothing is impossible. It is not necessary that one should die for Adolf.
Freddie might have some hope with Adolf's because Adolf was of her own age. But she found Adolf also trapped in the influence of older generation. Knowing that she did not hesitate to break the relationship though she loved him very much. My feeling would not be different if I were in Freddie's position.

12: At what point in the story did you realize that Freddie was making everything up just to ridicule Adolf's parents?
Ans: When Freddie was in Adolf's house, she sang a song of black people. Adolf's father praised her and hated social discrimination. But he was quite unhappy with the name Freddie, which seemed to him of foreign origin. She was shocked with his activity there and told him that she was the daughter of migrated American worker, Frederick Positive Wasserman Brown. Not only that she also revealed that reality of her family background when she was breaking off with Adolf. Her grandfather was a Japanese and her grandmother was a pigmy, and she might give birth to a green dwarf. At this point, it is clear that Freddie is making up everything just to ridicule Adolf's parents.

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