Witches’ Loaves

The story Witches’ Loaves was written by O. Henry. From the title, I think the story is about witches and what they like as their food, most likely bread. On the other hand, it might be about why witches love bread, or what they would want as payments to wish a curse away.

The story is about an old woman, Miss Martha, who runs a small bakery, and who takes note of her every customer, in this case a man with a German accent and who has been a regular customer of hers. The man, Blumberger, doesn’t seem rich in any way; his clothes are mend at some places, and sagged at others. Despite that, he looks neat in a pair of spectacles, keeps his brown beard well trimmed and is very well behaved. The woman gets fond of him and seems ready to help him in some way, if he is poor as she thinks, so one time in an attempt to please him, she sneaks butter in the loaves he’s ordered so he doesn’t eat his bread dry. The butter spoils his work, a contract he had been assigned to do and he comes back very angry with her.

The story teaches on how we perceive others to be and how we easily judge people because of how they appear. Martha judges too fast, she is quick to conclude that the man is an artist when she notices some color stains on his fingers, when we find out that he is an architectural draftsman who uses stale bread he buys as an eraser. The writer uses the fresh and stale bread, the chops, light rolls and jam and the delicious Sally Lunns which Martha enjoys, to contrast the rich and poor status in the society. The story depicts a generous community, represented by the woman who owns the bakery and a range of wheat products she can share. She has a sympathetic heart and pities him, assuming he eats the stale bread because he cannot afford the fresh ones. She wishes she shared with him the better food she has. There is the aspect of fear of expression or opening up to someone. Martha feels like she needs to warn the man about his poor health but she doesn’t think she had what it takes. She thinks of the man as proud artist just like the others, and who cares less about his health but his work (Williams B. C, 2007).

In conclusion, the story clearly illustrates how disastrous and costly it can be when we assume or do things behind people’s backs in a bid to please them. It shows why we should not brand people names and titles before we know about them. Wrong perspective about other people misleads our intentions with them and affects the relationship as we sometime go overboard trying to impress others. The story is sarcastic and humorous as is seen in the case where Martha ceases the slightest opportunity to slip in the cream in his loaves. It also shows that anger drives us to do things we might regret for example the man comes back all the way to call the woman names, when hers might be the only bakery available. On the other hand, the woman throws her work, the quince seed and borax mixture, through the window.

Witches’ Loaves is on true basis because we encounter such situations everyday, and it carries a moral lesson. The picture we create in our minds when we see other people is usually negative or exact opposite of what’s true, especially if they don’t put on decent clothing. The story is sweet and comic, especially because it is real in the sense that we know exactly what the writer is talking about, we are put in his view. The use of irony to create the difference in the lives of the two characters is good. This comes out when the poor draftsman uses bread as an eraser when he should be saving as food for his stomach.

The use of vocabularies also makes the story interesting and not too obvious. These include:

Dummkopf– translated as a stupid person.

Rumpled– referred to shaggy and unkempt hair.

Ferociously– angrily, violently and with rage.

Garret– a small space immediately below the roof of a pitched house.

Meagre- small, less or not enough


Williams B. C. Our short story writers  Modern American writers  Essay index reprint series . Books for Libraries Press, 2007.





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