The Midwife's Apprentice

by Karen Cushman

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What is the conflict in The Midwife's Apprentice?

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An example of a conflict in the story is the conflict between Jane and Alyce about Alyce training to be a midwife.

Jane adopts Alice from the dung heap, but does not necessarily want to train her.  She can assist in births, but if she learns how to be a midwife she will cut into Jane’s business.  This is a conflict between Jane and Alyce. 

From the beginning, there is a conflict between Jane and Alyce (called Beetle).

The first time they were called to a cottage, Beetle vied to go in, but Jane slapped her, calling her clodpole and shallow- brained whiffer, and made her stay outside where she wouldn't get in the way. (Ch. 3)

Alyce does not want to just stay outside.  She wants to be a real apprentice, and learn how to deliver babies.  She gets her chance when Alyce leaves a delivery to assist another one.  Jane takes the delivery of the wealthier woman, and Alyce stays and delivers the baby.  The parents pay her, which does not please Alyce.

Alyce also doubts herself, resulting in an internal conflict.  She is afraid she really can deliver a baby, and when a birth is difficult and Jane has to step in, her hopes are shattered.  She leaves the profession, but an emergency birth leads her to take it up again.

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What is the problem in the book The Midwife's Apprentice?

One of the conflicts in the book is overcoming obstacles. The dire poverty that  Beetle endures, and her quest to reach her potential create a "two steps forward,one step back" situation. It is her enduring spirit that keeps her striving to overcome the circumstances she has had to live.

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