The Midwife's Apprentice

by Karen Cushman

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What internal conflict does Alyce feel at the beginning of chapter 11 in The Midwife's Apprentice?

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In the beginning of chapter 11, Alyce feels conflicted about her inclinations. She is torn between her usual habit of deferring to her employer and her burning desire to distinguish herself as a capable midwife in her own right.

The chapter begins with a young boy, Matthew Blunt, asking Alyce to come and tend to his mother (who is in labor). Matthew tells Jane Sharp (the midwife) that his mother only wants Alyce. Of course, Jane has no idea who Matthew is referring to; after all, she has only known Alyce as "Beetle."

When Jane discovers who Alyce really is, she is visibly upset and accuses Alyce of taking her customers away from her. Torn between her usual habit of deferring to the midwife and her pride at having been sent for, Alyce must make a decision.

In the end, Alyce's pride seals her decision. She goes with Matthew back to his home and begins to tend to the boy's laboring mother. Despite all her efforts, however, the baby refuses to be born. Ultimately, Alyce realizes that she must send for the midwife.

The chapter ends on a sad note; ashamed of her failure, Alyce decides to leave the village.

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