The Midwife's Apprentice

by Karen Cushman

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What are the major events in The Midwife's Apprentice?

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The novel The Midwife’s Apprentice is about the struggles of a homeless girl who becomes the apprentice to a midwife. She learns how to deliver babies, but when she begins delivering the babies on her own, the midwife tries to stop her. The girl then leaves and returns as a confident woman who delivers babies with confidence.

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The Midwife’s Apprentice tells the story of Brat, a young homeless girl living in the streets in medieval England, stealing food, sleeping in alleys, and surviving as best she can. One day, the village midwife discovers Brat asleep in a pile of warm dung and takes her in to be...

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her apprentice. The midwife renames Brat “Beetle,” and she treats her poorly, but she gives her food and a place to sleep. Beetle accompanies the midwife to the cottages when she delivers babies. She carries the midwife’s supplies, but she is never allowed to be present in the room. Still, she learns all she can, largely by sneaking around in the shadows to watch the deliveries.

Beetle gradually gains confidence as she learns the art of midwifery and begins to gain the respect of the villagers. One day, she attends an event for the midwife and is treated with respect and mistaken for a person who can read. Feeling a boost of confidence, Beetle renames herself Alyce, and her life takes a turn for the better. She begins to deliver the villagers’ babies, but the midwife begins to resent the competition. During one difficult birth, however, Alyce becomes frantic, pleads for help, is humiliated by the midwife, and runs away. While away, she begins working at an inn, learns to read, and comes to realize that she wants more than anything to be the midwife’s apprentice. She gains the confidence she needs to return to the village and ask for her job back. Determined to persevere rather than give up, Alyce resumes her life as the midwife’s apprentice.

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My list might differ from another list of major events in the novel, but I will definitely try to help.  

The first event is the introduction to the protagonist.  She is known as Brat at this point in the novel and attempts to stay warm by burrowing into a dung heap.  

Jane finds Brat, offers her an apprenticeship position, and renames her "Beetle."

Beetle is physically and emotionally mistreated by Jane.   Beetle rescues a cat, which becomes her closest companion. 

Jane is temporarily unavailable to help with a birth.  Beetle attempts to fill in, and is not successful.  The event strengthens Beetle's resolve to better learn the art of being a midwife.  

Beetle must go to Saint Swithin's Day Fair, because Jane injured her ankle.  With her new responsibility comes her new name.  She takes the name of Alyce.  

Alyce helps deliver a baby successfully.  

Alyce is unsuccessful in her next attempt.  She runs away.  

Alyce learns to read. 

Jane seeks out Alyce and asks for her to return.  Alyce returns to the village from the beginning of the novel. 

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What are three or four major events in The Midwife's Apprentice?

The protagonist is twelve or thirteen at the beginning, wandering the streets, and we only know her as Brat. A midwife, Jane, offers to feed her in exchange for work, and she changes her name to Beetle. Beetle's only friend is a cat named Purr. Beetle takes her third and last name, Alyce, and finally has the chance to deliver a baby on her own. However, Alyce runs away when she's unable to deliver a baby, and her self-confidence is destroyed. She goes to an inn and meets Magister Reese, who teaches her to read. Alyce delivers a baby for a woman at the inn, and the midwife comes looking for her. Alyce insists the midwife take her back because this is what Alyce wants to do with her life.

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