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Refund - Summary & Exercise of Refund

Detailed summary of Refund along with all exercise and question answer. The play Refund, written in 1938, is about a man in his forties who returns...

Summary of Refund

Refund Summary & Exercise of the One-Act Play
Summary and Exercise Refund



The play Refund, written in 1938, is about a man in his forties who returns to the school where he had studied and demands a refund of the fees he had paid eighteen years before, claiming that he had learned nothing useful at school and is now useless. Percival Wilde, an American playwright, adapted this play for a general audience. Refund highlights Karinthy's literary art's extraordinary sense of parody and wordplay. The play is full of humour and deals with a ridiculous situation.  

Who is the writer the play Refund?

Frigyes Karinthy was a Hungarian satirist who lived from 1887 to 1938 is the writer of the one act play Refund. He was an accomplished novelist, short story writer, poet, essayist, and playwright. He studied to be a teacher because he was deeply interested in natural sciences, but instead became a journalist and joined the literary periodical Nyugat. He was a strong philosophical and humanistic thinker who spoke out against the barbarism and horrors of World War I. His works, including That, 's How You Write (1912), Journey Around My Skull (1939), Please Sir (1916), and Professor, earned him widespread acclaim. 

Short Summary of Refund

The main character of the play Refund Wasserkopf, a former student, unexpectedly returns to his old school. He had gone there nearly eighteen years before. He enters the Principal's office with arrogance. He tells the Principal his name. He gives a negative response to the Principal's questions. He informs him of his failures and demands a refund of the tuition fees he paid for his education eighteen years ago. He believes he has not gotten his money's worth and knowledge from their education. He expresses his and his friend Leaderer's feelings about him. He demands a re-examination and threatens the Principle with a complaint to the education minister if his request is denied.

The Principal asks him to wait and convenes an emergency meeting of the masters. They have a serious discussion about the issue. The masters decide to give him the test and ask him simple questions. They decide to assist one another by declaring his incorrect answers correct. 1 Wasserkopf confronts each teacher one at a time. To irritate them, he refers to them as loafers. He calls them derogatory names and responds inanely. The teachers are pleased with his responses. He has been gifted with excellent patriarchal manners, gentlemanliness, courtesy, physical culture, alertness, perseverance, logic, and ambition. His history professor asks him a simple question. "How long was the 'Thirty Years' War?" In his first question, he answers incorrectly as 'seven meters'.

Through their reasonings, both the History and Mathematics masters prove his answer correct. The Physics master then asks him a simple question about optical illusions. In response, Wasserkopf refers to the master as an ass. However, with proper reasoning, his answer is accepted as the correct answer. The Geography teacher asks him to say the capital city of Brunswick, a German province. The answer, according to Wasserkopf, is "Same." It is claimed by the masters to be the correct answer. The Mathematics master then asks a meaningless question about the circumference of a polyhedron with 109° sides. Even the data used in the calculation is meaningless. According to Wasserkopf, the answer is 2629 litres. The master becomes enraged when he realizes his answer to a simple question is incorrect.

The master then instructs Wasserkopf to calculate the amount of fees to be refunded. He describes it as a difficult question. Wasserkopf computes the total and provides an exact answer. Each teacher questions him and justifies his incorrect answers as correct, and they all give him high marks. Even though Wasserkopf gives incorrect answers and uses abusive language toward each master, they do not show their displeasure because they must prove him to be an excellent student to expel him. Finally, his masters declare him excellent and expel him from school. 

Main Summary

This amusing one-act play "Refund" was written in 1938 by a well-known Hungarian playwright named Frigyes Karinthy. Percival Wilde, an American playwright, adapted and translated this one-act play. This absurd and satirical play satirizes today's education system, which is quite backward in terms of preparing good students for the future. This play contains an extraordinary situation that has resulted in extreme humour. 

The theme of refund is wit and unity. This play is about a former student of a school in Hungary named Wasserkopf who returns to his former school and demands a refund of the tuition fees he paid eighteen years ago, claiming that he learned nothing useful at school and is now useless. This play demonstrates teachers' excellent ability to manage the situation and deal with Wasserkopf without jeopardizing their school's reputation. Wasserkof is a rude man who speaks in an abusive tone. He is unable to obtain employment. Even if he gets a job, he won't be able to keep it for long. People tell him that he is unfit for anything and hasn't learned anything worthwhile in school wherever he goes to apply for a job. He once ran into an old classmate, Leaderer, on the street. When Leaderer discusses foreign exchange investment and the Hungarian currency with him, Wasserkopf expresses his inability to comprehend them. He begins to inquire about foreign exchange.

Leaderer claims that if he doesn't know something as trivial as this, he hasn't learned anything in school. He advises him to return to his school and request a refund of his tuition fees. Wasserkopf, who is unemployed and penniless, regards it as a good idea that will benefit him. So, after eighteen years, he returns to his old school and demands his tuition fees back, claiming he hasn't learned anything and that they haven't taught him anything worthwhile. After hearing such an absurd demand, the principal is taken aback. Wasserkopf has even threatened to go to the education minister if he is not given justice. He demands a re-examination and demands his money back if he fails. 

The principal becomes perplexed and finds himself in an unusual situation, so he calls an urgent meeting of all the masters. They decide to re-examine him and agree to prove his answers, whether correct or incorrect, correct. They realize that Wasserkopf will purposefully fail the exam by giving incorrect answers to receive a refund from the school. As a result, the entire staff decides to outwit him and work together to help each other. Wasserkopf uses abusive and derogatory language toward each master to be expelled from school. However, the masters outwit him by demonstrating his superiority in Manners, Physical Culture, Alertness, Perseverance, Logic, and Ambition. The history teacher politely asks him to take a seat, but his response enrages the teacher. The master waits patiently and begins his question. The first question he asks is how long the 'Thirty Years War' lasted. The answer is whispered loudly by the physics master, and the geography master shows his ten fingers three times. 

Even though the answer is contained within the question, Waaserkopf is eager to provide a false answer and claims that the war lasted seven meters. All of the teachers become paralyzed. When the history master is unable to prove his incorrect answer, the mathematics master steps in. He claims that years can be represented in terms of meters by Einstein's relativity theory and that the actual war lasted only seven years. Because the war lasted only one day (twelve hours), it lasted 15 years. The master subtracts three hours per day for combatants' eating from 15 years, reducing 15 years to 12 years. He subtracts several hours for midday siestas, peaceful diversions, and non-warlike activities. He finally reaches the age of seven and wipes his brow. As a result, the candidate's answer of seven meters is correct in Einstein's equivalence of seven meters. 

The physics master then inquires about the clocks in the steeples of the churches. He wonders if it's because of the optical illusion that the church's clock shrinks when someone walks away from it. In response, Wasserkopf refers to the master as an ass.  However, the master accepts the answer as correct. The reason given is that an ass has no imaginative abilities because it is a sad creature. The master claims that it must be an optical illusion, and Wasserkopf responds metaphorically. The geography teacher then asks him to name the capital city of the same name Brunswick, a German province. Wasserkopf, on the other hand, responds with the word 'same.' The master proves his correct answer by claiming that the city also has another name, 'Same.' 

According to legend, the emperor Barbarossa was riding through the city when he met a peasant girl. After wishing her a "God Bless You," he inquired as to the name of the city. While munching on a bun, the girl replied, "Same to you, sir." The emperor, however, mistook the city name for 'Same.' As a result, masters rate Wasserkopf highly in geography. Finally, the mathematics master approaches him to ask him a question. He declares that he is going to ask Wasserkopf two questions, one easy and one difficult. 

First, he asks him a simple question about the circumference of a 109° sided polyhedron, but the data is irrelevant for the calculation. Wasserkopf provides an incorrect response. The math teacher becomes enraged and declares that his answer is incorrect. So he tells Wasserkopf that he is entitled to a tuition refund. Then he asks for the exact amount he needs. Wasserkopf tells them the exact total is 5682 crowns and 38 hellers, and the grand total is 6450 crowns and 50 hellers, oblivious to the teachers' trap. At this point, the mathematics master declares his correct answer to his difficult question. All of his answers are correct, according to all of his teachers. They give him honours in all subjects and expel him from school. 

Exercise of Refund

Answer the following questions. 

a. Why does Wasserkopf demand a refund of his tuition fees from the school? 

➜ Wasserkopf demands a refund of his tuition fees from the school because he is unemployed. He has failed numerous times in his attempts to find a suitable job for himself. He considers himself a loser at the age of forty solely because of his education. He is unable to find work. Even if he gets a job, he will not be able to keep it for long. People tell him that he is unfit for anything and that he hasn't learned anything worthwhile in school wherever he goes to apply for a job. Leader, an old classmate, agrees and advises him to demand tuition fees from his old school.  

b. Why does Wasserkopf consider himself good for nothing? 

➜ Wasserkopf considers himself good for nothing because he has failed numerous times in his life when it comes to finding work. He has been rejected numerous times in his life. He is completely bankrupt. He considers himself to be worthless and useless. 

c. What did the teachers decide to do when Wasserkopf asked for a refund? 

➜ The teachers decided to honour Wasserkopf's request for a re-examination and pass him in all subjects, even if his answers were incorrect. They decided to band together and assist one another during his examination. They agreed to prove Wasserkopf's answers to their questions correct. 

d. Why did Wasserkopf give ridiculous answers? Why did the teachers accept these answers? 

➜ Wasserkopf gave ridiculous answers in order to fail the exam by any means necessary and receive a refund. Teachers accepted his answers because they wanted him to pass the exam for the sake of their school's reputation.

e. How does the Mathematics Master describe Wasserkopf’s character? 

➜ Wasserkopf is described by the Mathematics Master as a sly and crafty individual who intends to deliberately fail his exam in order to recoup his tuition fee. Wasserkopf, in his opinion, is a bad-tempered man with a bad speaking style. He is a unique individual who irritates all of the teachers with his abusive language. 

f. How did the teachers outwit Wasserkopf? 

➜ Teachers outwitted Wasserkopf by using their brains properly. Wasserkopf did everything he could to fail his oral exam by giving absurd answers. However, the teachers proved his incorrect answers for various reasons. Wasserkopf was surprised to find his answers correct. He received a pass in every subject. His request for a refund was denied. Finally, he was expelled from school. 

g. What is the final judgment on Waserkopf’s demand of refund? 

➜ The final judgement on Waserkopf's refund demand is a rejection of the refund. The outcome is favourable to all teachers. Except for one, all of the teachers agree that Wasserkopf's answers are correct. The school's principal declares Wasserkopf distinction in all subjects. He has received certification and has been congratulated on his graduation. 

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Reference to the Context 

a. Read the extract from the play given below and answer the questions that follow: 

“It’s possible I’ve changed. What the hell…! Your class records will show I’ve got a right to come here.” 

i. Who is the speaker? Who is he speaking to? 

➜ Wasserkopf is the speaker. He's speaking to the principal of his former school. 

ii. Why is the speaker say these words? 

➜ The speaker says these words because he is dissatisfied with his educational records from his previous school, which he obtained eighteen years ago. 

iii. Where is the speaker at this moment? 

➜ The speaker is in the Principal's office at this moment. 

b. Read the extract dialogue given below and answer the questions that follow: 

“THE STAFF: (bowing, heartily) How do you do? WASSERKOPF: Who the hell are you? Sit down, you loafers! (He grins, waiting to be thrown out) THE PRINCIPAL: How dare you –” 

i. What is to be the response to ‘How do you do?’ 

➜ 'I am fine' is to be the response to 'How do you do'. 

ii. Is Wasserkopf’s response polite enough to the staff? 

➜ No, Wasserkopf's response to the staff isn't polite enough. He uses derogatory language against them. 

iii. How does Wasserkopf rebuke the staff? 

➜ Wasserkopf rebukes the staff, calling them "loafers" and asking, "Who the hell are you?" 

iv. What does the principal mean by ‘How dare you -’? 

➜ The Principal is referring to Wasserkopf's dare to make abusive remarks about masters when he says, 'How dare you?' 

c. Explain the following line of the play: “Because I didn’t get my money’s worth, that’s why!”

➜ This line was spoken by the play's main character, Wasserkopf. In this line, Wasserkopf explains his reason for his arrival and demand to the school's principal. According to him, his education from school did not provide him with his money's worth in his life. He has been rejected numerous times in his life. He considers himself to be worthless. 

d. What is the theme of the play? 

➜ The play's theme is wit and cooperation. This play showcases teachers' wit and unity in the face of an ill-natured old pupil Wasserkopf who returns to his old school with an absurd demand. This play is a satire on today's educational system, which has failed to prepare students for life. 

e. Sketch the character of Wasserkopf. 

➜ Wasserkopf is a forty-year-old poor and greedy man. He was born in Hungary. He is a bad-tempered man who has been fired several times for his bad manners and rude behaviour. He has no knowledge of any subject. In his life, there is no such thing as shame or respect. He thinks he's good for nothing. He walks into his school and demands his tuition fee without hesitation. He is immoral in his interactions with the Principal and other teachers. He refers to the teachers as 'loafers.' He refers to the History Master as a 'numskull,' the Physics Master as a 'cannibal' and a 'whisked balloon,' and the Maths teacher as a 'old stick in the mud.'


Reference Beyond the Text 

a. The play is a satire on the present-day education system. Do you think that our education system does not prepare students for life? Discuss. 

➜ Yes, I believe that our educational system does not adequately prepare students for life. The current educational system is disconnected from the concept of practical life. It has nothing to do with a practical way of life. It has diverted people's attention away from creativity and rendered them impractical. In today's world, there are many educated people with high certificate values who have no knowledge of anything. They don't even have the ability to guide others. As a result, the current educational system is producing ineffective workers in a variety of industries. 

b. Our education system focuses on memorisation rather than creative thinking. Do you think the knowledge imparted by education may not have practical relevance in one’s day-to-day life? Who do you blame for this? 

➜ Yes, I believe that the knowledge imparted by education may not be practical in daily life. We find education and its related knowledge far away from creative thinking in the context of the present system of education. The education courses are designed in such a way that they are unrelated to practical relevance in daily life. These educational materials have no application in real life. People who are struggling in academic fields are also looking for an easy way to memorize rather than creative thinking. The majority of students are on the wrong track, focusing solely on passing exams and receiving certificates. For them, creativity has no place in their lives. They are only concerned with obtaining excellent certificates through various means. This is directly attributable to the current educational system, which has corrupted thousands of minds. 

c. Most of the students want to learn just for examination rather than knowledge. Do you think that certificate will help them in their future career? 

➜ No, I do not believe that the certificate will benefit students in their future careers. At the moment, the majority of students are on the wrong track. Their preparation for the exam has a time limit. They are seen a lot more frequently before two or three months of their examination. They are far from the concept of knowledge, but they believe in quick fixes to pass their exams. The method they've chosen to pass their exam isn't good for their future. Because certificates never reveal true knowledge or talent, they will undoubtedly face a lack of authentic knowledge in the future. Most students nowadays obtain certificates through dubious means as well. 

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