The Glass of Milk


Rojas, Manuel


Short Story


The 1957 recipient of the Chilean National Prize for Literature, Manuel Rojas was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1896. Before he began writing poems, short stories, and novels, Rojas worked as a manual laborer throughout Argentina and Chile. Later in his life, Rojas worked as a linotype operator, journalist, head of the University of Chile Press, and a professor of Chilean and American Literature.

In “The Glass of Milk,” Rojas explores his common themes of poverty and need, centered on the working class. The story follows an out-of-work young man in a port as he searches for food while nearly starving to death. Questions raised by the story include: How do we recognize need? Is it necessary to ask for help to receive help?

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Originally published in Rojas' 1927 story collection, Hombres del Sur (The Men of the South)




Poverty and Need

Big Questions

How do we know what someone needs?How do we recognize need?


Taking Action

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Why doesn't the boy tell the sailor he is hungry at the beginning of the story?
  2. What makes the boy finally find a place to eat? Why does he choose the milk bar?
  3. When the boy first cries, why does he cry with rage and shame? Why does he cry with joy the second time?
  4. What does the blonde woman in the milk bar give to the boy? How does she recognize his need?
  5. Why do the boy's feelings of gratitude vanish as he leaves the milk bar?
  6. Even in times of extreme need, why is it difficult to ask for help?
  7. Is it necessary to expect gratitude when giving?
  8. How do you know when you have given enough or the right thing?
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