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A Roadside Stand – Robert Frost

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Imagine a hilly village, a few huts scattered here and there. There is a highway passing by this village. It is a road that links two cities, far away from this village. Among the huts, there is one that looks different from the others – it has an extented room in the front, an open shop, projecting to the road, very close to it. Here, the man who lives here has no better work other than selling wild berries and some other fruits that his children have collected and displayed for sale.

The little old house was out with a little new shed
In front at the edge of the road where the traffic sped,
A roadside stand that too pathetically pled…

  1. Why was the ‘little old house’ extended towards the road?
    The little old house, the roadside stand, existed on the roadside to make a living out of the city money. The owners of the roadside stand expected to attract the rich city men by extending the stand closer to the road.
  2. Which traffic is referred to here? Why are they ‘speeding?’
    The traffic referred to here is the cars and other vehicles of the rich people from and to various cities. These rich city men are in great hurry to make money by doing business in the city.
  3. Why is the Stand’s existence said to be ‘pathetic?’
    The roadside stand’s sole expectation is the flow of city-money into their hands. But their expectations are never fulfilled as the rich men are not considerate about them and hence a pathetic existence for the roadside stand.

It would not be fair to say for a dole of bread
But for some of the city money, the cash, whose flow supports
The flower of cities from sinking and withering faint…

  • Dole: Piece, City money: Big amount of money
  1. Why is it unfair to say that these people are begging for a ‘dole of bread?’
    One may think that the poor people at the roadside stand are beggars. But they are not. Unlike the beggars, who beg unconditionally, shamelessly and sometimes unreasonably, the people of the roadside stand have something to sell, some information to share and a noble reason behind their begging.
  2. What do the poor people really expect from the rich?
    The poor people expect a small share of the money from the rich people.
  3. How do the poor people look at the city money?
    For the poor people at the roadside stand money is very essential for growth and survival. It boosts the growth of the city and the city people.
  4. What is the flower of the cities? How?
    Prosperity/growth is the flower of the cities. As the flower is the crowning glory of a plant, growth becomes the flower of a city.

The city men – rich enough to be insensitive to the sufferers – pass by, in their cars. While passing by the raodside stand, they grow angry and speed away, cursing the poor lot.

The polished traffic passed with a mind ahead
Or, if ever aside a moment, then out of sorts
At having the landscape marred with the artless paint
Of signs with S turned wrong and N turned wrong…

  1. What do you mean by ‘polished traffic?
    Polished traffic portrays the insensitive attitude and gentlemanly appearances of the city-men. They appear to be ‘polished’ outside but their minds do not understand the sufferings of the poor people.
  2. Explain, ‘passed with a mind ahead.’
    The city people who passed by the roadside stand were self-centered and their minds were restless with greed for money and ambitions for great profits in their business.
  3. What are the usual complaints made by the city men when they stop at the roadside stand?
    The rich people to and from the cities usually have the same sets of complaints. Having failed to see the wretchedness of the poor, they complain that the roadside stand, with its artless paint, ruined the beauty of the nature. Another complaint is that the letters are wrongly written.
  4. How senseless do the rich men’s complaints sound to the poor people?
    For the poor people of the roadside stand, the rich men’s complaints, that the landscape is destorted with their poor sense of color, that they sell poor quality fruits and that they have a low literacy level, sound to be childish and infuriating and senseless.
  5. How did the poor people “mar” the landscape?
    The poor people mar/ruin the beauty of the landscape by putting up on the roadside. Their houses are painted in the most unprofessional manner with the most mismatching paint.
  6. What does ‘of signs with S turned wrong and N turned wrong’ convey?
    The Roadside STAND​ has an S and an N in Stand. The owner of the stand is illiterate so he has errected the board with wrong spelling with S and N inverted.

Offered for sale are wild berries in wooden quarts
Or crook necked golden squash with silver warts,
Or beauty rest in a mountain scene… 

  1. What articles are ‘offered for sale’ at the stand?
    Wild berries in wooden containers, croock-necked golden squash with silver warts and paintings of mountain scenery are for sale at the roadside stand.
  2. What qualities of the ‘offered articles’ make them unfit for sale?
    The articles for sale at the roadside stand are wild and therefore lack the polished look of the similar articles available in the cities. Moreover these articles are not packaged properly and they are far expensive than those in the cities.
  3. What does, ‘beauty rest in a mountain scene’ mean?
    Beauty resting in a mountain scene is probably a scenic painting made by the inhabitants of the roadside stand meant for selling to the rich people.

You have the money, but if you want to be mean
Why, keep your money (this angrily) and go along. 

  1. What do the poor people of the roadside stand feel when the citymen decline from buying anything?
    When the rich city men decline to buy articles from the roadside stand, the poor runners of the stand feel dejected and angry. They ask the city men to keep their money with them and leave the roadside stand without further bargain or comments.
  2. How do the rich people behave meanly in front of the roadside stand?
    Do you justify the poor people’s growing angry with the rich people’s attitude? Explain your stand.

The hurt to the scenery wouldn’t be my complaint
So much as the trusting sorrow of what is unsaid: 

  1. Why is the poet’s complaint different from that of the rich city men?
    The rich city men have their hollow complaints that come out of their failure to understand the core level struggles of the poor. But the poet is concerned for the poor and therefore his complaints are relevant.
  2. What do you mean by the trusting sorrow of the poor people?
    The poor people are instinctively sensitive and expectant to the promises of the rich and the mighty. They believe their hollow promises and wait for their realization. But finally their hopes give way to the miserable realization that the promises made by the rich are not meant to be fulfilled.
  3. What do you understand when the poet says that the trusting sorrow of the poor people is ‘unsaid?’
    The poor people place their trust in the fake promises of the rich people and the ruling parties and consequently become sorrowful. The poet complains that this sorrow of the poor people has not been brought to the serious concern of the concerned authorities, media and the public.

Here, far from the city we make our roadside stand
And ask for some city money to feel in hand
To try it will (not) make our being expand… 

  • Feel in hand: The poor people do not want promises. They want the promises fulfilled. Feel money in hand is different from having money between the giver and the taker – Being: Life – Expand: Improve
  1. What do the people at the roadside stand expect from the rich? What for?
    The poor people at the roadside stand expect the generosity of the rich city people. They hope to alleviate their poverty by getting money from the city people.
  2. How is feeling in hand different from the false promises of the parties?
    Feeling in hand means possessing what the parties in power have promised, not owning mere promises. If one feels the promised money in hand, it means he has acquired it rather than being fooled by the parties that have given them the promises.
  3. What is city money? How is city money expected to help the poor people?
    Unlike the meager amount of money possessed by the poor villager, city money is considerably huge. The city money is expected by the poor villager not only to alleviate his wretched state of poverty, but also to give his a considerable financial rise in life.

And give us the life of the moving pictures’ promise
That the party in power is said to be keeping from us.

  1. What are moving pictures? What kind of life is promised by the ‘moving pictures?
    The movies the poor people have watched are full of promises for them. In those movies they saw people who journeyed from poverty to prosperity.
  2. What do ‘the parties in power’ ‘keep from the poor people?
    The governments and the corrupted politicians keep the share and the allotted rights of the poor people away from them and use that for their selfish motives.
  3. How are the rich politicians responsible for the misery of the poor people?
    The rich and corrupted politicians keep the money assigned by the government for the poor people in their own malicious hands and make selfish use of them, thus depriving the poor people of their rights, happiness and all that they deserve.

It is in the news that all these pitiful kin
Are to be bought out and mercifully gathered in
To live in villages, next to the theater and the store,
Where they won’t have to think for themselves anymore…

  1. What is the good news for the poor people?
    The media keep on advertising that the governments are planning schemes for the welfare of the poor people.
  2. Do you think the ‘good news’ for the poor people’ ever come true? Why?
    No, the promises of the governments for the poor people are not seriously meant and therefore most of them remain just promises and are forgotten. This happens because these promises are the election baits and the bureaucratic trick to exhort money in the name of the poor people.
  3. Who are the pitiful kin? Why are they called so?
  4. What are the promises made by the politicians?

While greedy good doers, beneficent beasts of prey,
Swarm over their lives, enforcing benefits
That are calculated to soothe them out of their wits…

  1. Who are the greedy good doers? What is the irony in the ‘greedy good-doers?’
    The business class and the political parties and leaders are the greedy good-doers mentioned here. A greedy person cannot be a good doer. These good doers intend to make money out of the poor people by appearing beneficent to them.
  2. What does ‘beneficent beast of prey’ imply?
    Similar to ‘greedy good-doers,’ ‘the beneficent beasts of prey’ is also an indication to the greedy people who make money in the name of social and political and charitable works.
  3. How do the rich ‘enforce benefits’ on the poor?
    In business, promises wrapped up in glossy appearances have great value. The rich business people convince the poor of the advantages of their new schemes and promotions and make them buy their products and be their customers.
  4. What sort of calculation is made to ‘soothe the wits of the poor?’ Does this calculation work? How?
    The business minded city people attract the poor people with their well-planned promotional offers and promises. These promises and offers are such a way calculated that the poor people cannot escape the traps of the rich. The business man’s calculations work well as there is a more efficient brain behind all these promises.

And (by) teaching them how to sleep, they sleep all day,
Destroy their sleeping at night the ancient way… 

  1. Who teach the poor people to sleep? How?
    The rich people through their alluring promises of peace of mind and prosperity in life teach the poor people sleep.
  2. Are the poor able to sleep? Why? Who are really able to sleep?
    The poor people are unable to sleep as promised by the rich as the promises were not meant to be. On the contrary the rich people are able to sleep peacefully with the satisfaction of making themselves richer by exploiting the poor.
  3. How do the influential rich destroy the sleep of the poor? How is this done in the ancient times?
    The influential rich people give the poor great promises and exploit them to make profit out of them. This destroys the sleep of the poor people. This method of the rich and mighty is as old as the human civilizations.

Sometimes I feel myself I can hardly bear
The thought of so much childish longing in vain,
The sadness that lurks near the open window there,
That waits all day in almost open prayer…

  1. What is the childish longing? Why is it in vain?
    The poor people’s uncertain and futile expectation for the city money is the childish longing. It is in vain as the rich city people do not have the generosity to help them. OR: Children long to achieve things beyond their reach; but never get them. The poor people’s expectation that the rich people would give them money is their childish longing. it is in vain because the hard-hearted rich people never give them a penny.
  2. Why can’t the poet bear the childish longing of the poor people?
    The poet is a true humanitarian who is genuinely concerned for the poor people’s misfortunes. He wants a solution for their poverty. But seeing how childish their longings are, the poet feels it unbearable.
  3. What sadness remains at the window of the roadside stand?
    There is a sadness of helplessness, of unfulfilled promises and of being fooled by the parties in power remaining near the roadside stand.
  4. What is the prayer of the open window?
    The open window is praying for a generous traveler stopping at the stand to buy something and paying a generous amount to alleviate the distress of the poor people.
  5. Why is the ‘open window’ said to be in ‘open prayer’ for the city people’s generosity?
    The open window of the roadside stand has acquired the attitude of poor people of the roadside stand. Just like the people, the window also expects the city-men to stop their cars to help the poor people.

For the squeal of brakes, the sound of a stopping car
Of all the thousand selfish cars that pass
Just one to inquire what a farmer’s prices are…

  1. How do the poor people react to the squeal of brake in front of the roadside stand?
    At the sound of the squeal of brakes, the sound of a stopping car, the poor people at the stand feel their spirits cheered at the possible arrival of a customer to buy their things.
  2. Why are the cars called ‘selfish cars?
    The cars are selfish because the people who travel in them are self centered.
  3. What do you understand by ‘farmer’s prices?’ Who want to know that? Possibly why?
    Farmer’s prices refer to the wages for which the farmer could be hired to work in the city. Farmer’s prices can also refer to the prices of the berries, squash and paintings displayed at the roadside stand for sale.
  4. What make you think that the city men stopped at the roadside stand to hire farmers to work in the city and that farmer’s price refers to the per head wages to be paid to a farmer for working in the city?

And one did stop, but only to plow up grass
In using the yard to back and turn around;
And another to ask the way to where it was bound;
And another to ask, “could you sell a gallon of gas?”

  1. How do the city men plow up grass in the yard of the roadside stand?
    The insensitive and selfish city men drive their cars into the yard of the roadside stand to back and turn it around, leaving a huge cloud of grass plowed up.
  2. What is the most queer demand of the rich man at the roadside stand? How is it queer?
    The insensitive city man demands a gallon of gas at the roadside stand. This is queer because the city man is not aware of the fact that the poor man cannot provide him with expensive items such as gas.
  3. Why are the poor people angry with the city men when they ask for gas?
    The roadside stand has the store of wild berries, squash and paintings which are never bought buy the city men. On the contrary the city men require a gallon of gas and the roadside stand does not have it for sale. This helplessness make the poor people angry.

They couldn’t (this crossly), they had none, didn’t it see?
No in country, money, the country scale of gain,
The requisite lift of sprint, has never been found..

  1. Why do the people at the roadside stand talk ‘crossly’ with the rich people?
    The poor people sometimes become angry with the rich people. The latter refuse to buy the wild berries at the stand at a price demanded by the owners of the stand. They indulge in bargain and blame the berries and squash. But the poor, who know the rich people are so mean, grow angry at their unwillingness to help them by parting with a little amount of their money.
  2. How is money important for the village people?
    The village people think that money is important for growth in the village. They hope to make improvements in their wretched state of life.
  3. What are the two significant roles of money in the lives of the poor people?
    Money is the measuring rode of growth for the village people. They estimate their economic growth by means of the small amount of money at hand. Similarly, money is necessary for a villager to feel confident. He feels a ‘lift of spirit’ with money in reach.
  4. How does money become the ‘requisite lift of spirit for the country men?
    Money is the most important requirement for man in the modern world. If one has money at hand then he feels confident and a feeling of his spirit being lifted.
  5. Why is money never found in the villages?
    It is a common truth that countryside is backward and therefore it remains poor and penniless. Moreover the country folks are easy targets of the politicians and business-men and therefore they are easily cheated and looted. Besides, if these poor people are given money then they will migrate to prosperous cities or make a city in the place of their village.

Or, so, the voice of the country seems to complain.
I can’t help owning the great relief it would be
To put these people at one stroke out of their pain…

  1. What is the voice of the country?
    The voice of the country is that the rich people have no concern for them, and that they are being exploited, cheated and given false promises by the parties in power, and that there is no end for their miseries.
  2. Why can’t the poet help ‘own’ the relief of helping the poor out of their poverty at one stroke?
    The poet wants to see that the poor people are given some kind of help and support by the rich people but he knows that this would not happen. When he fails to see this, he allows himself to dream that these poor people have been helped by some supernatural powers to alleviate their miseries.
  3. What kind of a relief does the poet dream for the poor people?
    The poet dreams of a supernatural help for the poor people, a touch of magic or the like, so that the poor people will be redeemed from their state of poverty and misery instantly.
  4. Why does the poet seek an unrealistic solution for the poor people’s distress even though he himself blamed them earlier for their ‘childish longing in vain?’
    The poet, unlike the greedy good-doers, genuinely wishes to get the poor people out of their pain, poverty and endless miseries but he is sad and helpless to see that there is no one to help them come out of their poverty. This helplessness drives the poet to seek an unrealistic solution for the poor people’s misery.

And then next day as I come back into the sane,
I wonder how I should like you to come to me
And offer to put me out of my pain.

  1. What does the poet see when he comes back into his senses?
    The poet sees the city cars still passing without feelings, the helplessness of the poor people and the endless misery of the people at the roadside stand.
  2. What does the poet want his readers do for him?
    The poet is greatly distressed that the poor people are not helped by the government and rich people. He finally resorts to some heavenly help for the poor by which their poverty would be removed. But soon he realizes how childish his dreams are seeing that the poor haven’t improved. At this point the poet wants his readers to promise him to help the poor.
  3. What is the poet’s pain?
    The poet’s pain is that the poor people are still waiting for the rich people’s generosity and that the rich people never help the poor people. He is also sad that his insane dreams of the poor people helped by a stroke were only dreams.
  4. How can his readers remove the poet’s pain?
    The readers can get the poet out of his pain by offering to help the poor people.