A Roadside Stand – Robert Frost


The Roadside Stand by Robert Frost tells the sad plight of economically underfed people who are often fooled by the cunning people who are responsible for their pathetic existence. The poet cannot bear their sadness so he sympathizes with them.

Stanza 1

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…

Meaning
  • Out with – Extended
  • Traffic – Vehicles
  • Sped – Passed in great haste and speed
  • Roadside stand – a little shed that sells cheap essentials for the passersby
Questions & Answers
  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.

Next – Stanza 2

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…

Meaning
  • Dole: Piece, City money: Big amount of money
Questions & Answers
  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.

Stanza 3

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…

Questions & Answers
  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 distorted 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. Continue to the rest of stanzas.
    Click down ↓
  7. 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.

Stanza 4

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

Questions & Answers
  1. What articles are ‘offered for sale’ at the stand?
    Wild berries in wooden containers, crook-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.
  4. Will someone change the life of these poor people? Will the city folks ever learn manners? Will they have sympathy for the poor? Will some magic occur and the life of the poor be different?
    It is not very easy to answer all that in a page. You will have to jump to another page from here. Learn all that you need to learn about the poor folks and decide if the rich are wrong or the poor are wrong. Click Here and Learn All.

Biju John is an educational writer, educator and the author of OM - The Otherwise Men. He gives live classes on Skype and Facebook. You can attend his 3 Day Classes (English & Business Studies) in Delhi, Bangalore, Qatar and Dubai. His Contact number is 91 9810740061.

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