Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the poem “A Roadside Stand” by Robert Frost of Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 12 English textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.
Summary: Themes that are present in the majority of Robert Frost’s poems reflect his lifelong fascination with the difficulties of human existence and man’s eventual acceptance of his obligations. Like his other well-known poems about human tragedies and worries, “A Roadside Stand” is about the lives of poor, oppressed people who have always had to put up with the apathy of the authorities and other social service agencies.
The poet draws a contrast between the lives of poor people in rural areas and the heartless and indifferent city dwellers who do not even pay attention to the roadside stands these individuals have set up to sell their things. These helpless individuals wait in vain for passing vehicles to stop. When a car does pass by, it usually has a question for the driver or a complaint to make. The sad description of the modest roadside shelters and the person standing there attempting to make a living shows the poet’s profound sympathy and compassion for poor, needy people.
A small shelter at the side of the road is described in the opening verse, along with the purpose behind its construction. A farmer builds a vegetable stand outside his house on the side of the road in the hopes that passing automobiles will stop and buy some of his farm’s harvests, allowing him to support himself. Many times, wealthy city people are the source of income for street vendors or small-time sellers. The poor farmer does not beg in spite of his difficult situation. Despite being indigent, he intends to sell farm products to earn a respectable life.
However, the insensitivity of the wealthy class is shown when no automobiles pause or even bother to turn to face the stand. Instead of expressing concern or sorrow, they would rather make a remark about the obstruction caused by the shed’s structure or the defects and subpar paint job on the direction boards. They view these stands as an eyesore in the rural area they are travelling through. The farmer’s labour and the challenges he has in selling his produce are absolutely unimportant to these uncaring passersby. The automobiles drive off, paying no attention to the kiosk selling berries and squash or the stunning mountain backdrop.
The farmer advises the wealthy traveller to keep his money if he wants to be so harsh, adding that it doesn’t bother him as much when the beautiful mountain scenery is so carelessly disregarded. The farmer, though, is infuriated at being so blatantly neglected. He merely wanted a modest sum of money in exchange for his items so that he, too, could take advantage of some of the luxuries that were regularly portrayed in movies and the media but were consistently withheld from him by political parties.
The so-called benefactors of these poor people want to move them to communities where they may shop and go to the movies. But because they are motivated primarily by their own interests, these people will only assist you if you can help them help you. These so-called philanthropists seek to make the peasants totally dependent on them for all of their comforts and advantages.
The ignorant villagers don’t realise that they are losing their independence and capacity for independent thought. The poor villagers’ minds are so affected by these seemingly nice deeds that they are unable to think rationally. Because they did not work during the day or because their new way of life disturbs them, they are unable to obtain a good night’s sleep anymore. The old practice of working during the day and sleeping easily at night has been completely reversed by this new, supposedly comfortable manner of living.
The farmer’s pointless wait and disappointment as he listens for the sound of brakes close to his stand might at times be tough for the poet to endure. The farmer’s open windows appear to be waiting all day for the sound of a car pulling over to make a purchase. Unfortunately, expecting farmers are faced with disappointment as drivers only pause to ask for a gallon of petrol, directions to a location, the price, or simply reverse their automobile on the grass in the farmer’s yard.
The main prerequisite for a country or area to advance is money. Furthermore, it is indisputable that when half of a country’s population is poor, the material advantages of a sector cannot boost a country. The poet claims that these rural people haven’t advanced as far as they should have, and their way of life proves it. Therefore, the poet begs for help for these people, expressing relief if their suffering ended “at one stroke.” He seems to be saying that death is better than suffering forever. In his more logical state, he thinks about how he would respond if someone offered to kill him in order to end his misery.
Textual questions and answers
1. The city folk who drove through the countryside hardly paid any heed to the roadside stand or to the people who ran it. If at all they did, it was to complain. Which lines bring this out? What was their complaint about?
Answer: “Or if ever aside a moment, then out of sorts At having the landscape marred with the artless paint of signs that with N turned wrong and S turned wrong…” are the lines in the poem that highlight the city dwellers’ callous and insensitive attitude. Those speeding by in their “polished” cars complained about the obstructed view caused by the shabby little roadside stand’s construction or the flaws and clumsiness of the paint on the direction boards. They consider these stands to be blights on the rural landscape through which they are passing.
2. What was the plea of the folk who had put up the roadside stand?
Answer: The poor farmers did not beg; they simply wanted to make a living by selling their wares. The city dwellers had money to spare, which they could use to buy something from the roadside stand, allowing the impoverished villagers to feed their families.
3. The government and other social service agencies appear to help the poor rural people, but actually do them no good. Pick out the words and phrases that the poet uses to show their double standards.
Answer: The so-called benefactors who appear to be helping the poor are actually pursuing their own selfish goals. ‘Greedy good-doers’, ‘beneficent beasts of prey’, ‘Swarm over their lives enforcing benefits…That are calculated to soothe them out of their wits’, ‘And by teaching them how to sleep’, ‘they sleep all day, destroy their sleep at night the ancient way,’ are some of the words and phrases used to describe their double standards.
4. What is the ‘childish longing’ that the poet refers to? Why is it ‘vain’?
Answer: The poet refers to the farmers’ eager and anxious wait for a prospective customer as “childish longing.” They keep their windows open in the hopes of hearing the sound of brakes when a car pulls up to the stand to purchase the goods on display. They have only pinned their hopes of survival on the city’s wealthy residents. According to the poet, “childish longing” is futile because it frequently leads to disappointment. The poor villagers are completely ignored by the ‘polished’ cars that drive by and the rich city dwellers’ indifference. It demoralises them. Even if a car stops, it will be to ask for directions, reverse the car, or request a gallon of gas.
5. Which lines tell us about the insufferable pain that the poet feels at the thought of the plight of the rural poor?
Answer: The poem’s final lines express the poet’s anguish at the plight of the rural poor.
“I can’t help but think what a huge relief it would be
To get these people out of their pain with one stroke.”
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. Do you agree that Frost’s poem “A Roadside Stand” expresses his deep sympathy for the poor and disadvantaged? If yes, give reasons.
Answer: The poems of Robert Frost are always about human tragedies and fears. The poem ‘A Roadside Stand’ is about the enormous disparity between the urban rich and the rural poor, as well as the condescending attitude of one class of people toward the other. Frost is deeply saddened by the disillusionment of poor people who work tirelessly to earn a living. The farmer erects a small shed with fruits and vegetables for sale, hoping that passing cars will stop and purchase his wares. However, these car owners believe that the roadside stands are a blight on the rural scenery they are passing through. The poor are consistently ignored by the wealthy, as well as by the government and other social service agencies. Even when a benefactor appears, it is always for selfish reasons. The poet can only hope that there is a way to alleviate their pain and suffering.
2. What is the attitude of the city dwellers towards the people setting up roadside stands?
Answer: The city dwellers pass by in their flashy cars, never pausing to look at the roadside stand, which has been painstakingly constructed with a great deal of hope and expectation. These stands, according to unconcerned city dwellers, detract from the beauty of the countryside. They do not bother to look at the farmer’s display. Even if they do, it will only be to ask for directions, reverse the vehicle, or get a gallon of gas.
3. What does it mean when the poet refers to the traffic as “polished”?
Answer: Frost refers to the traffic as “polished” to emphasise a key contrast in the poem. The contrast he attempts to draw is between the gleaming vehicles driven by well-to-do city dwellers on the one hand, and the unsophisticated, semi-literate, ‘artless’ stand set up by an impoverished farmer on the other.
16. Why are the owners of the roadside stand requesting money from the city?
Answer: The individuals running the roadside stall request some city funds because they desire to live the opulent lifestyle that is depicted in movies and other media, which political parties are allegedly refusing to provide for them.
17. What will bring the poet a great deal of relief?
Answer: The poet occasionally thinks that it would be a tremendous relief for him to instantly free these individuals from their suffering and struggles. Death will relieve them of all suffering.
18. Why do cars pause on the side of the road?
Answer: Contrary to what the poor farmers anticipate, no automobiles ever stop by their roadside kiosks. If they ever enter the yard, it is simply to reverse and turn the car around. Sometimes, cars will merely stop to ask for directions or petrol.
19. Why was the requisite lift of spirit never discovered?
Answer: The poet asserts that development can never be achieved with enough money. Therefore, these underprivileged country people have never achieved the necessary “lift of the spirit.”
20. What seems to be a complaint from the “voice of the country”?
Answer: According to the poet, the “voice of the country” laments the injustice done to the underprivileged villagers. They were never able to advance to the necessary level since they lacked money in their lives.
21. Describe the miserable existence of the rural poor.
Answer: The standard of living for rural residents is extremely low. The only roadside stand in the poem illustrates how uneducated and underprivileged they are. The unfortunate person waiting at his stand all day long hopes someone will stop and make at least a small purchase. But no one visits him because the shed looks pitiful with the clumsy paintings it has, and people driving expensive automobiles feel that the stand has detracted from the neighbourhood’s aesthetic appeal.
The government and the ruling class frequently publish fabricated news articles claiming that they will provide poor farmers with financial and institutional support. They guarantee that these patients will live close to cities where they will have easy access to every modern amenity and won’t have to worry about anything. But nobody ever notices these jokes, which are all intended to deceive these helpless folks. According to the poet, the wealthy class disturbs the poor’s sleep in “the ancient way,” or as usual. As a result, the situation of rural residents is unchanged. They still lag behind and are impoverished, ignorant, and lowly. Their miserable lives do not get any better.
22. What is the purpose of the roadside stand?
Answer: The goal is to make a little money by selling wild berries, squash, and other similar things.
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