A ROADSIDE STAND
By: Robert Frost
Think it out
1.The city folk who drove through the countryside hardly paid any heed to the roadside stand or the people who ran it. If at all they did, it was to complain. Which lines bring this out? What was their complaint about?
Ans:- The poem presents the lives of poor underprivileged people. They wait in vain for the cash flow that sustained the life of the rich people in the city. The rich zoomed across, callously, in their luxurious vehicles. They did not pay any attention to the roadside stand or the people who owned it. If at all they thought of the stand, it was to complain. They were critical because the pathetic stand had marred the beauty of the land. This is made clear in lines 9 to 16 of the poem. Out of the teeming thousands barely one stopped to inquire about the prices of the farm products. Another just used the space to reverse the car and yet another to enquire about the direction to his destination. One paused and asked for a gallon of gas, and was angry as the stand did not provide that.
2. What was the plea of the folk who had put up the roadside stand?
Ans:- Away from the glamorous life of the city dwellers, the roadside stand pleaded for some sustenance to survive. The poor people who ran it, begged for a decent livelihood. They asked for assistance that had been promised to them by the political parties in their manifestoes and the movies they saw.
3. The government and other social service agencies appear to help poor rural people but do them no good. Pick out the words and phrases that the poet uses to show their double standards.
Ans:- In a show to help the poor community, some exploiters were buying them out and gathering them to live in villages next to the theatre and the store. This was merely an illusion. It was a temporary distraction to wean them away from their reality. Ironically, it was provided to benefit them but in actuality, it was a mirage. The city dwellers—’greedy good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey’—squeezed benefits out of them. Like flies, they swarmed over their lives to cheat them for selfish gains. They sleep through the day as a result of spending their nights at the theatre. They are lulled. They can only be tempted by the different things in the store.
4. What is the ‘childish’ longing that the poet refers to? Why is it ‘vain’?
Ans:- The ‘childish’ longing that the poet refers to, is the longing of these rural people that one day at least someone of all the thousand selfish people who pass in their luxurious cars, will halt even if it is only to inquire about a farmer’s miserable plight. The complete indifference of the city dwellers towards the poor rural folk saddens him.
The longing is in ‘vain’ as deep within him he realizes that it is highly unlikely that the selfish city folk will pause to look at the miserable plight of the poor people or even give them a thought.
5. Which lines tell us about the insufferable pain that the poet feels at the thought of the plight of the rural poor?
Ans:- The poet prays and pleads the cause of these people. No amount of material gains of the country can uplift the people until these masses live a sub-normal existence. He would be relieved if these people are put out of their misery. But in his saner moments, he realizes that it is not a simple job. He wonders how he would feel if someone offered to put him out of his misery through death. He realizes that death is not an option.
Talk about it
Discuss in small groups.
The economic well-being of a country depends on the balanced development of the villages and the cities.
Ans:- Poverty is characterized by deprivation, vulnerability, and powerlessness. These characteristics impair people’s sense of well-being. It can be alleviated if at least two conditions are met. First, economic growth must occur on a sustained basis. Second, economic growth must reduce income inequality. Unequal distribution of income is not conducive to either economic growth or reduction of poverty.
The economic well-being of the country depends on its rural population as rural poverty accounts for nearly 63 percent of poverty, worldwide. In almost all countries, the conditions faced by the rural poor are far worse than those faced by the urban poor. Persistently high levels of rural poverty have contributed to rapid population growth and migration to urban areas. Much urban poverty is created by the rural poor’s efforts to get out of poverty, by moving to cities. Distorted government policies, such as penalizing the agriculture sector and neglecting rural (social and physical) infrastructure, have been major contributors to both rural and urban poverty.
The rural poor depend largely on agriculture, fishing and forestry and related small-scale industries and services. Cultivators, who form the bulk of the rural poor in developing countries, are directly engaged in producing and managing crops and livestock. Presently, both small landowners and tenants are under increasing pressure to get out of the agriculture sector altogether. Non-cultivators are anyways the poorest among the rural poor. They find it even more difficult than small landowners and tenants to gain access to public infrastructure and services.
All sections of the rural poor are vulnerable to serious risk, owing to changes in weather, health, markets, investment, and public policy. The main reason is that the rural poor are ill-equipped to absorb shocks. Also, economic crises and natural disasters can bring about sharp increases in poverty and make it more difficult for the poor to escape it.