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A Roadside Stand Summary in English by Robert Frost

A Roadside Stand Poem by Robert Frost About the Poet

One of the America’s foremost poets of the twentieth century, Robert Frost was born in San Francisco and lived there till the age of eleven. When he was just eleven, he moved to England. In 1911, due to some circumstances, he sold his farm in Derry, New Hampshire and moved with his family to England. Here, he met and received the support of Ezra Pound.

Frost received four Pulitzer prizes and Prizes like Bollinger Poetry Prize (1963). Robert Frost’s (1874¬1963) best works include ‘Birches’, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’, ‘Mending Walls’, and ‘The Road Not Taken’.

Poet Name Robert Frost
Born 26 March 1874, San Francisco, California, United States
Died 29 January 1963, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Poems The Road Not Taken
Awards Robert Frost Medal, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
A Roadside Stand Summary by Robert Frost
A Roadside Stand Summary by Robert Frost

A Roadside Stand Introduction to the Poem

Robert Lee Frost was an American poet who lived from 1874 to 1963. His simple style of writing, I realistic depiction of rural life and constant reference to nature made him one of the most influential : poets in American history. His most famous poems include ‘Mending Wall’, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ and ‘Birches’.He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry four times.

A Roadside Stand Theme

The poem, ‘The Roadside Stand’ is Robert Frost’s scathing criticism of an unequal society where there is a huge division between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, owing to the inequitous distribution of wealth. The poem depicts, with clarity, the plight of the poor and the complex dynamics of their existence. It also focuses on the unfortunate fact that the unequal progress and development between cities and villages have led to the feelings of distress and unhappiness in the rural people.

A Roadside Stand Summary in English

The poem “A Roadside Stand”, composed by Robert Frost is about a farmer who puts a little new shed in front of his house on the edge of a road. Several thousands of cars speed past it. He desires to sell wild berries, squash and other products. He does not like charity. He tries to sell his products for money. He believes that money can give him a better lifestyle as he saw in the movies. However, his hopes are never fulfilled. People in cars go past without even giving a cursory look at his stall. And if few of them happen to look at it, they see how the letters N and S had been turned wrong. They believe that such badly painted signs spoil the beauty of the countryside.

Nevertheless, a few cars did stop. One of them desired to take a U-turn. It came into the farmer’s yard and spoiled the grass. Another car stopped to know the way. And one of them stopped as it needed petrol, though it was quite evident that the farmer did not sell petrol.

The poor village people had little earning. They have not seen much money. They lead a life of poverty. It is known that some good-doers plan to remove their poverty. They aimed to buy their property on the roadside to build theatres and stores. They plan to shift the villagers into the village huddled together. They wished to teach them the ways that could change their good and healthy habits. They even aimed to teach them to sleep during day time. The ‘greedy good-doers’ and ‘beneficent beasts of prey’ desired to force the benefits on the poor village people and befool them.

The poet feels quite miserable at the pitiable sufferings of the poor village folk. He even had a childish desire for all the poor to be done away with at one stroke to end their pain. But he knew that it is childish and vain. So, he desires that someone relieves him of his pain by killing him.

A Roadside Stand Summary Reference-to-Context Questions

Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow.

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,

a. Where had the little new shed been put up and why ?
A poor farmer had put up the shed at the edge of the road.

b. What imagery does the first line create?
It creates the imagery of an impoverished farmer’s home and a roadside stand that he has set up.

c. Where is the shed set up?
“file little new shed is set up in front of his house which is on the edge of the road.

d. What is the poetic device used in the third line?
Personification has been used in the third line. The shed has been personified. It pleads pathetically for some extra cash flow.

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

a. Why does the peasant not want bread?
The poet stresses that the peasant does not want bread or the basic amenities of life but a source of alternate income, apart from his trade.

b. What does the peasant yearn for?
The peasant yearns for some of the city money to sustain him better, and liberate him from his hand-to-mouth existence.

c. How does money sustain cities?
Money in the cities, always in excess, brings luxurious benefits.

d. Explain: ‘flower of cities’.
This is a metaphor. Just as flowers are kept from withering with extra care and nurturing, similarly, extra cash flow helps cities to bloom and flourish.

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

a. Explain the poetic device in ‘The polished traffic’.
‘The polished traffic’ is a transferred epithet that depicts the sophisticated, urban city- dwellers.

b. Why are their minds ahead?
The urban rich have their minds preoccupied with their own lives and its related problems.

c. How do they react to the presence of the stand?
They are indifferent to the presence of the roadside stand, if ever they chance to look at it.

d. Why do they feel out of sorts?
The presence of the roadside stand annoys them as they feel that it mars the beauty of the landscape.

4. Of signs that with N turned wrong and S turned wrong
Offered for sale wild berries in wooden quarts,
Or crook-necked golden squash with silver warts,
Or beauty rest in a beautiful mountain scene,

a. What do N and S turned wrong symbolise?
These inelegantly painted signposts and other rustic signs are a source of annoyance to the urban rich.

b. What does the stand sell?
It sells some home-grown produce like wild berries, crook-necked golden squash with silver warts and amateur paintings of the mountain scene.

c. Explain: ‘beauty rest in a mountain scene’.
This probably refers to a scenic painting made by the inhabitants of the roadside stand, to sell to the rich people.

d. What qualities of the offered articles make them unfit for sale?
The articles for sale at the roadside stand are wild and lack the polish of similar articles available in the cities. Thus, they hold no appeal for the urban rich who drive past.

5. You have the money, but if you want to be mean,
Why keep your money (this crossly) and go along.
The hurt to the scenery wouldn’t be my complaint
So much as the trusting sorrow of what is unsaid:

a. How do the rich behave meanly with the poor?
When the rich city people refuse to buy anything from the roadside stand, the poor peasant feel dejected and angry. They ask the city men to keep all their money with themselves and leave.

b. Explain, ‘trusting sorrow’.
‘Trusting sorrow’ is a metaphor that refers to the fact that the peasants set up their shed trusting that their wares will attract the city folks to buy their products and thus, provide additional income. However, they are filled with sorrow when no one shows interest.

c. What is the poet’s complaint?
The rich have hollow complaints such as hurt to the scenery. They are unable to understand the concerns of the poor and their core level struggles.

d. What is ‘left unsaid’?
The poor wait in hope expecting the rich to fulfill their promises. Gradually, their hopes give way to the bitter realisation that the promises of the rich are not meant to be fulfilled.

6. Here far from the city we make our roadside stand
And ask for some city money to feel in hand
To try if it will not make our being expand,
And give us the life of the moving-pictures’ promise
That the party in power is said to be keeping from us.

a. What is ‘city money’?
Using light satire, Robert Frost criticises the political party in power for preventing the peasants from enjoying the lifestyle like that of the city-dwellers.

b. What do the peasants want from the rich?
The poet stresses that the peasants want the generosity of the rich. They want promises fulfilled in order to have some extra cash to alleviate their suffering as promised by movies and political parties.

C. Why is feeling money in hand important?
it is important for the farmers to have the promised money in hand, instead of the empty and false promises of the politicians.

d. Explain: ‘our being expand’.
The extra inflow of cash would help improve the quality of the lives of the poor peasants.

7. 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 theatre and the store,
Where they won’t have to think for themselves anymore,

a. Who are the ‘pitiful kin’?
Pitiful kin refers to the poor farmers living in rustic farmlands.

b. Who is buying them out and why?
Real estate agents buy them out and force farmers from villages to cities, promising riches. It benefits them temporarily, but the bulk of the benefit goes to these unscrupulous agents.

c. What is the good news for the poor?
The good news for the poor is that the government is planning to relocate them, as part of a welfare scheme for the poor.

d. Why are they to be placed next to the theatre and the stores?
Cunning and manipulative politicians relocate them next to the theatre and the stores to make them dependent and unable to think for themselves.

8. While 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 sleeping at night the ancient way.

a. Explain: ‘greedy good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey’.
Greedy good-doers are apparent benefactors but actually ‘beasts of prey’ exploit the innocent village folk by giving them a short term sense of security

b. Who are these people?
The greedy good-doers and beneficient beasts are the civic authorities, real estate agents who make the poor complacent and lull them into a false sense of security.

c. Name the poetic devices used in the first line.
‘Greedy good-doers’ and ‘beneficent beasts of prey’ are both oxymorons. Alliteration has also been used in the first line.

d. How do ‘they’ destroy the poor?
The brokers and estate agents promise farmers’ benefits, so that the farmers will not have to think for themselves as they will not be needy. Now sluggish, farmers will sleep all day, thereby losing their sleep by night.

9. 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
For the squeal of brakes, the sound of a stopping car,

a. What can the poet not bear?
The interminable wait of the farmer for prospective customers, distresses the poet.

b. What is ‘childish longing’? Why is it in vain?
The poor people’s futile expectation for city money has been compared to children longing for things beyond their reach. It is in vain as the rich are too self-absorbed and hard-hearted to help them.

c. Explain the poetic device used in the third line.
Sadness has been personified, as it lies in wait, near the open window, desperately praying for a customer to appear.

d. What does it pray for?
The personification is sustained as sadness prays for a city-dweller to stop by, and at least, enquire about the prices of the farmer’s wares.

10. Of all the thousand selfish cars that pass,
Just one to enquire what a farmer’s prices are.
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 they sell it a gallon of gas
They couldn’t (this crossly); they had none, didn’t it see?

a. Explain: ‘selfish cars’.
This is a transferred epithet. The people sitting in the cars are selfish as no one has charity as motive as they stop by.

b. Name the reasons for which the cars stop occasionally.
The cars stop either to reverse, or to ask for directions or to ask if they could buy a gallon of gas.

c. What is the queer demand of the city folk?
The insensitive city people ask if the roadside stand sold a gallon of gas, knowing fully well that gas was well beyond their means.

d. What makes the people at the roadside stand ‘cross’?
With every passing car that stops, the farmer’s hope rises, only to be disappointed. None of them seem to want what he has to offer. This makes the people at the roadside stand cross.

11. No, in country money, the country scale of gain
The requisite lift of spirit has never been found,
Or so the voice of the country seems to complain,

a. What is country money?
Country money is the meagre income and the meagre profit that the poor farmers make. In no way does it compare with the affluence of the rich in cities.

b. How has the country scale of gain helped the farmers?
It has not freed them from their poverty. It has not provided them with the extra cash that is required to improve the quality of their lives.

c. How does money provide ‘the requisite lift of spirit’?
Money is a very important factor in modern living. It provides confidence and gives an additional lift to one’s spirit.

d. What is the complaint of the villagers?
No matter how hard the villagers try, they can never make as much money as their counterparts in the city. Thus, they never have the money to enjoy the luxuries that the city people have.

12. I can’t help owning the great relief it would be
To put these people at one stroke out of their pain.
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 gently out of my pain.

a. What kind of relief does the poet visualise for the poor?
Frustrated by the helplessness of the villagers, Frost offers to end the lives of the poor at one stroke and liberate them from their grief and pain.

b. What makes him change his mind?
Thankfully, common sense prevails before he has taken the thought too far. Sanity returns to him the day after he has had this thought.

c. What is the truth that he realises?
When Frost wonders how he might feel when someone found him in pain and decided that death was the best option for him, he realises the futility of his earlier thought.

d. What is the poet’s pain?
The poet’s pain is the iniquitous divide between the rich and the poor, the interminable wait that the poor must endure for their misery to be addressed and their suffering to end.