by R. K. Narayan
Questions and Answers for the Short Story included in the CHSE +2 Alternative English book ‘Approaches to English – II’.
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Section – I : Questions for discussion
1. How does the story writer present the setting of the story? Does it arouse the thrill and excitement of a detective story?
Answer – The writer has aptly set the story in a quiet, solitary, and at a time when dusk is descending on the area. The pond adds an element of intrigue to the plot that he intends to create. The watchman, an old man in his mid sixties, is the lonely person overseeing the surroundings. Quite clearly, the writer is preparing the reader’s mind for something awful, and fearsome.
2. What does the watchman think about the figure at a distance?
Answer – The watchman assumes that the strange figure he spotted is that of a ghost, but he, soon, rubbishes the idea.
3. “Unmistakable signs- always to be followed by the police and gruesome details,……….’ – what does this statement of the watchman indicate?
Answer – The watchman spotted a lonely woman wading into the tank waters. Quite obviously, it’s very unnatural for a woman to enter the pond alone in the evening darkness. He concluded that something untoward would happen soon. Some grisly incidents would take place and the police would arrive at the spot to conduct the investigation.
4. What kind of tone do you mark in the words of the watchman in his first encounter with the girl?
Answer – The watchman’s voice is forceful, but sympathetic. He knows the girl in the knee-deep water is going to drown herself to death. He commands her to retrace her steps and come out to sit on the steps away from the water’s edge.
5. Why did the girl want to commit suicide? Was the reason she advanced good enough to warrant such a step?
Answer – The girl was clearly overwhelmed with grief to find that she had failed to qualify for a scholarship. She knew, the way to study further to become a doctor had been shut for her forever. Her stepmother, despite her sympathetic attitude, was struggling to make both ends meet with her meager means. The heartbroken girl knew she would soon be married off and her dreams of pursuing medical education would be irreversibly ruined. Life ahead looked so depressing and barren for her. She, therefore, wanted to end her life.
6. What impression you get about the girl from her narration? Do her words indicating her self-reliance and strong desire to study, and her decision to commit suicide go together?
Answer – The girl is unquestionably ambitious and career-oriented. She has a great sense of self-respect. At the same time, she is a bit immature and too sentimental. Being a burden on her stepmother disturbs her. Not qualifying for a scholarship robs her of all hope. She abhors marriage and thinks she would face a mundane life after marriage. All these depressing emotions drive her to the brink of suicide.
7. Can you guess what would happen next in the story? Now read the last part of the story and find out.
Answer – It’s almost certain the watchman would succeed to botch the girl’s desire to take her life. Without reading the story, it’s difficult to guess the turn her life would take later.
Section – II : Questions for discussion
1. Do you notice a shift in this part of the story?
Answer – The story takes a complete U–turn. The mood changes from frustration and despair, to happiness and prosperity.
2. Give an account of the past life of the watchman.
Answer – The watchman had a harrowing past. Early in his childhood, he had lost his parents and elder brother on a single day, thanks to a deadly epidemic. He was then evicted from his house by wily uncles. He wandered around like an urchin, battling hunger pangs and poverty. Later, he got married and was blessed with as many as eight children, but none of them except one survived beyond 10. The sole survivor was a daughter, but not a son whom the father so desperately craved for. In a nutshell, the watchman’s life had a fair share of misery.
3. “Everyone has his own miseries. If people tried to kill themselves for each one of them, I don’t know how often they would have to drown.” How does this statement of the watchman affect the girl?
Answer – The watchman tried to coax the girl to give up her despair and her desire for suicide by telling her that life in this world can’t be uniformly cozy all along, for everyone. The girl listened to him silently without expressing the thoughts racing in her mind at that moment. She remained silent and appeared unmoved.
4. What do you think was the outcome of the conversation between the watchman and the girl?
Answer – At that moment, it seemed the watchman’s pleadings fell flat on the troubled mind of the girl, but the later developments show that she had given up her desire to kill herself. The watchman’s words had their desired effect.
5. What did the watchman believe when he saw the letter on the steps next morning? How did he feel thereafter?
Answer – On discovering the letter lying in tact in the same place the next morning, the watchman concluded that the girl had drowned herself to death the previous night. He felt dejected, and sorry as he thought the girl had ignored his pleadings. He assumed that the dead body would soon float up.
6. If you believe the watchman’s words, he recognized the married young woman as (the girl he thought was dead). Why, then, should she look away from the watchman?
Answer – The woman, happily married then, probably didn’t want her husband to know about her dreadful ordeal before her marriage. She was a mother of three and was quite affluent. She detested the idea of recounting her sorrowful past. So, she walked off without acknowledging the watchman’s welcoming gesture.