When the Night Mail's ready to depart,
Saying "Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble
We must find him or the train can't start."
All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster's daughte
They are searching high and low,
Saying "Skimble where is Skimble for unless he's very nimble
Then the Night Mail just can't go." At 11.42 then the signal's nearly due
And the passengers are frantic to a man- Then Skimble will appear and he'll saunter to the rear:
He's been busy in the luggage van!
(i) Who is the speaker? What does he observe? Is it normal?
Ans. The speaker in the poem is the narrator. You are correct that the speaker does observe how Skimble, the railway cat, seems to control and supervise everything on the train. This is not a normal situation, as it is unusual for a cat to have such a role(manager or supervisor) in a train system. However, in the context of the poem, it is presented as a charming and whimsical aspect of the railway system.
(ii) What is surprising about Skimble?
Ans. It is surprising that Skimble is just a cat but he is the most important passenger aboard the train. He wields awesome political influence. For whatever reason, the trains are incapable of running without him.
(iii) What tells you that Skimble is duty conscious?
Ans. We know that Skimble is duty conscious as just at the exact time when the train is due to start wand it is 11:42 Skimble comes out of the luggage van, which he has been inspecting, and gives the signal for the train to start. This suggests that he was working diligently to ensure that everything was in order before the train's departure. These actions demonstrate Skimble's duty consciousness and emphasize the significance of his role as the railway cat.
(iv) What causes a commotion among all the passengers and railway crew?
Ans. There is a commotion among all the passengers and railway crew caused by the disappearance of Skimble, the railway cat, they are waiting for someone to give a "green signal" for the journey to start. The crew knows that without Skimble's presence, the train cannot start.
(v) What duties are performed by the cat during the journey?
Ans. Skimble performs several duties during the journey on the train. These include supervising everything on the train, starting the Night Mail train, watching over passengers as they sleep, and ensuring the safety of passengers' luggage, the duty of the supervisor, police officer, and manager.
And the signal goes "All Clear!" And we're off at last for the northern part
Of the Northern Hemisphere!
1. Why was there restlessness among the passengers early in the context?
Ans: the passenger was restless and there was a murmuring and confused moment as they were waiting for someone to give a "green signal" for the journey of the train to start.
2. What tells you about the importance of the cat?
Ans. The fact that trains cannot start their journey without his green signal shows the awesome political influence Skimbleshanks wields. For whatever reason, the trains are incapable of running without him. One is left to assume that Skimbleshank wields an overwhelming monopoly over any and all London trains. This makes him immensely powerful.
3. Where is the train heading towards? Why has no particular city of its destination been mentioned?
Ans. The train is headed North. The poet leaves the destination of any particular city unmentioned as he wants the reader to view it as an absurd poem in which a cat controls everything. It could be a train headed anywhere. The focus of the poem is on the journey of the train and the role of Skimble the cat in its operation, rather than on the destination itself. The basic idea of the poem is to see it as a simple entertaining rhyme in which a simple-minded traveler observed the movement of a cat in a railway carriage. Elliot describes the a (Skimbleshanks) as a normal human person and he did not want to specify any particular train or person.
4. Which of the actions of the cat are quite amusing?
Ans. The way the cat nonchalantly 'saunters' when everyone else is confused and restless is amusing and then he coolly flashes his 'glass green eyes' to signal the start of the journey appears humorous.
1. What is most important on the Northern mail and why?
Ans. The poet presents the cat, Skimbleshanks, is portrayed as the most important figure on the Northern Mail train. He is in charge of supervising the train crew, from the driver and guards to the bagmen playing cards. He patrols the corridors of the train, examines the faces of the travelers, and establishes control with a regular patrol. He ensures that nothing goes wrong on the train and sees to it that the passengers are comfortable and their needs are met.
2. Which actions of the cat remind you of the image of the Big Brother in a dictatorial regime?
Ans. The cat is like a dictator because he controls and monitors the behavior of everyone through his regular patrols. He watches the crew and passengers without blinking and sees and knows what they are thinking. Everyone fears him and so things are calm on the train.
3. Why does nothing go wrong on the Northern train?
Ans. Nothing goes wrong on the Northern train because Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat, is always present to supervise and ensure that everything runs smoothly. He patrols the train regularly and monitors the behavior of the crew and passengers, making sure they follow the rules and regulations. Because everyone fears him, they behave properly, and there is no chaos or disorder. Skimbleshanks is like a watchful guardian, always ensuring that the train runs on time and without any problems.
4. What does the cat do when the train reaches its destination?
Ans. When the train reaches its destination, the cat gives a wave of his long brown tail to bid goodbye to the passengers and let them know that he'll see them again. When a passenger leaves, he greets them. Skimble bids goodbye to the passengers.
5. Why does the cat dislike sense and noisy merriment?
Ans. Skimbleshanks dislikes sense of 'hilarity' and noisy merriment because it disrupts the quiet and methodical functioning of the train. He is like a patrolling police officer and wants to ensure the of his passengers so likes to maintain a calm atmosphere. The cat's role is to maintain order and make sure everything runs smoothly, so he may perceive noisy merriment as a hindrance to his duty.
1. What does 'little den' signify? How is it made cosy?
Ans. The term 'little den' refers to the cabins for the passengers. They are made cosy by providing clean sheets and other necessities required for the comfort of the passengers. Lights can be adjusted according to preference, wash basins are there for washing face and windows can be closed for cosiness.
2. What facilities are available in the little den?
Ans. The little dens are equipped with all facilities for the comfort of the passengers. There are clean new sheets for each passenger. The floor is sparkling clean. The lights in the cabins can be adjusted bright or dim according to the passenger's preference. There is also a fan to circulate air. There is a beautiful basin for the convenience of the passengers to wash their face in if required. And provision is there to shut the window if anyone feels cold.
3. How does Skimble ensure that the passengers have no trouble during the journey?
Ans. Skimble ensures that the passengers have no trouble during the journey by ensuring that everything they require is available in perfect condition. Besides, he ensures there is no noise or disturbance and maintains security.
4. What impression do you form of Skimble?
Ans. Skimble appears as a dutiful and conscientious supervisor who does his duty efficiently.
Extract VThen the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
"Do you like your morning tea weak or strong?"
But Skimble's just behind him and was ready to remind him,
For Skimble won't let anything go wrong.
The Cat of the Railway Train!
1. What had made the passengers and crew of the Night Mail restless earlier in the context?
Ans. The passengers and crew of the Night Mail had become restless and confused and started murmuring because they were waiting for someone to give a "green signal for the journey to start. But Skimbleshanks, without whose signal the train could not move was nowhere to be found.
2. How does the cat perform as a supervisor?
Ans. Skimbleshanks is an excellent supervisor. He ensures the names of passengers are written on the cabin doors, the sheets are clean, the light and fans are functioning well and the guard asks the preference of tea from the passengers. He disposes off the mice and ensures there is no noise to disturb the passengers.
3. "...Skimble won't let anything go wrong." Comment.
Ans. It is true that Skimble is very efficient as the manager of the train. He has a keen eye for details and ensures cleanliness and security. He is alert and vigilant and makes sure things go smoothly and nothing goes wrong in the functioning of the train and passengers are comfortable.
4. How does the cat provide all comforts to the passengers?
Ans. Skimble does not discriminate between first-class and third-class passengers. He makes sure there is not a speck of dust on the floor. All the berths are neatly dusted with a newly folded sheet. He is always kind to everybody and makes everything is neat and tidy. He ensures the names of passengers are written on the cabin doors, the sheets are clean, the light and fans are functioning well and the guard asks the preference of tea from the passengers. The poet describes how the cat safeguards the railway passengers throughout their journey and wins their trust and respect in this poem.
Extract VIIn the watches of the night he is always fresh and bright,
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle.
If there's anything they ought to know about:
1. What role is played by the cat on the Night Mail? Describe briefly. (Evergreen)
Ans. Skimbleshanks efficiently manages the Night mail ensuring the safety and comfort of the passengers, As supervisor of the Northern Mail train he ensures that everything runs smoothly from the driver and guards to the passengers. The cat is described as being in charge of the Sleeping Car Express and is able to control and monitor the passengers' behaviour through his regular patrols. Skimbleshanks is also described as being able to anticipate and prevent problems on the train and is able to take care of any issues that may arise. He is the most important person on the train as he controls everything and the train moves only when he gives the signal
2. How does the speaker view the role of the cat?
Ans. The speaker says that the cat displays alertness and dedication in fulfilling his role. The speaker feels Skimbleshanks is a perfectionist and hence is very specific. He likes everything to be the way it should be; therefore, the train is organized and the passengers have a happy journey.
3. What does the cat do to keep the passengers comfortable?
Ans. To keep the passengers comfortable the cat anticipates and solves every problem. He monitors and supervises everything and ensures the passengers have clean sheets, right lighting and no mice and fleas are there in their cabins.
4. What does the cat not allow anyone to do?
Ans. The cat does not allow hilarity and riots on the train as it would disturb the calm atmosphere. No one is allowed to disturb the smooth operation of the train or the comfort of the passengers.
5. How would you view the last gesture of the Cat of the Railway Train? Is it benevolent or sinister?
Ans. I would view the last gesture of the Cat of the Railway Train as benevolent because from the beginning of the poem the cat is very caring and concerned about the passenger's comfort and well-being. Hence, when in the morning the train reaches its destination station Skimble is in front bidding goodbye to the passengers. He gives a wave of his long brown tail and tells them "I'll see you again!". He believes in continuing the rapport he has created with the passengers. Thus, hoping they travel on the Night Mail again..
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