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The Night Mail Question Answers

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Section B: Context Questions

1. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor
The shop at the corner, the girl next door

(i) Why has the poet used This in the first line of the extract? What does the poet mean by a "Night Mail"?

Ans: The use of "This" in the first line of the extract is meant to draw the reader's attention to the imminent arrival of the train carrying the Night Mail. The Night Mail refers to a train service that operated in the UK during the 1930s, which transported mail across the country during the night to ensure swift delivery.

(ii) According to the extract what does the Night Mail bring and for whom?

Ans: The Night Mail brings "the cheque and the postal order" as well as letters for both "the rich" and "the poor." The Night Mail is depicted as a service that caters to people from all walks of life, delivering important financial documents and personal letters to individuals and businesses alike.

(iii) How is the Night Mail different from regular trains?

Ans: The Night Mail is different from regular trains in that it was a specifically designed mail train service that operated at night, transporting mail across the Scottish countryside. Unlike regular passenger trains, the Night Mail did not carry passengers but instead was dedicated solely to the transportation of mail. The Night Mail was an important part of the postal service, allowing for more efficient and timely delivery of letters and other mail items.

(iv) The extract shows that the Night does not discriminate among people. How?

Ans: The extract shows that the Night Mail does not discriminate among people in several ways. Firstly, it delivers mail to both "the rich" and "the poor", indicating that the service is accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Additionally, the Night Mail delivers mail to "the shop at the corner" and "the girl next door", suggesting that it serves both businesses and individuals within the same community, regardless of their status. Overall, the poem emphasizes the Night Mail's role in connecting people from all walks of life and facilitating communication and commerce across different parts of society, without discrimination.

(v) Give two examples of the use of rhymes in the extract. What role do they play in the poem?

Ans: Two examples of the use of rhymes in the extract are:
  • "border" and "order"
  • "poor" and "door"
These rhymes help to create a sense of musicality and rhythm in the poem, making it more engaging and memorable for the reader. The use of rhymes also serves to unify the different parts of the poem, creating a cohesive whole. In addition, the rhymes contribute to the poem's overall theme of connectivity and interdependence, by emphasizing the ways in which different people and places are linked through the Night Mail.

II. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder

(i) Who is the poet talking about? What is a "gradient" and it is against whom?

Ans:The poet is talking about the Night Mail train in these lines. The "gradient" refers to an uphill slope on the train's route, which is described as being "against her", meaning that it poses a challenge or obstacle to the train's progress. The phrase "but she's on time" suggests that despite the difficult terrain, the Night Mail is still able to maintain its schedule and arrive at its destination punctually.

(ii) What are the qualities of the Night Mail as indicated in this extract?

Ans: The qualities of the Night Mail as indicated in this extract are resilience, punctuality, and power. The line "The gradient's against her, but she's on time" highlights the Night Mail's ability to overcome obstacles and maintain its schedule despite challenging terrain. The phrase "shovelling white steam over her shoulder" conveys the image of the Night Mail as a powerful and unstoppable force, surging forward through the landscape.

(iii) Why does the poet call the train's "climb" as "steady"?

Ans: The poet calls the train's "climb" as "steady" to show that the Night Mail is moving up the slope smoothly and without difficulty. It means that the train is not struggling or slowing down while climbing the slope, but is maintaining a consistent pace. The word "steady" also shows that the Night Mail is a trustworthy and dependable service that can be counted on to deliver mail on time.

(iv) What does "Shovelling white steam over her shoulder mean?

Ans: The line "Shovelling white steam over her shoulder" is a depiction of smoke that travel out and over the train. It is pushed behind "her"( the night mail) by the pressure of the wind. The poet personifies the Night Mail in this verse and compares it to a lady who is scooping and shovelling steam over her shoulders while racing to reach her destination.

(v) How has poet used personification in this extract?

Ans: The poet has used personification in this extract by describing the Night Mail train as if it were a person. For example, the line "The gradient's against her" attributes human qualities to the train, suggesting that it is struggling against an obstacle and must exert effort to overcome it. This personification creates a sense of empathy and connection between the reader and the train, as if the train were a living, breathing entity with its own emotions and struggles. Additionally, the phrase "shovelling white steam over her shoulder" further personifies the train, describing it as if it were physically shoveling steam and working hard to generate the power needed to move forward.

III. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Dawn freshens, Her climb is done
Down towards Glasgow, she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen
All Scotland waits for her:

In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.

(i) What is meant by "Her climb is done"? Where is she now headed towards?

Ans: The phrase "Her climb is done" means that the Night Mail train has completed its ascent up the slope and has reached the top of the hill. The train is no longer facing an uphill climb and can now begin to descend toward its destination. In the next line, the poet indicates that the Night Mail is headed "Down towards Glasgow", a city in Scotland.

(ii) What does the repetition of the consonant 'd' in the first two lines of the extract indicate?

Ans: The repetition of the consonant 'd' in the first two lines of the extract ("Dawn freshens, Her climb is done, Down towards Glasgow, she descends") is an example of "alliteration". In this case, the repeated 'd' sound creates a sense of momentum and forward motion, reflecting the Night Mail train's descent down the hill toward its destination in Glasgow. The poet uses techniques to display the changing scenario and matches them with the rhythm on the poem and the train.

(iii) Which figure of speech is used in the following line? Explain its usage Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.

Ans: The poet used a smile when he describes a huge furnace of the industries like"gigantic chessmen" uses to emphasize the urban surrounding of Glasgow and to show the hugeness of the furnace dotting and landscape. Maybe he wants to emphasize the fact that it is an industrial town and does not have a natural beauty.

(iv) Explain in your own words the meaning of "All Scotland waits for her."

Ans: The line "All Scotland waits for her" means  Scotland is waiting for that the arrival of the Night Mail as it will bring news from far in the form of letters and correspondence. It suggests that the train plays an important role in connecting people and communities across Scotland and that it brings news and information that people are eager to receive. The phrase "All Scotland" implies a sense of unity and shared experience, as people from different regions and walks of life all look forward to the train's arrival.

(v) Which theme of the poem is reflected in this extract? Explain briefly.

Ans: The theme of anticipation and waiting is reflected in this extract. The line "All Scotland waits for her" suggests that the arrival of the Night Mail train is eagerly anticipated and important to the people of Scotland. The repetition of the word "waits" emphasizes this sense of anticipation, and creates a feeling of excitement and expectation.

IV. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?"

(i) What were people doing while the Night Mail was traveling through different cities?

Ans: The people in Granite Aberdeen were asleep while the Night Mail was traveling through different cities. The line "Asleep in granite Aberdeen, they continue their dreams" suggests that people in the city are sleeping soundly and unaware of the train's passing.

(ii) What sort of dreams do these people have? What are these dreams symbolic of?

Ans: The people in the poem are dreaming of different things, such as terrifying monsters and friendly tea beside a band in Cranston's or Crawford's. These dreams may be symbolic of the varied hopes, fears, and desires that people have while they sleep. The dreams may also represent a form of escapism from the realities of their daily lives.

(iii) What would happen to their heartbeat on hearing the postman's knock? Why?

Ans: The poem suggests that upon hearing the postman's knock, the people would experience a "quickening of the heart" because they are eagerly waiting for their letters. The arrival of the postman is a sign that they may have received a letter, and the prospect of receiving a letter is a source of excitement and hope for them. The poem emphasizes the importance of communication and connection between people, and the anxiety and longing that can come with waiting for news from loved ones.

(iv) If the postman does not bring them letters, what would be the feelings of the people?

Ans: If the postman does not bring them letters, the people would feel disappointed and forgotten, as indicated by the line "For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?" They would be hoping to receive news and updates from their loved ones and the outside world, and the absence of letters would leave them feeling disconnected and isolated.

(v) Explain how does the Night Mail help to promote human relations?

Ans: The Night Mail is a symbol of communication and connection between people living in different parts of Scotland. As the train travels through different cities and towns, it carries letters, postal orders, and cheques for people from all walks of life, including the rich and the poor. The Night Mail helps to bridge the distance between people and bring them closer. It creates a sense of community and reinforces the idea that everyone is important and deserves to be heard. In this way, the Night Mail helps to promote human relations and strengthen social bonds.

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