[PDF Notes] List of two Sample Passages with questions and answers

Passage – 1

Both were young men, not very well dressed, and travelling with little luggage; both were of rather striking appearance, and both showed a desire to enter into conversation.

If they had both known what was remarkable in one another at that moment, they would have been surprised at the chance which had so strangely brought them opposite one another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw train. One of them was a short man about twenty-seven, with almost black curly hair and small, grey, fiery eyes. He had a broad and flat nose and high cheek bones.

His thin lips were continually curved in an insolent, mocking and even malicious smile. But the high and well-shaped forehead redeemed the ignoble lines of the lower part of the face. What was particularly striking about the young man’s face was its death-like pallor, which gave him a look of exhaustion in spite of his sturdy figure, and at the same time an almost painfully passionate expression, out of keeping with his coarse and insolent smile and the hard and conceited look in his eyes.

He was warmly dressed in a full, black, sheepskin-lined overcoat, and had not felt the cold at night, while his shivering neighbor had been exposed to the chill and damp of a Russian November night, for which he was evidently unprepared. He had a fairly thick and full cloak with a big hood.

1. Why was the third-class compartments most crowded?

The third-class compartments were most crowded because it charged less for traveling and suited the “people of humble rank”. This is an indirect comment on the fact that the people belonging to the lower strata of economic life are the most numerous in Russia as elsewhere. The impression of poverty is reinforced when we find the two characters being described “not very well dressed, and travelling with little luggage.”

2. What impression do you get of the description of the physiognomy of the charade?

The author is persistent and particular about the physiognomy of the characters. The countenance of the characters as described in these passages is not merely an introduction to their appearance; it is also an introduction to what the characters actually are their economic, social and moral conditions. The physiognomy is a mirror of personality. The ‘smile’ is ‘malicious’, the ‘look’ is ‘conceited’ and ‘the high and well-shaped forehead redeemed the ignoble lines of the lower part of the face.”

3. What do you mean by ‘death-like pallor’ in this passage?

The face being described as having a “death-like pallor” is a condensed expression of exhaustion, it’s suffering the severe cold of the November night in Russia and also its sickness the expression “death-like” juxtaposes at once pity and contempt, on part of the observer and suffering and indifference on part of the character.

4. In which century is the narrative set according to you?

The narrative is most probably set in 19th century Russia. That it is the description of a train journey rules out the possibility of the setting being prior to 19th century. However everything starting from the attire and appearance of the characters to the overcrowded train travelling from Poland to Russia gives the impression of a setting that cannot be modern. It is the time when train was one of the chief means of travelling between countries and that is suggestive of the later part of the 19th century.

Passage – 2

So it was in Paris I walked with the policeman and talked with him, and found him everywhere, in shop windows, with big bulging eyes and each eye a wonder to see. I saw eyes in Paris bookshop, windows such as I have never seen anywhere, small eyes, big eyes, green eyes, white-feathery eyes, lathery eyes, parrots eyes, pepper eyes and progressive eyes – red eyes for the red anal the world grew into Red beauty – (and, this you will find, in rue Racine) – and green eyes and scarlet eyes, Soutine and sepulcher beads and biblical eyes – you find them just behind in smutty shops with big squares and courtyards and bright red geraniums at the bay windows sooty eyes bespeaking of paradise, yellow eyes Luxembourg, eyes of the young, eyes of children and lovers and of the autumnal falling leaves-everywhere you see eyes in Paris, and they all hay colors and I loved them. I lived in rue Sarandon later-and had two eyes there that had need connection and logic was its pal etiology.

For, on the point of the needle, was my love born- it started stitching my determent. Oh, the love-needle, the pertinence, the power, and the purity of the stitching needle. My heart was made into a Hindu sack with prayer-verses on the top as of Benares – and I counted the doubtful beads.

I was virtuous and I took on assigned form. The needle stitched and stitched me, and I took on a white and wand like shape. I became a magician of looks, and I gave eyes to many. I opened a shop of Hindu eyes -I the policeman- and Oh chatter and a clamor was there.

God, God is my business, I cried – Hindu gods. Four annas a hundred tricks – standing on the nose and breathing through the umbilical stitch, practicing celibacy through baths and kundaiini-etc., etc., – eating milk and nuts to walk in the air, eating bitter need leaves and sherbet for swallowing nails and toothbrushes and broken glass – for telling the future – motor cars, mansions and marriages, and all, fortunes opened such a shop. The trade was good. I did much business. The Municipal Council of Perpignan -for I had moved there by now- voted me a certificate of fine conduct. And all the virgins came to my confessions.

I dealt in potions that increased physiological virginity – gave no scratches or itches or leucorrhoea -You touched me and you were cured. It was wonderful. And God was the message they got. I was virtuous and good. And I grew big. I became fashionable. Newspapers spoke of me. I was the policeman of God, and my certificates hung on all my four walls. I was given the Legion Honor.

II class, God seemed to speak to me from the heavens every night – and all day all night the logical needle stitched my sores, and when I woke up, I had a good bath and I looked so fresh and young. I could walk the Promenade des Anglia’s with the agility of a tennis player. They said, here goes the Policeman of God – and later they came and sate me by them in chaiseslongues, and as the sun poured on me tender and golden, I became a legitimate divinity. I had fruits and flowers offered to me, and I was right happy. I was God.

1. Why is the narrator walking with the policeman?

The narrator is walking neither with the policeman who is neither a real policeman as such nor outside himself. It is only when we read the entire passage that we realize that the policeman is the narrator himself. The policeman here is at once a symbol of vigilance and duty. It reminds one of Voltaire: “Civilization is the crossroad where the policeman stands”.

2. What is the narrator’s occupation?

The narrator calls himself the ‘Policeman of God’, which at once shows the narrator’s pride in his occupation as a Hindu priest or ‘holy man’ and the author’s sarcastic irony. This prose piece is a biting satire on all such fake ‘holy men’ who find recognition and material prosperity abroad as representatives of God by manipulation of Hindu rituals and superstitions.

3. What do you mean by “physiological virginity “?

The ‘physiological virginity’ is another ascorbic irony, which exposes the falsehood of both the narrator and of those so-called-virgins who came to him. He dealt in potions that helped in avoiding the physical signs of not being a virgin and thus “increased physiological virginity”. That virginity was physiological in the same way that the narrator practised celibacy through baths and kundalini. Such practices also reflect the severe distortion in meaning of words such as purity, virginity and virtuosity in the modern society, particularly the West.

4. Comment on the tone of voice the author adapts in this passage.

The tone of voice is sarcastic and full of ironical undertones. The boasting of “Legion d’Honneur”, the metaphor of “a Hindu sack with prayer-verses on the top as of Benares” for the narrator’s heart, the awarding of “the certificate of fine conduct”, the expression “legitimate divinity” and the concluding sentence, “I was God” – every small detail in the passage is sarcastic and ironical. However it is not a simple irony.

It is not deliberate on part of the narrator and even the author, having an autobiographical narrator, makes no effort to make the irony obvious. It is an indirect, subtle, and complex irony interspersed with symbols.

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