Question 1 : Read the following extract and answer the questions that follow.
(i) Did the conductor speak louder deliberately? If so, then why?
Answer : Yes, the conductor’s voice was deliberately louder. He was angry at the slim woman because she was not following the bus rules. The conductor indicated a vacant seat but she gave no sign that she had heard him. Even after being told that it is not allowed to stand in the bus, she did not pay any heed to it. Thus, the conductor spoke louder in order to embarrass her.
(ii) Who was the slim woman? Why was she not following the conductor’s commands?
Answer : The slim woman was one of the passengers travelling in the bus. She was smartly dressed and was offered a seat next to the narrator. She was pleased at his but when she saw that the narrator was a black, she was taken aback with surprise. She did not sit on the vacant seat and kept standing. She refused to follow conductor’s repeated commands and ignored him because she did not consider it appropriate for herself to sit beside a black man. She was a racist who thought herself superior to the blacks.
(iii) How did the lady react to the conductor’s brusqueness?
Answer : The slim woman remained standing cool, remote and undismayed by the conductor’s threatening attitude. She did not even bother about the deliberate use of loud voice by the conductor. She ignored him completely . Infact she was fearless and nothing forced her to take the vacant seat beside the narrator, who was a black. She returned the conductor’s gaze with the cool effrontery of a patrician.
(iv) How did the other passengers react to the conductor’s brusqueness and the slim woman’s racist attitude? Were there any other black passengers in the bus?
Answer : The other passengers, i.e., the charladies twisted and craned their necks in their efforts to discover the reason for the conductor’s brusqueness . They pointedly directed hostile glances at the slim woman. They did not approve of her behaviour. However, they had their immediate sympathy and solidarity with the conductor against someone who was obviously not of their class.
All the passengers in the bus were women except the narrator. The narrator was the only black passenger travelling in the bus.
(v) What was the narrator’s reaction to the whole situation? What impression did he form of the slim woman?
Answer : The narrator was angry at the slim woman’s undisguised prejudice against him. However, his quick anger was tinctured by a certain admiration for her fearless, superior attitude. She was more than a match to all the hostile glances that were pointed to her. She looked at the conductor straight in the eye. The narrator could observe a suppressed smile around her mouth. It was as if she was secretly enjoying herself. She was smooth, elegant and superior. The moment the narrator got down at his shop, he could see the woman take the same seat which he had just vacated. She was a racist.
Question 2 : Read the following extract and answer the questions that follow.
(i) Why was the narrator depressed?
Answer : The narrator was evidently depressed by the prejudice he had just faced. He had a romantic image of London’s East End in his mind, but the actual thing was much different. There was nothing romantic about the place. It was not as beautiful as he had thought. Rather it was dingy and unkempt. Everything around him was smelly and dirty.
(ii) What kind of romantic image the narrator had in his mind?
Answer : The narrator had entertained some naively romantic ideas about London’s East End, with its cosmopolitan population and fascinating history. He was eager to know the London that was depicted in both classical and contemporary writings. He has read so many references to it in the works of Chaucer and Erasmus, among others.
He had dreamed of walking along the cobbled street of the cable makers to the echoes of Chancellor and the brothers Willoughby.
(iii) What kind of smells surrounded the atmosphere? From where did they arise?
Answer : The smells produced a sickening and a tantalising discomfort. They arose from everything and everywhere. They flowed from the delicatessen shop with its uncovered trays of pickled herrings and the smell open casks of pickled gherkins and onions, dried fish and slated meat.
The smells arose from the sweaty damp walls and floor, from the fish shop, from the Kosher butcher and the poulterer next door and from sidewalk gutters.
(iv) How did the narrator feel while looking at his surroundings? What forced him to go further?
Answer : The neighbourhood in which the narrator found himself was noisy and littered and full of dirt and flies. Everything was smelly and dirty. The narrator felt sick and dirty.
However, the need of reaching his destination kept him going.
(v) Why was the place in rubble?
Answer : There was rubble everywhere from the bombings which occurred during the recent war, as well as rubbish and a variety of unpleasant smells.
The few remaining buildings, raped and outraged, were still partly occupied. Here and there could be seen the rusty skeletons of a spring mattress or a child’s pram, a cracked toilet bowl and a dented steel helmet, American style- relics of peace and war humbled together in rust and decay.
Question 3 : Give a vivid account of the journey that Braithwaite undertook to reach his destination – Greenslade Secondary School.
Answer : Braithwaite undertook a bus journey to reach his destination- Greenslade Secondary School. The bus was a crowded red double-decker bus in London. Braithwaite was surrounded by women whom he described vividly. They were rather large, crude, but good-hearted women who had been out to do their morning shopping. As a result, the bus smelled heavily of fresh fish. The narrator was the only man on the bus besides the conductor and the only black face. He sat sandwiched between a window and a very large woman. The women banter and made sexual innuendos. Braithwaite was amused by their banter and could not help but smile at their good-natured teasing.
The bus moved through a rather dingy part of the city and the women disembarked with their shopping bags one by one.
Then a slim and smartly dressed woman got on the bus with a little boy. The only empty seat was the one next to the narrator. But the woman belonging to the upper class did not take the seat because the narrator was black. Despite the conductor’s less than subtle hints that there was an empty seat for her she did not sit. She was arrogant and racist and ignored the conductor completely. The narrator was angry at the undisguised prejudice against him.
But just as the conductor was about to humiliate the arrogant and prejudiced woman, the narrator saw his destination ahead and disembarked from the bus.
The neighbourhood in which Braithwaite found himself was noisy and littered. There was rubbly everywhere from the bombings which occurred during the recent war, as well as rubbish and a variety of unpleasant smells.
Everything around him was smelly and dirty. He felt sick and dirtied but the need of reaching his destination kept him going. Then he entered an even more desolate street. The flies and children were there too. Finally, he reached an alleyway where there was a sign with the legend, ‘Greenslade Secondary School’.