Soapy becomes Restless Seeing the Onset of Winters and Recalls Blackwell’s Islands

Soapy, sitting on his seat in Madison Square, observes the signs of winter approaching. Birds begin to fly towards South, people begin to buy new warm coats and so on. A dead leaf fell at Soapy’s feet and this was a special sign for Soapy which indicted the onset of winters. Soapy became restless trying to think of ways to sustain himself through the harsh season.

Unlike other people, some of whom thought of sailing away on a ship or some others who thought of the Southern skies or of the Bay of Naples to evade winters, Soapy only wished to get to Blackwell’s Island. Three months in the prison on Blackwell’s Island would take care of food and bed for the next three months. For many years, the prison on Blackwell’s island was Soapy’s winter home.

Why Soapy Preferred the Prison on Blackwell’s Island?

Soapy knew that there were places he could go to, where he would get food and bed. However, in exchange for these things he would have to do certain tasks and pay for what he was getting. He would have to answer questions about his life and he did not like this. He would rather prefer the prison, on Blackwell’s Island. There were rules in the prison, but he could live there like a free man.

Soapy Devices ways to be Caught by the Cops

The very first plan that Soapy executes in order to be caught by the police and put into the prison was to go to a restaurant, have a lavish dinner and then later tell the restaurant people that he had no money. This would result in cops being called and then he would be put into jail. However, this plan fails as the guard at the restaurant, seeing his shabby clothes and shoes did not allow him to enter. After the failure of his first trick, Soapy decides to try another trick. He throws stones at a wide glass window shop at a corner of Sixth Avenue. However, expecting to be arrested soon, Soapy kept standing right there. A cop and other people came running towards the shop, but refused to believe that Soapy could be the person who would have stoned the shop. They thought it impossible that the culprit would wait near the shop after having thrown stones. Therefore, the cop ran after a man who was running further in the street and Soapy’s second trick too failed.

Soapy’s  Last trick and his Miserable Condition

Soapy, then, decided to go to a mediocre restaurant that would allow him to enter despite his shabby clothes and shoes. People who went there were not so rich, so Soapy easily entered the restaurant and ordered a big dinner. Having had the dinner, Soapy told the waiter that he had no money and expected the waiter to call the cops. However, the waiter only called another waiter and both of them threw Soapy out of the restaurant. Soapy tried many other tricks so as to be arrested. He pretended to be a drunk man, stole another person’s umbrella and so on. But, all in vain. No cop arrested Soapy and Soapy’s heart grew miserable thinking that he would not be able to reach the prison at Blackwell’s Island.

Soapy Goes to his Childhood Home and Thinks of a New Plan

Feeling miserable, Soapy decides to go home, which was nothing but a seat in one of the parks. While walking down to Madison Square, he stopped in a corner, where his childhood home was situated. Soapy had spent many happy moments in that house. Soapy was overwhelmed with these memories. At that juncture, he experienced a change in his behaviour. Soapy realised what was wrong in his life-his worthless days, wrong desires, dead hopes and lost power of mind. Soapy decides to change his life by doing something worthwhile. Soapy decides to go back to the man who some time ago had given him a job. He decides to start afresh from the next day.

The Irony

While Soapy was lost in his thoughts imagining a better tomorrow, just then, a cop came and started questioning him as to what he was doing there. When Soapy told the cop that he wasn’t doing anything, the cop refused to believe him and put him in the prison on the Blackwell’s Island for the next three months.

Word Meanings

Word                                                    Meaning in English

Restlessly                                            an uneasy manner

Shore                                                    land adjoining a non-flowing body of water

Southern skies                                    warmer places

Blackwell’s island                              name of a prison

Spirit                                                     energy

Avenue                                                 a broad street

Brighter                                                radiant

Hurried                                                 done in a rush

Worthless                                             having no importance

Broad                                                    wide in extent or scope

NCERT Solutions

Exercises (NCERT Page 29)

Answer the following questions.

  1. What are some of the signs of approaching winter referred to in the text?

Ans. Birds flying to South, people purchasing new coats and falling of dead leaves are some of the signs that indicate approaching winters.

  1. Write ‘True’ or ‘False’ against each of the following.

(i) Soapy did not want to go to prison. …………….

(ii) Soapy had been to prison several times. …………….

(iii) It was not possible for Soapy to survive in the city through the winter. …………….

(iv) Soapy hated to answer questions of a personal nature. …………….

Ans. (i) False               (ii) True

(iii) True               (iv) True

  1. What was Soapy’s first plan? Why it did not work?

Ans. Soapy’s first plan was to go to a big restaurant and order a sumptuous meal. Thereafter, he would tell the waiter that he had no money to pay the bill. This plan, however, failed because the guard at the restaurant did not allow him to enter, seeing his shabby clothes and shoes.

  1. “But the cop’s mind would not consider Soapy”. What did the cop not consider and why?

Ans. Soapy threw stones on a big glass windowed shop in order to be arrested by the cops. However, because he continued to stand there waiting for the cops to come, the cop refused to believe that Soapy could be the culprit.

  1. “We have orders to let them shout”. What is the policeman referring to?

Ans. Soapy began to shout and cry as loud as possible in yet another attempt to be arrested by the cops. The cops again refused to consider arresting him because they thought he was one of those college boys who would shout but not harm anyone. And the cops had the orders to these boys shout.

  1. Write True’ or ‘False’ against each of the following.

(i) Soapy stole a man’s umbrella. …………….

(ii) The owner of the umbrella offered to give it to Soapy. ……………..

(iii) The man had stolen the umbrella that was now Soapy’s. …………….

(iv) Soapy threw away the umbrella. …………….

Ans.                 (i) True                 (ii) True                (iii) True               (iv) True

  1. “There was a sudden and wonderful change in his soul”. What brought about the change in Soapy?

Ans. Soapy was very upset because all his plans failed one after the other. While walking towards the Madison Square, Soapy came across his childhood house. Reaching the house, Soapy was overpowered with happy memories, of his mother and flowers. 

Discuss the following topics in groups.

  1. Suppose no cop came at the end. What would Soapy’s life be like through the winter?

Ans. At the onset of the story, it seemed that if no cop came at the end, it would have been impossible for Soapy to survive through the winters. However, by the time the story comes to an end, it seemed that Soapy would have managed to survive and sustain himself even if no cop came. Soapy had found a meaning and direction for his life.

  1. Retell an episode in the story which is a good example of irony in a situation.

Ans. The Titanic ship was promoted as a cent per cent unsinkable ship, but in 1912 it sunk on its very first voyage. This is an example of irony.

Questions and Answers

Very Short Answer Type Questions

  1. What was the special sign which reminded Soapy of the approaching winters?

Ans. Dead leaf falling on Soapy’s feet was a sign of approaching winters.

  1. What did the richer New Yorkers did during winters?

Ans. The richer New Yorkers made their plans to go to Florida or to the shore of the Mediterranean Sea each winter.

  1. For how long did Soapy wish to be put into the jail on Blackwell’s Island?

Ans. Soapy hoped to be put into the jail on Blackwell’s Prison for three months; that would take care of food and bedding during the winters.

  1. In the absence of sufficient warm clothes, what way did Soapy device to keep himself warm?

Ans. Soapy would stuff three big newspapers under his coat and some under his legs to keep himself warm.

  1. Where was the big and brightly lighted restaurant situated?

Ans. The big and the brightly lighted restaurant was situated at a point where the great street called Broadway and Fifth Avenue met. Only the rich people came to this restaurant.

  1. Why was Soapy happy considering his dinner at the big restaurant?

Ans. Soapy was happy considering his dinner at the big restaurant to not be very expensive. So, the restaurant people would not be very angry. At the same time, the dinner would leave him filled and happy.

  1. In his miserable state, what did Soapy compare the Blackwell Island with?

Ans. In his miserable state, Soapy thought of Blackwell Island as a far away and distant star.

Short Answer Type Questions

  1. What reason did Soapy give to convince himself that he would be entertained in the big restaurant?

Ans. Soapy thought that his face was clean and he looked alright above his legs. Also, his coat was good enough. Even though his trousers and shoes were shabby, Soapy believed that once he got a table, the waiter could see only the upper portions of his body, above the table and therefore he would be entertained.

  1. Why did the head waiter not allow Soapy to enter the big restaurant?

Ans. The moment Soapy entered the big restaurant, the head waiter saw Soapy’s broken shoes and torn clothes that covered his legs.

Since, only the rich people came to that restaurant, the head waiter did not feel Soapy a befitting customer at his restaurant. He, therefore, quietly and quickly turned him out.

  1. What was Soapy’s plan regarding the shop with a wide glass window?

Ans. Soapy saw a shop with a wide glass window at the corner of the Sixth Avenue. He decided to throw stones on it, expecting the cops to arrest him. However, because Soapy chose not to run after having stoned the shop, the cop did not believe that he was the culprit. 

Long Answer Type Questions

  1. What did Soapy see as he was thrown out of the second restaurant? Why did his heart grow miserable?

Ans. After being thrown out of the second restaurant, Soapy walked a little and came near a place which had several theatres.

In that part of the city he saw rich people in warm clothes happily moving around the city and enjoying the winter air, Soapy’s heart grew miserable thinking that the cops won’t arrest him and he would have neither food nor bed to sustain himself during the winters.

  1. Describe the umbrella episode.

Ans. After several failures it being arrested by the cops, Soapy stole a man’s umbrella thinking that finally he would succeed in his attempts. For the same reason, he asked the man to call the cop since, he was running away with that man’s umbrella.

However, the irony of the situation was that the umbrella did not belong to that man. The umbrella man had picked up the umbrella from a restaurant and therefore was afraid to call the cops. Soapy failed yet again.

  1. How different was Soapy’s past life from the current one?

Ans. Soapy looks at his past life with fond and happy memories. His past life had important relations like mothers and friends; it contained things like flowers, pleasant music, high hopes, clean thoughts and clean clothes.

His current life, however, was marked by acute absence of all these. He neither had family members nor friends.

He neither had food nor shelter. His clothes were dirty and his mind was full of wrong desires and dead hopes. In place of a house he now had a seat in parks.

Value Based Question

“He would make a man of himself again.” Comment.

Ans. Soapy realises that his life was full of wrong desires, worthless thoughts, dead hopes and spirits. It was a meaningless life that he was leading. It was no better than the life led by animals.

At that moment, Soapy decides to change his life; pull himself out of the mud and make himself a man again. The phrase means to rekindle the lost hopes and desires and make one’s life meaningful and worthy. Soapy decides to give up on wrong deeds, search for a job and lead a better life.