Question 1 : Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“The soldier boy was sitting calmly underneath that tree.
As I approached it, I could see him beckoning to me.
The battle had been long and hard and lasted through the night
And scores of figures on the ground lay still by morning’s light”.
i) What message is the poet trying to convey through the poem?
Answer : The poet wants to spread the message of humanity and show how unpleasant war can be. Soldiers die in the battlefield for no reason. All of us are human beings and our foremost duty is to spread peace and love. He adds that war is about havoc, brutality, destruction and narrow-mindedness.
ii) Who is ‘I’? Why does he approach the soldier?
Answer : ‘I’ is the speaker. He approached the soldier because he was sitting calmly underneath a tree and beckoning to him. The speaker represented all humanity and the soldier calling him could be a representation of the dying soldier beckoning humanity.
iii) Why was the soldier beckoning the narrator? What did he want to say?
Answer : The soldier was beckoning the narrator to give him a sip of water as he had been fighting all night without rest and was having a small pain in his chest. He wanted to describe freely all his pains and happiness to the narrator who represented the whole humanity.
iv) Do you think war is important? Give your opinion.
Answer : No, war is not important. Nature has bestowed us with the gift of love and peace. We should live with fellow human beings in mutual harmony. War brings hatred and death with it. When we can live in peace, then why should we create situations that lead to war.
v) Give a brief history of the Vietnam War on which the background of the poem is set.
Answer : The Vietnam War was a prolonged battle which began in 1955 and ended in 1975. The war started as an insurgency in South Vietnam sponsored by the North Vietnamese Government. It resulted in direct military intervention in the South Vietnam by North Vietnam. It resulted in a lot of bloodshed and destruction of life and property.
Question 2 : Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“Must be fatigue”, he weakly smiled. “I must be getting old.
I see the sun is shining bright and yet I’m feeling cold.
We climbed the hill, two hundred strong, but as we cleared the crest,
The night exploded and I felt this small pain in my chest.”
i) What does the soldier say in these lines?
Answer : The soldier tells the narrator in these lines that he must be feeling weak and cold due to fatigue. He says that he can see the sun shining bright in the sky but still cannot feel its warmth. He climbed the hill, along with two hundred soldiers but as they cleared the crest, there was an explosion and he felt a small pain in his chest.
ii) Explain the line, “The night exploded and I felt this small pain in my chest,”
Answer : The young soldier along with a troop of two hundred soldiers was climbing a hill and as they reached the top, there was a big explosion and the soldier felt a small pain in his chest. It seemed that the soldier was injured in the explosion and the pain was of the injury that he went through.
iii) What is happening to the soldier?
Answer : The soldier is gradually approaching his death. He is feeling cold and tired due to several injuries. Even though the sun is shining bright in the sky, he cannot feel its warmth. This happened as there was an explosion and due to the injuries, the soldier feels pain in his chest.
iv) Do you think the soldier is a brave man? Why?
Answer: Yes, the soldier is a brave man because even though he has received several injuries he is not complaining and finds fault with himself. He says that he is feeling cold and weak due to fatigue and nothing else, perhaps because he is getting old.
v) Even though it was early morning and the sun was shining bright, the soldier felt cold. Why?
Answer : Even though is was early morning and the sun was shining bright, the soldier felt cold because he was approaching death and the warmth of sunshine could not help him. The soldier was feeling physically weak. His vision was getting dim and his body cold like a dead body.
Question 3 : Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“I don’t recall what happened then. I think I must have cried;
I put my arms around him and I pulled him to my side
And, as I held him to me, I could feel our wounds were pressed
The large one in my heart against the small one in his chest.”
i) Why did the narrator cry?
Answer : The narrator cried because he was overwhelmed by the soldier’s death and the death caused to humanity by wars and destruction. He felt that the innocent soldier’s death was a blow to the heart of humanity. The narrator was overpowered with extreme emotions that he cried on losing such a brave soldier forever.
ii) Which are the ‘large’ and the ‘small’ wounds talked about here?
Answer : The ‘large’ wound in the narrator’s heart is the greater guilt on the part of humanity at not being able to give up wars.
The small ‘wound’ in the soldier’s heart is the big conscience of humanity which is asking for some understanding and concern.
iii) Explain, “I could feel our wounds were pressed”.
Answer : This means that the ‘large’ wound of the narrator and the ‘small’ wound in the soldier’s heart come together to create a mutual harmony with each other to bring peace and love to humanity and human beings who suffer during wars.
iv) What do you understand from the poem?
Answer : The poem discusses the theme of war and peace. It brings out the horrific effects of the war through the sufferings and death of a young soldier who demands understanding and concern from fellow human beings to stop war and destruction.
v) How is war harmful to humankind?
Answer : War destroys love and peace. It brings with it hatred and strife. Nature has created human beings to live peacefully with each other but this thought has become lost somewhere. People have become selfish and think about individual comforts.
Question 4 : Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“I’m grateful, sir”, he whispered, as I handed my canteen
And smiled a smile that was, I think, the brightest that I’ve seen.
“Seems silly that a man my size so full of vim and zest,
Could find himself defeated by a small pain in his chest.”
i) Why does the narrator feel that the soldier has the brightest smile?
Answer : The narrator feels that it was the brightest smile he had ever seen because the soldier even though fatally wounded, was hiding his pain behind his smile. This proves the soldier’s courage to the narrator. The bright smile of the soldier shows that the was obliged for the aid which he got from a stranger.
ii) What is the soldier grateful for? Why?
Answer : The soldier is grateful to the narrator for giving him a bottle of water. In times when human beings have lost their humanity, the narrator who is a stranger to the soldier, offers him water before death. It shows that the situation can still be changed. There is still some hop.e
iii) Explain the line, “Seems silly that a man my size so full of vim and zest, ……….”.
Answer : The soldier felt guilty that a man like him who was full of life and vigour was defeated by a small pain in his chest. He refused to accept that he was dying and his condition was so due to the injuries on his body. He felt that his weakness did not suit a man of his size.
iv) How do soldiers suffer in wars?
Answer : The soldiers have to endure appalling conditions in the battlefield. They have to remain without food and water for many days. They are always surrounded by the enemy forces, under fire or the guns, tanks and bombs. In this way, they put every moment of their life into danger. While fighting battle, they have to suffer from severe physical injuries and feel so fatigued that they become totally disoriented.
v) What moral message does the poet want to convey through the poem?
Answer : The poet wants to convey the message that wars are not necessary. We should live in harmony with fellow beings and help each other. There is so much to give in life which is taken away. We should enjoy the gifts that nature has bestowed upon us and not spoil it by greed, hatred and malice.
Question 5 : Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“I looked around to get some aid – the only things I found
Were big, deep craters in the earth-bodies on the ground.
I kept on firing at them, sir. I tried to do my best,
But finally sat down with this small pain in my chest.”
i) Name the poem and the poet. Why is the soldier looking around for aid?
Answer : The name of the poem is “Small Pain in My Chest”. The name of the poet is ‘Michael Mack’. The soldier was looking around for aid to help himself and his fellow soldiers from the tragic end.
ii) Which lines tell you that the soldier is brave? Explain those lines.
Answer : These lines show that the soldier is a brave man
“I kept on firing at them, sir. I tried to do my best,…..”
In these lines, the soldier tells the narrator that even though he was tired to death, he kept on firing at the enemy and tried to do his best, but finally he sat down due to the small pain in his chest.
iii) Why did the soldier stop fighting?
Answer : The soldier stopped fighting because he could not handle the pain in his chest anymore. He fought hard against the enemy until his body allowed it but his injuries were too much to fight the war. He felt feeble and fatigued.
iv) Is the soldier aware of his fatal wounds? How can you say so?
Answer : Yes, the soldier is aware of his fatal wounds, but he is hiding it behind a sweet smile so that he may derive courage to bear the pain for some more time. His conversation with the narrator proves this.
v) Give a brief character sketch of the narrator.
Answer : The narrator describes the whole situation in the poem and the condition of the soldier. He represents the whole humanity and its guilty conscience that brings war and its after effects. He feels overwhelmed at the death of the young soldier and cries at the tragic loss of an innocent fellow human being.