Structured Questions Answers from A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond

QUESTION AND ANSWERS from A Face in the Dark

Structured Questions from A Face In The Dark by Ruskin Bond

Read the extract and answer the following questions: 

1. When there was a strong wind, the pine trees made sad, eerie sounds that kept most people to the main road. But Mr. Oliver was not a nervous or imaginative man. He carried a torch, and its gleam—the batteries were running down-moved fitfully down the narrow forest path. When its flickering light fell in the figure of a boy, who was sitting alone on a rock, Mr. Oliver stopped. Boys were not supposed to be out after dark.

1. What picture of the school is projected here?


The school was situated on the outskirts of the hill station of Shimla. The school had its established reputation from before Kipling's time. It had been run on English public school lines. The boys of the school belonged to wealthy Indian families. They wore blazers, caps and ties. The Life Magazine had once called the school 'Eton of the East'.

2. Why the school in which Mr Oliver was a teacher, called the 'Eton of the East"?


Eton school is said to run on the British pattern. It begins with the standard of teaching. There is a no-nonsense there. There are weekly assessments of the boys and the results are public. If there is any drop in the result, the teacher is summoned. The school activities are having unrelenting competition.
The school in Shimla in which Mr Oliver was a teacher ran on the same principles. The boys were disciplined and followed the rules and regulations of the school. It was a prestigious school and thus called the 'Eton of the East'.

3. Who was Mr Oliver and what was his daily routine?


Mr Oliver was an Anglo-Indian teacher who had been teaching in a school situated on the outskirts of the hill station of Shimla for several years. The Shimla Bazaar was about three miles from the school. It had restaurants, cinemas, etc. Mr Oliver, a bachelor, used to stroll into the town in the evening and returned after dark taking a short cut through the pine forest.

4. How can you say that Mr Oliver was a brave man?
Was Mr Oliver was a strong or a fearful man?


Shimla, a very high hill station has many pine forests. People in those days avoided the route through these forests as when there were strong wind; sad eerie sounds which were frightening enough to raise anyone's goosebumps. But Mr Oliver was not that sort of person. He was not a nervous or imaginative man. He usually carried a torch and its beam moved fitfully down the forest path. Even when he saw a boy's figure in that lonely place, he didn't get scared. Rather he asked him the reason for being alone and weeping.

5. What did Mr Oliver see when he was returning back while passing through the pine forest?


Mr Oliver was on his usual walk in the evening. While returning back from Shimla Bazaar through the narrow path of the pine forest, he came across an unusual sight. He saw a figure on the rock. He usually carried a torch with him always and as soon as the flickering light of his torch fell upon the figure, he found it to be a boy and stopped. It was a strange sight as the boys were not supposed to be out after dark.

2. "I saw something—something horrible—a boy weeping in the forest—and he had no face!" 
"No face, Sahib?" 
"No eyes, nose, mouth-nothing!"
"Do you mean it was like this, Sahib?" asked the watchman, and raised the lamp to his own face. The watchman had no eyes, no ears, no features at all—not even an eyebrow! And that's when the wind blew the lamp out. 

1. Why was Mr Oliver surprised to see the boy?


On his usual walk, when Mr Oliver saw a boy sitting alone on a rock, he was surprised to see him as the boys of the school were not supposed to be out after dark. And as the place was near to school, he could imagine no one else outsider there. He questioned him strongly that what he was doing there and when he got no reply, he moved closer so that he could recognize the boy.

2. Why was the boy called a miscreant?


The place where Mr Oliver saw the boy in the woods was not far away from the school in which he was teaching. Therefore he thought that the boy must be from that school and the students of the school were supposed to be much disciplined and to abide by the rules. Finding him at that time of hour made him think that the boy might have done some mischief and that was why he was hiding there.

3. Why did Mr Oliver move closer to the boy who was sitting alone on the rock in the forest?


Mr Oliver encountered a figure while coming back to school one night. He was surprised and felt uneasy to see it. When the light of his torch fell on the figure, it came out to be a boy. He stopped there and asked him sharply what he was doing there. Getting no response, he moved closer to him and sensed something wrong. The boy appeared to be crying with his face in his hands and his body was moving violently.

4. How did he show his concern for the boy? Did the boy reply affirmatively?


Mr Oliver became angry on seeing the boy alone in the forest at night. He asked him strongly the reason for being there but the boy didn't answer. He moved closer to him thinking that he must have done wrong and for that reason, he had run away from the school. But then he realized that the boy was sobbing and soon his anger gave way to concern. He again asked him why he was crying but the boy neither replied nor looked up. His body was shivering due to silent sobbing. He told him not to be there alone at that hour and asked what the trouble was.

5. Which horrible sight frightened Mr Oliver?


As Mr Oliver approached the boy, he discovered that the boy was sobbing holding his face in
his hands. His body was shaking. It was a strange, soundless weeping. Initially, Mr Oliver got angry but when he heard him crying his anger diverted into concern. He suggested to the boy that he shouldn't be there at that time and asked the problem. When the boy looked up, the light from Mr Oliver's torch fell upon the boy's face which had no eyes, ears, nose or mouth. This sight frightened him so much that he ran away from the place without pausing for a second.

Compound Questions and Answers

1. (a) What do you know about Mr Oliver and the school he worked in?


Mr Oliver, the protagonist of the story, 'A Face in the Dark', was an Anglo Indian teacher who worked in one of the prestigious schools in Simla. He had been teaching in the school for several years. He was a bachelor. It had been his habit to go to Simla Bazaar, which was three miles away from the school. There he might watch movies or dine in a restaurant, and return after dark, taking a short cut through the pine forest. He was not a nervous person, nor given to too much of imagination, so he was not scared of walking through the forest which would make an eerie sound when strong winds blew.

The school he worked was known as the 'Eton of the East'. It had been run on English public school lines. Most of the boys studying there were from wealthy Indian families and wore blazers, caps and ties. Run-on typical English pattern, the school had featured in Life Magazine and was considered as a status symbol.

(b) What bizarre incident took place one day when Mr Oliver was coming back from Simla Bazaar?


Mr Oliver was returning after spending some time in Simla Bazaar. He took the pine forest route. It was a lonely path, dark and eerie. In the flickering light of the torch, he saw the figure of a boy, sitting alone on a rock. The boy was crying. It was a strange soundless weeping which made the teacher, rather uneasy. He held his head in his hands and his body shook convulsively. The concerned teacher insisted that the boy should look up and tell him his trouble. To his utter shock, when the boy looked up, he realised, he had no eyes, ears, nose or mouth. It was just a smooth head, with a school cap on top of it. Immediately, he turned and ran towards the school. He encountered the watchman and told him about the boy without features. The watchman held the lantern to his face and asked whether the face was like his. He also did not have any features. Even Mr Oliver, with his rational outlook, had a fit of terror at the confrontation of what might have been supernatural.

(c) On what two planes can you evaluate the incidents in the story?


The story can be evaluated at two levels: either as a weird supernatural experience or on a
rational ground. The dark, lonely path through a pine grove, the eerie sound made by the wind, the reservations the locals had in using the short cut, all create an illusion of the supernatural. A boy sitting on a rock with his head down, his face covered with his hands, his body shaking in soundless sobs, the flickering torchlight revealing a face without eyes, ears, nose or mouth; enough to make any man shake with fear. That was exactly what the schoolmaster went through on that bizarre night. On top of it, he encountered another being of the same strange face in the form of a watchman, carrying a lantern. It is a perfect setting for a ghost story.

On the other hand, Mr Oliver is described as a man, who was not easily given to nervousness or imagination. Perhaps, the lonely walk in the stormy night might have led him to imagine something supernatural like a ghostly figure. A boy's school cap lying on a rock or a mask someone left behind, might have created an illusion in the flickering light of his torch. The same fear might have made him imagine the watchman too as being faceless.

The story ends with a sense of ambiguity, leaving the ending open. The reader has to decide whether they were ghosts, whether they were optical illusions or whether the whole thing was a prank played upon the teacher by some mischievous students.

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