A Face in the Dark

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  • Q1

    Discuss the sinister atmosphere of the story ‘A Face in the Dark’, and how it contributes to the element of horror.

    Marks:16
    Answer:

    ‘A Face in the Dark’ is a supernatural story set in a pine forest in Simla. The story is about a gentleman named Mr. Oliver who teaches in a school near the Simla Bazaar, which is at a distance of three miles from the school. Since Mr. Oliver is a bachelor, and does not have familial responsibilities, he usually takes a stroll into the town in the evening. While returning, he takes a short cut through the pine forest.

    After this brief introduction of the setting, the author further describes that the pine trees in the forest make ‘sad and eerie sounds’ fearing which, many people avoided that route.

    However, we get to know that Mr. Oliver is not a nervous or imaginative man. He is bold enough to take that road.

    Ruskin Bond prepares us for what is going to arrive. We are informed of Mr. Oliver’s habit of going to the pine forest. So the readers, automatically sense that the forest is where most of the action will take place.

    The story progresses, and we find Mr. Oliver taking the route as usual. He has a torch in his hand, but the batteries have run down. The light is flickering, when it falls on a boy sitting on a rock, and crying. It seems to be a strange, soundless weeping. Here, the strangeness of the cry makes the atmosphere more alarming. The readers anticipate as to what is going to happen next.

    Mr. Oliver gets concerned as boys are not supposed to be out after dark. He authoritatively questions the boy as to why is he there at that time. But the boy does not answer. Here, the boy not answering adds to the trepidation.

    After much questioning, the boy looks above, and Mr. Oliver becomes as cold as ice. The boy has no features on his face- no eyes, nose, ears or mouth. He is faceless.

    Mr. Oliver runs for his life, blindly through the tress. He stumbles up to the watchman, who asks him the reason for his breathlessness. The watchman is carrying a lamp in his hand, but at this point we are not told anything about his face. The teacher narrates the whole experience, to which the watchman says, ‘Do you mean it was like this, Sahib?’

    This is where the story ends, with the wind blowing the lamp out, and the readers are left to wonder what happens with Mr. Oliver. Does he survive or is he dead?

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  • Q2

    Read the extract below and answer the questions that follow-

    ‘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, ears, no features at all- not even an eyebrow! And that’s when the wind blew the lamp out.

    a. What did Mr. Oliver tell the watchman? What was he so afraid of? Why? (3x1=3)

    b. Why did Mr. Oliver come running down the path hurriedly? (3x1=3)

    c. What is the horror all about? (3x1=3)

    d. What was the watchman’s reaction? (3x1=3)

    e. What did the watchman ask Mr. Oliver? What do you think could have been the ending of the story?(4x1=4)

    Marks:16
    Answer:

    a. Mr. Oliver told the watchman that he had seen a boy with no eyes, ears, nose, or mouth while strolling through the pine forest.The boy was crying and Mr. Oliver wanted to help him. But when the boy looked up he was frightened of the former’s face, which had no features on it.

    b. Mr. Oliver came running down the path hurriedly in order to save himself. Although he was not a nervous or imaginative man, he trembled with fear because of this harrowing experience.

    c. The horror is about the fact that Mr. Oliver gets afraid of the faceless boy, and in order to run away from him almost barges into the watchman. But the climax gets all the more terrifying, when we get to know that the watchman too had no face. The readers are left to imagine the fate of Mr. Oliver.

    d. The watchman seemed curious to know what had happened to Mr. Oliver. Since Mr. Oliver came running straight towards the watchman, the latter was inquisitive. He asked Mr. Oliver the reason for his being so nervous and terrified.

    e. The watchman asked Mr. Oliver the reason for his nervousness. In the climax of the story, the watchman shows his featureless face and then the wind blows the lamp out. After this, the readers are left to imagine the fate of Mr. Oliver. Possibly, both the boy and the watchman come together and kill Mr. Oliver. It is after this that the rumour of the pine forest being a haunted place spreads like wildfire.

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  • Q3

    Read the extract below and answer the questions that follow-

    “It had no eyes, ears, nose or mouth. It was just a round smooth head- with a school cap on top of it! And that’s where the story should end. But for Mr. Oliver it did not end here.

    The torch fell from his trembling hand. He turned and scrambled down the path, running blindly through the trees and calling for help. He was still running towards the school buildings when he saw a lantern swinging in the middle of the path. Mr. Oliver stumbled up to the watchman, gasping for breath. ‘What is it, Sahib?’ asked the watchman. ‘Has there been an accident? Why are you running?’”

    a. Who is ‘it’? Why was Mr. Oliver frightened on seeing ‘it’? (3x1=3)

    b. What was Mr. Oliver’s reaction? (3x1=3)

    c. How did he meet the watchman? What was his condition when he met the watchman? (3x1=3)

    d. What reply did Mr. Oliver give to the watchman? (3x1=3)

    e. What did the watchman ask Mr. Oliver?

    (4x1=4)

    Marks:16
    Answer:

    a. ‘It’ refers to the boy. He had no nose, mouth, ears, or eyes. Mr. Oliver was frightened on seeing ‘it’ because he had thought that the boy had lost his way in the forest, and wanted to help him. But it seems that the boy was a ghost, and the man who was never nervous, got frightened and ran for his life.

    b. Mr. Oliver was extremely frightened on seeing the faceless boy. The torch fell from his trembling hand. He turned and ran for his life, blindly through the trees, calling for help. He had never seen such a thing in his life and wanted to reach a safe place as soon as possible.

    c. He ran blindly through the pine trees when he saw the faceless boy. He stumbled up to the watchman and was gasping for breath. He was petrified and shocked, while he narrated the whole incident to the watchman.

    d. When the watchman asked him as to why he was nervous and running, Mr. Oliver replied that he had seen a boy who had no eyes, ears, nose, or mouth. He did not have a face, but he kept crying.

    e. When the watchman saw that Mr. Oliver came running blindly as if someone was chasing him, he asked the teacher what had happened, whether there had been an accident and why he was running.

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  • Q4

    Read the extract below and answer the questions that follow-

    “What are you doing out here, boy? Asked Mr. Oliver sharply, moving closer so that he could recognize the miscreant. But even as he approached the boy, Mr. Oliver sensed that something was wrong. The boy appeared to be crying. His head hung down, he held his face in his hands, and his body shook convulsively. It was a strange, soundless weeping, and Mr. Oliver felt distinctly uneasy.”

    a. Why was Mr. Oliver stern and worried while questioning the boy?

    (3x1=3)

    b. Why was the boy crying? How was his body shaking?

    (3x1=3)

    c. When did Mr. Oliver start to feel uneasy? Why?

    (3x1=3)

    d. Where did he meet the boy? Why do you think Mr. Oliver was present at the place?

    (3x1=3)

    e. Give a brief character sketch of Mr. Oliver.

    (4x1=4)

    Marks:16
    Answer:

    a. Mr. Oliver was stern while questioning the boy, as school students were not supposed to be out after dark. But his sternness changed to worry when the boy kept crying and did not look up to face Mr. Oliver.

    b. It seemed that the boy had lost his way in the dark. Mr. Oliver got concerned about him when he kept crying, without responding to the former’s questions. It was a strange, soundless weeping, and his body was shaking convulsively.

    c. When Mr. Oliver asked the boy as to what he was doing in the pine forest, the boy did not look up. He kept crying with his face in his hands, and his body was shaking. It was a strange, soundless weeping, and this was when Mr. Oliver felt uneasy.

    d. He met the boy in the pine forest, where he was sitting on a rock and crying. Mr. Oliver was present at the place because he was in the habit of taking a stroll while returning from the town. He usually took a short cut through the pine forest. While returning from his walk that day, he saw the boy crying.

    e. Mr. Oliver was an Anglo-Indian teacher who taught at a school in Simla. He was a bachelor, and usually took a stroll into the town in the evening. While returning, he took a short cut through the pine forest. He was not a nervous or imaginative man, and therefore was not afraid of the eerie sounds made by the pine trees.

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