I read the poem 'A Roadside Stand' by Robert Frost, and I have accumulated a few questions through the poem. So, I will be posting some questions from the same poem, if you can please answer my other questions as well. Thanks to all :)

Here you can read the whole poem. Below I have given the particular paragraph.

Robert Frost says that the good-doers enforce benefits on the rural farmers, soothe them out of their wits and teach them how to sleep they sleep all day. Here I want to know a few things.

First, How do they enforce benefits? I mean, in what possible way? What possible benefits are being talked about here?

Second, How do they soothe them out of their wits by enforcing benefits?

Last, and most important, How do they make them sleep how they sleep all day? I mean, do they don't work in the day? How do they make them to not work in the day?

I know a little bit about what the poet actually wants to say, but I have very blurred information. So, it will be of grrrrrreat help if someone could elaborately answer the questions I put :) Really, Thanks a looooooot to anyone who makes any efforts :D

It is in the news that all these pitiful kin
Are to be bought out and mercifully gathered in
To live in villages, next to the theatre and the store,
Where they won’t have to think for themselves anymore,
While greedy good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey,
Swarm over their lives enforcing benefits
That are calculated to soothe them out of their wits,
And by teaching them how to sleep they sleep all day,
Destroy their sleeping at night the ancient way.


This is a variant on the longstanding critique of charity/welfare as robbing people of meaningful work and giving them a suffocating idleness instead.

By being given charity instead of work, the poor in Frost's poem sleep all day instead of spending their time productively. The end result is that they cannot sleep peacefully at night, the way one does after a hard day's physical labor.

In American politics, this is a prominent conservative viewpoint. It, itself, has been criticized as reactionary and heartless, and as idealizing the hardships of poverty and physical labor. In Frost's hands, it is arguably a bit self-satirizing --this is a poem all about a urban middle-class person's varied, contradictory, ambivalent and quite possibly wrong (or wrong-headed) thoughts about the rural poor and their experience.

  • Thanks, Chris! Can you tell me what kind of benefits do they give to rural people that cause them not to work in the day? Mar 3 '18 at 15:29
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    @RohitShekhawat If you read carefully, Frost is suggesting that the rural people will first be made into townspeople, and then given the charity. I'm not convinced Frost has any particular program in mind here, just the basic idea of it. Mar 3 '18 at 21:06
  • Thanks for reply Chris :) I was just wondering, why would the so-called 'good-doers' give them benefits and do charity for them but not make them work for them? It doesn't make sense to me. It's like you go on a job and the job owner forcefully doesn't let you do anything but still pays you. Mar 4 '18 at 4:19
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    @RohitShekhawat There's a lot to unpack here --is this an accurate criticism of charity/welfare? Does Frost mean it straight, or is it ironic? I'm not sure there are unambiguous answers to those questions. Mar 5 '18 at 14:19
  • I understand your point here Chris :) Anyways, thanks thanks thanks a loooot for keeping the answers coming, Really thaaaank you :D Mar 6 '18 at 14:40

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