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Chapter 4: The Rattrap
Once upon a time, there was a man who went around selling small rattraps of wire. He made them himself at odd moments, from the material he got by begging in the stores or at the big farms.
But even so, the business was not especially profitable, so he had to resort to both begging and petty thievery to keep body and soul together. Even so, his clothes were in rags, his cheeks were sunken, and hunger gleamed in his eyes.
No one can imagine how sad and monotonous life can appear to such a vagabond, who plods along the road, left to his own meditations.
But one day this man had fallen into a line of thought, that really seemed to him entertaining.
He had naturally been thinking of his rattraps when suddenly he was struck by the idea that the whole world about him — the whole world with its lands and seas, its cities and villages — was nothing but a big rattrap.
It had never existed for any other purpose than to set baits for people.
It offered riches and joys, shelter and food, heat and clothing, exactly as the rattrap offered cheese and pork, and as soon as anyone let himself be tempted to touch the bait, it closed in on him, and then everything came to an end.
The world had, of course, never been very kind to him, so it gave him an unwonted joy to think ill of it in this way.
It became a cherished pastime of his, during many dreary ploddings, to think of people he knew who had let themselves be caught in the dangerous snare, and of others who were still circling around the bait.
One dark evening as he was trudging along the road he caught sight of a little gray cottage by the roadside, and he knocked on the door to ask for shelter for the night.
Nor was he refused. Instead of the sour faces which ordinarily met him, the owner, who was an old man without a wife or child, was happy to get someone to talk to in his loneliness.
Immediately he put the porridge pot on the fire and gave him supper; then he carved off such a big slice from his tobacco roll that it was enough both for the stranger’s pipe and his own.
Finally, he got out an old pack of cards and played ‘majlis’ with his guest until bedtime.
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NCERT Solutions Class 12 English Chapter 4 The Rattrap
1. How does the peddler interpret the acts of kindness and hospitality shown by the crofter, the ironmaster, and his daughter?
The peddler was a man who walked around selling small wire rat traps. He was living the lonely and monotonous life of a vagabond.
He knocked on the door of the crofter’s cottage, which turned out to be an old man without a wife or children. He showed him kindness and hospitality, which the peddler had not anticipated. However, the peddler took his thirty-kroner. As a result, he betrayed the crofter’s trust in him.
The ironmaster, remembering Captain Von Stahle as an old acquaintance, extended kindness to him and invited him to spend Christmas Eve with him.
But the peddler reasoned that if he said he was the one in the mind of the ironmaster, he would be rewarded with more kroner.
Edla Willmansson, in a very compassionate and friendly manner, asked the peddler to come to her house. He then decided to accept the invitation.
However, while riding to the manor’s house, he felt very guilty about whatever he had done. As a result, he resolved to correct his error.
He accomplished this by leaving Edla a gift containing the thirty kroner he had stolen from the crofter’s house. He had written in the note that he would return the crofter’s money.
2. What are the instances in the story that show that the character of the ironmaster is different from that of his daughter in many ways?
The ironmaster is rash, whereas his daughter is logical, kind, and considerate. In a hazy light, he misidentifies the stranger as an old regimental comrade.
He invites him to his home and takes care of his feeding, clothing, and other needs. When he sees him in broad daylight, he accuses him of being dishonest, demands an explanation, and threatens to summon the sheriff.
His daughter is more perceptive. She notices the stranger’s fear and suspects him of being a thief or a fugitive prisoner.
Despite this, she treats him with gentleness, kindness, and friendliness. Even though she is aware of the mistake in identity, she treats him with respect.
3. The story has many instances of unexpected reactions from the characters to others’ behavior. Pick out instances of these surprises.
The first example is the crofter’s hospitality to the peddler. The rattrap peddler, expecting to be denied permission to spend the night in the cottage, is surprised by the crofter’s friendliness.
The peddler was also taken aback by the ironmaster’s unexpected invitation, which shocked him the next day when he realized his error in recognizing the peddler.
Edla’s agreement to seek the peddler’s presence for Christmas is another unexpected reaction for both the peddler and the ironmaster.
The peddler, on the other hand, has an unexpected reaction when he leaves the package and the letter for Edla, expressing gratitude for the girl’s hospitality and respect for her.
4. What made the peddler finally change his ways?
Edla Williamson was friendly with the peddler. She was courteous and considerate to her. When her father was about to kick him out of the house, she prayed for him.
Even after learning the truth about the peddler, she continued to entertain him. She greeted him with a Christmas gift and invited him to spend the following Christmas with them.
Her love and compassion caused the peddler to communicate with his inner soul, and he changed his ways.
5. How does the metaphor of the rattrap serve to highlight the human predicament?
Thinking about his rattraps, the peddler concluded that the entire world was nothing more than a giant rattrap. Its sole purpose was to lure people in.
It offered riches and joys, shelter and food, heat, and clothing, just as the rattrap decided to offer cheese and pork, and as soon as one allowed oneself to be tempted by the bait, it closed in, ending everything.
The peddler became disoriented in the forest after stealing the crofter’s money. Then he considered the world and the rattrap once more. It was now encircling him. He had been duped by temptation and had been caught.
The forest’s undergrowth encircled him like a prison from which he could never escape. The peddler also told the ironmaster that the entire world was a giant rattrap.
All of the good things that were offered were nothing more than cheese rind and bits of pork, all of which were designed to entice people into trouble. None of them escaped from one person’s jail into the trap one day and the other the next.
The rattrap metaphor highlights the human predicament when, in the end, the peddler left the rattrap as a Christmas present and wrote in his letter to Elda that this present was from a rat that would have been caught in this world’s rattrap if he had not been treated respectfully and kindly as a captain.
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