“The Cold Within” by James Patrick Kinney

  1. Read carefully the passage given below and answer the questions that follow:

Six humans trapped by happenstance

In a bleak and bitter cold.


For, of the faces round the fire,

She noticed one was black.


And could not bring himself to give

The fire is stick of birch.

i) Name the figure of speech used in the line “In bleak and bitter cold”? What special significance

do the adjective bleak and bitter have?

Ans. The figure of speech that is used in the line, “In bleak and bitter cold” is alliteration. In the figure of speech alliteration, there is a close repetition of consonant sounds, which usually is seen at the beginning of words. In the above line the consonant ‘b’ is repeated twice – bleak and bitter cold.

The most important significance of the adjective bleak and bitter is that it tells about the night on which the poem is set. It also signifies the lack of warmth in human relations. Bleak and bitter cold means an extremely unpleasant and biting cold. Although the poet speaks of the weather of the night, he actually intends to show the bleakness and bitterness that prevails in human hearts.

ii) Who are the people referred to in the above extract? Why do they need logs?

Ans. The people referred to in the above extract are a lady, and the only female member of the group and a Christian man. The lady is white complexioned and supported apartheid. The other person who is a Christian is very selfish in nature and does not like the ones belonging to any other religious community or even from a different church.

iii) What character traits would you link with “the first one” and “the next man”? Why?

Ans. The character traits which can be associated with “the first one” and “the next man” is mean mindedness and selfishness. They judge people basing on their colour and religion.  The only female member of the group who is “ the first one “ does not put in her log because she does not want to give warmth to the black person present in the group and “the next man” does not put his log in the fire because he does not want to give warmth to the man in the group who came from a different religions community or a church.

iv) What does the first person in the group hold back and why?

Ans. The first one or the only female member of the group help back her log from putting into the dying fire to ignite it. The lady does so because in the group of six people she has noticed a dark-complexioned man. The lady being a white complexioned herself, she hates the dark.

v) Explain how the following line is connected with the theme of poem:

Their dying fire in need of logs

Ans. The primary theme of the poem “The cold within” is the lack of warmth we see in human relationship. The group of six people sitting around the fire in the poem represents the whole human race in general. These six people are devoid of the warmth of humanity. They are selfish and thinks only about their own colour, religion and social status. They are not ready to cooperate with anyone who is different from them when they were in the same situation. Each one of them held a piece of log but none ignited the fire because of the spite they bore against other in the group.

Their dying fire in the need of logs expresses the lack of warmth of these six people. The above line literally refers to the fire that is dying and is in need to be kept alive with logs, but it actually refers to the fire or warmth of humanity which is dying out in need of the logs of compassion in their heart for their fellow beings.

II.Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

The third one sat in tattered clothes.


To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought


From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge


Was a chance to spite the white.


i) What is meant by “tattered clothes”? What does this expression symbolise? Why does the “third one” or the poor man in the group gives his coat a hitch?

Ans. The expression “tattered clothes” stands for frayed, torn and faded clothes.

The above expression symbolises the wearer of such a coat to be a poor person who is incapable to avail good clothes.

The “third one” in the group who is a poor fellow gives his coat a hitch because his coat is torn and tattered and hence he pulls it closely around himself so that it gives him warmth and does not make him feel cold anymore.

ii) The “third one” or the poor man does not want to use his log to warm the rich. Why does he do so?

Ans. The “third one” in the group as already said is poor. We can say this from his tattered coat. He spites the rich because he thinks they ate lazy and doesn’t help the poor. This is the reason why he does not want to put his log into the fire and give warmth to the rich present in the group.


iii)  What thoughts preoccupy the rich man’s mind? What does it say about him?

Ans. The rich man’s mind is preoccupied with the thought of his own wealth which he had in store and how to keep his wealth safe from the idle poor.

The thoughts preoccupying the rich man’s mind says that he is a selfish man who only thinks of himself.

iv) What prejudice does the black man has and for whom?

Ans. The black man has prejudices against the white. The white men hate the blacks and torture them in various ways. Hence, the blacks also spite the whites. So, in this group the black man is prejudiced against the white in the sense that the white has hatred towards the black and wants to harm him.

v) Explain the following lines:

For all he saw in his stick of wood

Was a chance to spite the white.

Ans. The black man kept his stick away from igniting the fire because he thought by doing so he can revenge the white member or members of the group. The blacks are ill-treated by the whites. Here in this group the black man thought he had at last got a chance to revenge the hatred the white has for the black by not igniting the fire with the stick he has in his hand. According to the black man in the absence of log the fire would die and the white would also die unable to bear the cold. But the black man does not think for once that his blind revenge against the white would take his own life too in the absence of fire.

III. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

The last man of the forlorn group


Was how he played the game.

Their logs held tight in death’s still hands.


They died from the cold within.

i) Explain the phrase “forlorn group”. Which figure of speech

is used here?

Ans. The phrase “forlorn group” is an instance of oxymorone. Oxymorone is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

The term forlorn means lonely and group has more than two people. Hence a group can never be lonely. Inspite of this the poet calls these six people a “forlorn group” because although they are six in numbers sitting together, they are lonely. This is because these six people are selfish and lack the warmth of humanity in this heart. Biased on discrimination they remain apart from each other mentally when they are physically close to each other.

ii) What game is the poet referring to while mentioning the last man of the group?

Ans. While mentioning the last man of the group, the poet says that though he had a stick in his hand he did not ignite the dying fire because he did nothing in which he did not gain any profit. He always played the game of give and take. He gave only to those who gave him in return. And by igniting the fire with his stick he knew none of the other five members were to give him anything in return.

iii) What proof of human sin is being referred to here? Explain.

Ans. The poem “The cold within” refers to human sins of futility and discrimination. These six people in the poem are from different backgrounds and religion. Owing to their prejudices against one another they    are overtaken by the feelings of revenge, spite and anger to such an extent that though each one of them has a log that can be put to use not only for others but for themselves also, it becomes difficult for them to put their stick into the fire. Their differences surpass their survival instinct.

iv) The poet says that the characters “died from the cold within”. What does he mean?

Ans. In the poem “The cold within” the poet tells about six odd people who by chance of fate were trapped in bitter cold. Although each held in his hand a piece of stick, none put it into the fire to ignite it. Each one of them was different from the rest in the group in terms of colour, religion and social status. Owing to their prejudices against one another they were over taken by the feelings of revenge, spite and anger. Their hatred for each other went to such an extent that inspite of having a birch stick held in their hands they did not ignite the fire. Their differences surpass their survival instinct. When the poet says the “died from the cold within”, he means to say it was not the coldness of the atmosphere but the cold heartedness of the six individuals that resulted to their death.

v) What message is the poet trying to convey in the poem? How does he succeed in carrying out his task?

Ans. In this poem, the poet wants to convey the importance of humanity and fellow feelings. Through this “forlorn group” of six people who died inspite of having a stick in their hand to ignite the fire he wants to tell us the grave situation in today’s world. People in today’s world lead a lonely life inspite of remaining among others. This is because people have become selfish and greedy and lacks in the warmth of humanity and fellow feelings. If this continues the day is not long behind when our survival instinct will surpass our hatred and feelings of revenge for our fellow beings to such an extent that like the six people we will also die although we could have ignited the fire of humanity with the stick of love and compassion far each other.











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