Comment on Ruskin Bond's plot construction in 'The Night Train at Deoli'
Comment on the author's characteristic style and use of imagery.
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"The Night Train at Deoli" is a short told in the reflective first person narrative. A college student reflects on his annual visits to his home town of Dehra Dun. He takes the overnight train which stops in the small village of Deoli. On one trip, the student notices a beautiful girl selling baskets on the street. He fantasizes about meeting her. In subsequent years, he continues to fantasize about her and even has a brief encounter with her, but he never pursues her. It's the story of an unspoken yet powerful attraction and of the student's regret for never having acted on his passion.
Bond uses imagery to blur the line between the girl and her surroundings, contributing to his fantasy-like image of her. The student notes, for example, "her dark, smoldering eyes," not unlike the darkness of the night itself in Deoli. When he does have a brief conversation with the basket girl, he notes that they shared a feeling of familiarity, "almost like a meeting of old friends." She had become as familiar as the journey itself. She's become more than a peripheral interest of passing landscape. She is central to his trip and to his identity as a man.
Bond uses the literary device of the unnamed narrator to infuse the story with a mystical sense of universality. Because we know very little of the young man's family or circumstances, we can see ourselves in him. We all remember moments of fantasy-like love; feelings of strong attraction toward a person we barely know. We know what it's like to build someone up in our imagination. We know what it's like to be in that place of imagining, of hoping, of wanting. Ruskin's narrator never moves beyond that place. He never acts, and he is filled with remorse because of it. Because Ruskin's narrator is a kind of "every man," it's easy for readers to empathize with him.
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