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An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum - Important Questions




1.         What do you think is the colour of ‘sour cream’? Why do you think the poet has used this expression to describe the classroom walls?
2.        The walls of the classroom are decorated with the pictures of ‘Shakespeare’, ‘buildings with domes’, ‘world maps’ and beautiful valleys. How do these contrast with the world of these children?
3.          What does the poet want for the children of the slums? How can their lives be made to change?
Or
What change does the poet hope for in the lives of the slum children?
Or
What does the poet want for the children of the slums?
4.          To whom does the poet in the poem, ‘An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum’ make an appeal? What is his appeal?
5.         Which words/phrases in the poem, ‘An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum’ show that the slum children are suffering from acute malnutrition?
6.         The poet says, “And yet, for these children, these windows, not this map, their world.” Which world do these children belong to? Which world is inaccessible to them?
7.           How does the poet describe the classroom walls?
8.         What message does Stephen Spender convey through the poem, ‘An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum’?
9.         Why does Stephen Spender say that the pictures and maps in the elementary school classroom are not meaningful?
10.       What does the poet wish for the children of the slums?
11.       Why does the poet Stephen Spender call the map a bad example?
12.       Which children are referred to here? What is peculiar about their faces?
13.       What does the expression `Far far from gusty waves' signify?
14.       Explain: "Reciting a father's gnarled disease".
15.       What is the comparison drawn with ‘squirrels' game?
16.       Why does the poet Stephen Spender call the map a bad example?
17.       Explain : ‘Skins peeped through by bones’?
18.       Explain : ‘Shut upon their lives like catacombs'?
19.       Explain: ‘Let their tongues run naked into books’.


Reference to Context Questions

“And yet, for these
Children, these windows, not this map, their world,
Where all their future’s pointed with a fog,
A narrow street sealed in with a lead sky
Far far from rivers, capes and stars of words.”

(a)        Who are the ‘children’ referred to here?
(b)        How is their life different from that of other children?
(c)        Why is the future of these children “painted with a fog”?
(d)        Which map is the poet talking about in the above lines?
(e)        To what do the words ‘these windows, their world’ refer?
(f)         What sort of future do the slum children have?
(g)        What is their world like?
(h)        What kind of future does the poet foresee for them?
(i)         Why does the poet say that the narrow street is sealed?



“With ships and sun and love tempting them to steal….
For lives that slyly turn in their cramped holes
From fog to endless night?”

(a)        Who are ‘them’ referred to in the first line?
(b)        What tempts them?
(c)        What does the poet say about their lives?
(d)        What do you understand by “from fog to endless night”?



……….The stunted, unlucky heir
of twisted bones, reciting a father’s gnarled disease,
His lesson, from his desk. At the back of the dim class
One unnoted, sweet and young.

(a)        Who is sitting at the back of the dim class? Why is he unnoted?
(b)        Explain, “reciting a father’s gnarled disease.”
(c)        Who is the ‘unlucky heir’ and what has he inherited?
(d)        What is the stunted boy reciting?
(e)        How has the ‘unlucky heir’ been depicted here?
(f)         Pick two images each of despair and disease from these lines.



Far far from gusty waves these children’s faces.
Like rootless weeds, the hair torn around their pallor
The tall girl with her weighed-down head.
The paper-seeming boy, with rat’s eyes.

(a)        What are the children compared to?
(b)        Why do you think the tall girl is sitting with a weighed down head?
(c)        Give two phrases which tell us that the children are under-nourished
(d)        What is the condition of the boy?



Surely, Shakespeare is wicked, the map a bad example,
With ships and sun and love tempting them to steal
For lives that slyly turn in their cramped holes
From fog to endless night? On their slag heap, these children ‘
Wear skins peeped through by bones and spectacles of steel
With mended glass, like bottle bits on stones
All of their time and space are foggy slum.
So blot their maps with slums as big as doom.

(a)        Why is Shakespeare described as wicked?
(b)        Explain, “from fog to endless night.”
(c)        What does the reference to ‘slag heap’ mean?
(d)        How do they live in their holes?
(e)        Which two images are used to describe these slums?
(f)         What sort of life do these children lead?
(g)        Which figure of speech is used in the last line?



Unless, governor, inspector, visitor,
This map becomes their window and these windows
That shut upon their lives like catacombs,
Break O break open till they break the town
And show the children to green fields, and make their world
Run azure on gold sands, and let their tongues
Run naked into books, the white and green leaves open
History is theirs whose language is the son.

1.         Who can improve the lot of the poor slum children?
2.         What kind of life do they live?
3.         What is the poet’s appeal to the upper class people?
4.         What is the poet’s advice?
5.         Explain: “History is theirs whose language is the sun.”
6.         What should they break?
7.         What kind of a world does the poet imagine for these children?
8.         What does the word ‘sun’ symbolize?
9.         To whom does ‘they’ refer?
10.       What other freedom should they enjoy?

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