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AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CLASSROOM IN A SLUM

STEPHEN SPENDER

The theme of poverty is principal to the poem. He creates of children in poverty


through his descriptions of dire situation and malnourished students revealing a
sad, hidden segment of society. This poem was written during the American Civil
Rights Movement. It strongly embraces communism and depicts its ability to
transform education and uproot poverty. For Spender, children’s mind possesses
the brightness of the sun and the ability to clear the fog that threatens their future.
He uses classroom and the children in his poem as an allegory for the struggle
between proletariat and the bourgeois.

1. Who are the children mentioned in the poem?


2. Why are they described as rootless weeds?
3. Why is the boy described as an unlucky heir’?
4. What has he inherited?
5. Where, do you think , are these children sitting?
6. How do the faces and hair of these children look?
7. Why is the head of the tall girl ‘weighed down?
8. What do you understand by the paper –seeming boy, with rat eyes?
9. What is the stunted by reciting?
10. Who is sitting at the back of the dim class?
11. “Hiss eyes live in a dream “ – what dream does he have?
12. What is the colour of the classroom walls? What does this colour suggest?
13. What do these classroom walls have?
14. What are donations?
15. What is the reference to the Tyrolese Valley?
16. What do you understand by ‘civilized dome?
17. Why is Shakespeare wicked?
18. Why is the map a bad example?
19. Which two worlds does the poet hint at? How is the contrast between the two
worlds?
20. What do these windows and this map represent? To which of them do the
children in the slum school belong?
21. What is the future of these children?
22. What do these children crave for? What do they want to get rid of?
23. Why is Shakespeare wicked? Why is the map a bad example?
24. What tempt them and why?
25. How do they live in their holes?
26. What two images are used to describe these slums? What do these images
convey?

Your passion will define your limits…..Strive for more.


27. What sort of life do such children lead?
28. What blot their maps? Whose maps?
29. What does the poet convey through’ so blot their maps with slums as big as
doom?
30. Why does the poet invoke governor… What function is they expected to
perform?
31. What do you understand by catacombs?
32. “Break of Break open’ what should they break?
33. Where will ‘their world ‘extend up to them?
34. What other freedom should they enjoy?
35. Who create history?
36. How can this map become their window?
37. What are the consequences of this donation?
38. Why has the poet used sour cream to describe the classroom?
39. How do the decorations on the walls contrast with the world of these children?
40. How is the poem an allegory?
41. What does the poet want for the slum children? How can their lives be made
change?
42. What is the theme of the poem?
43. Explain the comparison in ‘like rootless weeds, the hair torn round their
pallor?
44. What picture of the children do you get from the poem? How does the poet
convey that they are burdened and restricted?
45. What is the poet’s appeal to the authorities regarding the education of the
slum children?
46. What is ironical about the poet’s description of the classroom?
47. Describe the world of these children of the slum?
48. How does Stephen spender pectoris the condition of the slum children?
49. What is the theme of the poem? How has it been presented?
50. What message does Stephen Spender convey through the poem? What
solution does he offer?
51. Who award the world its world and how? What does this world contain?
52. Name the imageries that of despair and disease is mentioned in the poem?
Rootless weed, hair torn round their pallor; the tall girl with her weighed
down head, the paper seeming boy with rat’s eyes, the stunted, unlucky heir of
twisted bones, gnarled.
53. Why does Stephen Spender use the images of despair and disease in the first
stanza of the poem and with what effect? (describes the miserable and pathetic
lives of the children living in slum
53. In spite of despair and disease pervading the lives of the slum children, they
are not devoid of hope. Give an example of their hope or dream? (dream of
open seas, green fields and about the games that a squirrels play in the tree
54. How does Stephen Spender picturise the condition of the slum children?
(through the images of ‘a narrow street sealed in with a lead sky…
55. What is the theme of the poem, an Elementary……in a slum? (Theme of
social injustice and class inequalities, The world of rich and the civilized has
nothing to do with the world of narrow lanes and cramped holes)
56. What message does Stephen convey through this poem? (Message of social
justice and class equalities by presenting two contrasting and incompatible
worlds. For achieving success the two worlds must be abridged.)
57. The poet says: Who award the world its world and how? What does this world
contain? (The conquerors and dictators can change the world according to
their whims. This world contain beautiful domes , bells and flowers rivers…
58. “So blot their maps with slums as big as room” says the poet. What does the
poet want convey?
59. How can powerful persons – governor inspector, visitor may contribute to
improve the lot of slum children?
60. How far do you agree with the statement, “History is their whose language is
the sun”? (This world does not listen to the dumb and driven people. Only
those who speak with confidence, power authority and vision are heard and
obeyed)
61. What picture of the slum children does the poet draw?
62. What is it that the slum children receive as their inheritance?
63. What images doers the poet use to describe the hopelessness of the boy?
64. How does the poet see the children as victim of social injustice?

Your passion will define your limits….strive for more


Far from gusty waves……. Seeming boy, with rat’s eyes.

1. Where do you think , are these children sitting?


2. How do the faces and hair of these children look?
3. Why is the head of the tall girl ‘weigh down’?(by the burden of the world)
4. What do you understand by the paper –seeming boy, with rat’s eyes?(thin,
weak and hungry)
5. Which are children referred to here? What is peculiar about their faces?
6. What does the expression ‘Far far from gusty waves signify? (instead of
enjoying their childhood in the lap of nature their childhood is confined to the
dark and dingy walls of the slum.
7. How is the tall girl affected by her poverty?
8. What is the comparison drawn with rat’s eyes? (the poor undernourished child
is deprived of the basic amenities of life)
9. What do the images ‘rootless weeds’, ‘pallor’, weigh down, paper seeming
and rat’s eyes suggest?
1. Disorderliness and half hazard growth.
2. Pale and lifeless faces suggesting disease and inactivity.
3. Oppressiveness of the burdens of life.
4. Thinness like paper and stunted growth.
5. Eyes searching for food.

……The stunted, unlucky heir of ……..in the tree room, other than this.

1. Who is the ‘unlucky heir’ and what will he inherit?


2. What is the stunted boy reciting? (Lessons form the desk)
3. Who is sitting at the ‘back of the dim class’? (sweet young boy)
4. “His eyes live in a dream “ what dream does he have? (dreams of a better
future- out dorm games, of a squirrels game other than his dim class room)
5. Pick two images of despair and disease form these line . What do they hint at?
(The stunted, unlucky heir, twisted bones, gnarled disease, dim class)
6. Explain t ;reciting a fathers gnarled disease. (carriers of their father’s disease
and poverty)
7. Who sits at the back of the class, unnoticed? How is he different? (his eyes are
gleaming with the dreams of his future)
8. Explain :’his eyes live in a dream” (dreams of bright future, eyes are lost in
the world of his dreams)
9. What is the comparison drawn with ‘squirrel’s game?(just as squirrels frisks
and frolics around, the eye of the dreamer frisk and frolic with hopes for the
future)
On sour cream walls, donations, Shakespeare.. world its world.

1. What is the colour of the classroom walls? What does this colour suggest?
(Decaying aspect and pathetic condition of the lives of the children in slum
school.
2. What do these class room walls have?
3. Which two worlds does the poet hint at? How is the contrast between the two
words presented? (World of poverty, misery… world of progress and
prosperity )
4. Explain : Open handed map _ map of the world drawn at will by powerful
people. Awarding world its world: How the conquerors and dictators award
and divide the world according to their whims.
5. Explain : on sour creamed walls, donation..”. (walls may be painted with the
help of donation, add to the pale and sad ambience of poem)
6. What does Shakespeare’s head suggest?
7. Why has the poet used images of ‘cloudless dawn and civilized dome?
( highlight the monotonous and dull life in an urban slum. These children are
unaware of the beauty of the sky at dawn)
8. Explain: belled , flowery, Tyrolese valley. (natural beauty which the slum
children are deprived of )
9. What does the reference to the map imply? (Map of the world is symbolic of
hopes and aspirations. But for the children comprises the filthy slum)

And Yet for these children, these windows….. and stars of words.

1. What do ‘these windows and this map’ represent? To which of them do the
children in the slum school belong? (world of the poor, world of the rich)
2. What is the future of these children? (uncertain and bleak)
3. What do these children crave for? What do they want to get rid of? ( crave for
openness , for rivers, capes and starry skies. They want to get rid of narrow
and crowded streets.
4. What comprises the world for these children? ( Confined within the walls of
their slums)
5. What future do these children have in store for themselves? (future is bleak
and foggy)
6. Where do these children spend their lives? (narrow streets of the slums..)
7. What does ‘lead sky symbolize” ? (hopelessness and despair)
8. What bounties are these children deprived of?(rivers, golden sands snow-
caped mountains and stars)
Lali Mathew M.A. M.Ed. D.A. 564 Sheesh Mahal Apartment, 9810312549

Surely Shakespeare is wicked, and the map ….fog to endless night?

1. Why is Shakespeare wicked? Why is the map a bad example? (works are no
use to the children. Map depict their own world a narrow lanes and hovels)
2. What tempt them and why? (Beautiful things like ship sun and love…because
they don’t have them)
3. Explain : fog to endless night: ( their future is uncertain and foggy, the only
certainty in their lives is the endless night of their death. Their birth life and
death are all enveloped by darkness)
4. What do ships, sun and love symbolize?(joy and brightness of life )
5. Where do their lives slyly turn? (cramped holes)

…On their slag heap, these children….. slums as big as doom?

1. What two images are used to describe these slums? What do thee images
convey? (Slag of heap, bottle bits on stones, foggy slums… convey the misery
of the children and the poverty of their dirty surroundings)
2. What sort of life do such children lead? ( pathetic and miserable lives full of
woes, wants disease poverty and uncertainty)
3. What blot their maps? Whose maps? (dirty slums blot their maps. Maps of the
civilized world)
4. What does the poet convey through ‘so blot their maps with slums as big as
doom? (Conveys his protest against social injustice and class inequalities.
Wants prosperity to be flooded with the dirt and stink of the slums)
5. What does ‘slag heap’ refer to? (large pile of waste material )
6. Explain : Skins peeped through by bones’? ( (undernourished children look
like skeletons)
7. What is the comparison drawn with bottle bits on stones’? Their life is
shattered and broken like bits of bottle on a stone)
8. What comprise the world for these children? (the foggy slum)
9. Why does the poet see slums as big as doom ? ( These slums are stalking the
world just like death stalks its victims anytime anywhere)

Unless governor, inspector,…..their lives like catacombs.


1. Why does the poet invoke governor, inspector,,,? What function are they
expected to perform? ( They are the powerful persons in the modern time.
Invokes them to help the miserable slum children. Can plan an important role
in removing social injustice and class inequalities. )
2. How can this map become their window? (Slum children will be able to peep
through windows only when the difference between the two worlds is
abridged)
3. What have these windows done to their lives? (the dirty surrounding have
crumpled their lives, stunted their growth and blocked their physical as well as
mental development They have shut them inside their filthy dull and drab
holes like the underground tomb.)
4. What do you understand by catacombs?
5. Which literary device has been used in these lines? (Simile –these windows
that shut upon their lives like catacombs)
6. What is the ambience of an elementary school in a slum? (ill equipped, poor
infrastructure…)
7. What does the word ‘windows’ symbolize? (world beyond the slum)
8. Explain : shut upon their lives like catacombs?(children are denied the
bounties of the world beyond their slums)

Break O Break open till they break….. whose language is the sun?

1. Break O break open. What should they break? (all the barriers and obstacles
that bind these children and confine them to ugly and dirty surroundings)
2. Explain: ..till they break down? ( Till they come out of the dirty surroundings
and slum of the town and come out to the green field and breather in the open
air)
3. What other freedom should they enjoy? Freedom of acquiring knowledge aw
well as freedom of expression.
4. Where will ‘their world’ extend up to? (to the gold sands and azure waves as
well as to the green fields)
5. Who create history? (whose language has the warmth and power of the sun.
6. What poetic device is used in the last line? (Metaphor- whose language is the
sun)
7. What hope does the poet see in these lines? (These children would one day
break free from the chains of the slums.)
8. What kind of world does the poet visualize for these children? (Children
would free to bask in the freedom of the green fields…)
9. What does green fields and gold sands symbolize? (Carefree and happy life)
10. Explain : “let their tongues run naked into books” .

Lali Mathew M.A. M.Ed. D.A.564, Shalimar Bagh 9810312549 27492907