Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum

An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum

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. The stunted, unlucky heir
Of twisted bones, reciting a father's gnarled disease,
His lesson from his desk. At back of the dim class
One unnoted, sweet and young. His eyes live in a dream,
Of squirrel's game, in the tree room, other than this.

On sour cream walls, donations. Shakespeare's head,
Cloudless at dawn, civilized dome riding all cities.
Belled, flowery, Tyrolese valley. Open-handed map
Awarding the world its world. And yet, for these
Children, these windows, not this world, are world,
Where all their future's painted with a fog,
A narrow street sealed in with a lead sky,
Far far from rivers, capes, and stars of words.

Surely, Shakespeare is wicked, and 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.

Unless, governor, teacher, 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 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 sun.

A note: I stopped teaching CBSE 5 years ago and I'm out of touch. So I haven't really worked on the explanations and edited them. You might find some of the explanations not up to the mark especially this poem. You will surely find better explanations on the net. One such site recommended by one of the readers which is really good and tailor made for CBSE is http://englishportal12.blogspot.in/?view=mosaic 


Stephen Spender highlights the plight of slum children by using vivid images and apt words to picture a classroom in a slum. Through this he touches, in a subtle manner, the themes of social injustice and inequalities.

Lines 1, 2
The opening line of the poem uses an image to contrast the slum children’s faces with those of others. The image used is ‘gusty waves’ indicating brightness, verve and animation. But these are missing from faces of these children. The next image of ‘rootless weeds’ produces double effect. ‘Weeds’ indicate being unwanted and ‘rootless’ indicates not belonging. The slum children are like ‘rootless weeds’ unwanted by society and not belonging to society. Their uncombed hair fall on their pale faces.

Lines 3 to 8
Next, a few of the slum children are described. There is a tall girl whose head is weighed-down with sadness, disinterestedness or shame or a mixture of all the three. She is probably over-aged for the class. Another boy is thin, emaciated like paper and his eyes pop out from his thin body looking furtive like rat’s eyes. He seems to have inherited stunted and twisted growth of bones from his father. Spender has used the word ‘reciting’ to show that instead of studying/reciting, a normal activity in school, the boy had only his inherited crippling disease to show/recite in the class. This could suggest that the boy’s condition seem to have arisen because of his poverty especially his inability to avail heath services at the right time. Right at the back of the badly lit room is an unnoticed young boy. He is probably too young for poverty to have stifled his childish imagination. He daydreams of the squirrel’s game and about the tree house, absent mentally from the classroom.

Lines 9 to 12
Spender then describes the classroom. The word ‘sour’ used to describe the cream walls of the classroom indicates its derelict condition. Contradicting this state and the slum children are Shakespeare’s head indicating erudition, the picture of a clear sky at dawn and a beautiful Tyrolese valley indicating beauty of nature and hope, dome of an ancient city building standing for civilization and progress and a world map awarding the children the world. The lines “Open-handed map / Awarding the world its world” could refer to the map of the world hanging on the wall of the classroom giving/showing (awarding) everyone (the world) the world out there to explore and know (its world).

Lines 13 to 16
But the world of the slum children is the limited world that can be seen though the windows of the classroom and not what the map promises. All these seem ironic when contrasted with the misery and hopeless condition of the slum children. Their future is foggy, bleak and dull. Their life/world is confined within the narrow streets of the slum enclosed by the dull sky far away from rivers, seas that indicate adventure and learning and from the stars that stand for words that can empower their future. 'Lead sky' means a dullsky or a dimly lit sky. This symbolises the bleak, dull life and future of the slum children.
Lines 17 to 24
The poet feels that the head of Shakespeare and the map are cruel temptations for these children living in cramped houses (holes), whose lives revolve around (slyly turns) dullness (fog) and hopelessness (endless night) as they imagine and long for (steal) adventure(ships), for a better future (sun) and for love. Their emaciated wasted bodies compared to slag (waste) heaped together seemed to be wearing the clothes of skin covering their peeping bones and wearing spectacles of steel with cracked glasses looking like bottle bits mended. The slum is their map as big as the doom of the city buildings and their life (time and space) foggy and dim. The poet repeatedly uses the word fog to talk about the unclear, vague and dull life of the slum children.

Lines 25 to 32
The only hope of a life beyond the slums that enclose their lives like catacombs is some initiative by the governor, inspector of schools or a visitor. The poem ends with the poet fervently hoping that slum children will have access to better education and a better way of life. He uses the words ‘Break o break open’ to say that they have to break out from the miserable hopeless life of the slum world so that they can wander beyond the slums and their town on to the green fields and golden sands (indicating the unlimited world). These can become their teacher and like dogs lapping up food hungrily, they can learn directly (run naked) from the open pages (leaves) of nature and the world which is sustained (whose language) by the sun standing for energy and life.








If you think this explanation has helped you, kindly donate money to the orphanage for girls that my friend runs. You can know about it at https://sites.google.com/site/annaineomianbuillam/

132 comments:

Vaishnavi said...

Hello sir. Iam a XII std CBSE student & I deeply thank you for explaining this poem so very well. I had lots of trouble trying to make sense of what Spender wanted to convey through his poem. Each time I read this poem I interpreted it differently. After reading your explanation I was so clear that I even explained this poem to my whole class. Your explanation was pertinent & it made perfect sense.Now this is one of my favourites. You are a real fan of English poetry. I once again thank you & wish you all the very best.

Hanna said...

Thankyou u so much sir for the explanations of all the cbse poems........
I'm blessed to have come across this site........
Thankyou sir....
I'm forever grateful.......
Regards
Hanna,Delhi

Anonymous said...

Sir u hav helped me a gr8 deal with my english board exams scheduled 2morrow.
I'm seriously lucky 2 have come across your blog.
Thank You.
Regards.

Abe Pat said...

thanks for all the praise. i'm glad the blog was a great help.

Anonymous said...

Really amazing site sir .....Thank u soo much ...

Anonymous said...

That was awesome explanation.
Thank you sir.

Priyajeet AKA Pz said...

oh
tat was a gr8 help

saved a lot of my time wid tat gr8 summuary :)

thanx a ton

Ash said...

Best summary that i found online :)
Some of the terms & phrases used by Spender are hard to decipher and this helped immensely!

abhinav said...

sir could u please explain what does lead sky symbolise

Abe Pat said...

'lead sky' means a dullskyo r a dily lit sky. this symbolises the bleak, dull life and future of the slum children.

Padmini Mohan said...

The explanation was a 'word by word' lift from docstoc.com. Not your own...sorry !!!!

Padmini Mohan
Facilitator-Grade 12
DRS International School
Hyderabad

Abe Pat said...

Hello Ms Mohan,
I was shocked initially with your accusation. I checked out at docstoc and to my profound dismay I found my explanation copied word by word from my blog on this site.

Now, the only thing left is to prove that my blog is original which is very simple. If you check out my blog you will find that I had published this explanation on Jan 27, 2009, whereas the explanation published on docstoc is on 18th Nov, 2009. How could i copy something that was published much later than mine? Simple logic!

My advice to you is, next time, before you make an accusation or a blank statement, please do you homework well.

Thanks anyway, because your accusation opened my eyes to the fact that there are people who can publish what is written by others without acknowledging it.

sriranjani said...

i was just searching for this...

thanks a lot sir...

very grateful to you....

-sriranjani

sagar said...

thank you very much sir.
sagar
XII 2009-10

Kapil Kanungo said...

your explanation is really lucid and impeccable...really commendable!!!
But, could you please explain in detail the following lines:
1. Open-handed map
Awarding the world its world.
2. This map becomes their window and these windows
That shut upon their lives

Thanks in advance.
Regards
Kapil Kanungo

Abhi said...

Thank You Sir for your such a nice explanatin of the poem. Your work is really PRAISEWORTHY and I request you to continue to do such works so that my juniors could also be benefited from your light of knowledge.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shashank said...

Sir,
I have my exams today and i can not explain what help you have been. There are no credible meanings of the poem other than this. Thank you so much.
Shashank

Anonymous said...

Hello sir,Iam a XII std CBSE student.I thank u so much for this great explanation. May i know if u have worked in Indian School Al Ain? I had been a student in this school for 6 years.

babli said...

sir plz explian " This map becomes...windows" why has it been used this map and not the map?what does it refer to?

Anonymous said...

rather than to critizie is n't it better to go through the material we are getting...it is easy to comment but how many of us bother to write the explanation although we can get it from other sites..as it is avaiable quite easily now a days.so better read as much as we can..if it makes us read twice the same material then also it is anyway good...

shreya said...

thank you sir ....your way of explaining is really very clear and very apt . I am obliged to have your help ......
THANKS A LOT ....

shreya said...

thank you sir ....your way of explaining is really very clear and very apt . I am obliged to have your help ......
THANKS A LOT ....

sonalika said...

hello sir!!!!

thanks for the wonderful article....
i was searching this detailed word to word explanation for this story like poetry.....
this is sonalika
XII 2010-11

saumil said...

hello sir,
i am deeply thankful to u for explaining th e poem so beautifully.sir, however in class some words were differently explained, so i m confused. like bootle bits of stones was explained as,"as the bottle caps or broken parts are aranged on stones, so are the spectacles of these poor students, mended by broken glasses"

Anonymous said...

sir
your explnation is good. thank you.
but sir there are a few imp lines in the poem which needs to be explained seperately
.
ex so blot their...
run naked through ...
history theirs...
also if some imp ques can be give...
thanking you once again

nithya said...

this was really helpful...please do explain more poems.!!this was an awesome summary.!!! thank you so much.!!:)

athira ravindhran said...

thank u a lot ......it was simle but fruitful explanation

ali said...

thanks very much sir....ur explanation is very detailed and understandable from the start word to the ends word....thanks for ur help....

kevin said...

THNX

Anonymous said...

Very helpful!

Nilavani said...

Thank you very much sir.
Sir,it would be very helpful if you could put out the list of poetic devices used.

Lavanya veerarangan said...

Sir, perhaps you are not aware that there is a question in the book flamingo that asks why the children's faces are compared to rootless weeds. since you have given a different explanation about rootless weeds and have not related its meaning to the faces of the children, i would like an explanation

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot for your summary .it was very helpful .

Nikki said...

sir why not explanations of lessons like the tiger king..

Anonymous said...

Thanks a Ton :)

swati said...

sir i m very thankful to you for giving such a nice explanation of the poem.earlier i was not able to understand it but now i m able to understand each n every line .i think it would help me a lot to tackle the board exams..........

pooja said...

thank you sir... gr8 help :)

Anonymous said...

hello sir,i read ur explanation for the poem'elementary school classroom in a slum'and it is the best i found online.sir my request to you is to post an explanation for the poem"a thing of beauty"by john keats

Amritesh said...

Hello sir,
thanks a lot for the explanation.
it really is a difficult poem, but uve made it simple.
thanks a lot once again.

Anonymous said...

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/16684546/An-Elementary-School-Classroom-Summary---poet---Stephen-Spender
i found the same post on this website. :O

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This has been incredibly helpful. i regularly read your blog and i will surely donate to the charity.

Anonymous said...

thanks a ton sir! best summary i found online :)

Anonymous said...

thnk u sir..it was like sitting in a class and litening to your teacher !!

Anonymous said...

sir your explanation was indeed of a great help...:)

Srikkant said...

sir, can you post the summary for A thing of beauty By John Keats... It would be of gr8 help.... Thanks for the help.

Kiran said...

Thank you so very much for this summary sir, it really helped. Could you please elaborate this one for me- "and let their tongues run naked into books". Thanks again!

Pratham Mehta said...

Thank you so much sir.. My board exam is tomorrow. your explanation has been of great help to me.

Harith Unnikrishnan said...

thank you so much... i have my board exams tomorrow and all your explanations helped.
I could understand what the poem was all about only now. Thank you again

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot sir...The explanation is simply superb..I have now understood the poem clearly

Vivek Rana said...

thnxx..sir...
awesome explanation of this awesome poem...it was a great help...

Anonymous said...

superbly explained.......:)))

Anonymous said...

thanx alot sir. a thorough explanation whch has made this pom so simplied . i hav gained alot of confidence .

Anonymous said...

sir, every year around dis tym cbse 12th students visit dis page since d poem doesnt make sense 2 us...
by makin dis xplanation available 2 all free of charge (on a blog) u hav done an excellent job.
no words can xpress my gratitude...
keep up d gud work
n bla bla bla ... :D

sneha said...

this ws awesum!!!!!i understud the poem completely thanx a lot!!:-)

Anonymous said...

excellent explanation,,thankyou very much,,

Anonymous said...

Doesn' t 'spectacleof steel' mean weak and frail bodies almost like the frame of spectacle made of steel..

Anonymous said...

Hello sir..Thankyou sooo much, it was really a brilliant explanation word by word.! I do not have ma boards tomorrow, but a class test.! And i'am really confident now.

Sunil "Subro" said...

Thank you so much, helped me prep for my Post summer tests ;)

Anonymous said...

thnxxs that was really helpful
...and i think u shuld elaborate more in lines 9-12 .

Anonymous said...

Great work sir....and thank you...

deepak gupta said...

i want an power point presentation document for presentation on this poem with author's history and achievements,theme of poem,notes,summary,irony,criticism,metaphor for my school presentation too hard to make help me by telling in idg3010@gmail.com

deepak gupta said...

i want an power point presentation document for presentation on this poem with author's history and achievements,theme of poem,notes,summary,irony,criticism,metaphor for my school presentation too hard to make help me by telling in idg3010@gmail.com

deepak gupta said...

i want an power point presentation document for presentation on this poem with author's history and achievements,theme of poem,notes,summary,irony,criticism,metaphor for my school presentation too hard to make help me by telling in idg3010@gmail.com

deepak gupta said...

i want an power point presentation document for presentation on this poem with author's history and achievements,theme of poem,notes,summary,irony,criticism,metaphor for my school presentation too hard to make help me by telling in idg3010@gmail.com

Aranya said...

The poem conveys a deep meaning. But also, it has been written in quite a complex and profound manner. I am a Xll student, who was trying hard to understand what this genius poet wants to say. With your contribution, it has become easy to understand its meaning as well as to develop a sense of appreciation for the poem.
Thank You

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot!

Sahas said...

Thanks a lot sir

Anonymous said...

thanx a lot sirji
i thought that i could finish the poem in nearly 1/2 hour, so i was going to start studying at 11pm for tomorrow's test,
but this blog has blown my mind

i am gr8ly thankful to u for such an awsum explaination of such a tricky poem
i think just reading this explaination will ensure me to get good marks tomorrow
thanx again
u rock....

Anonymous said...

THAT WAS JUZ WHAT I WAS I WAS LOOKING FOR.. THANX A LOT SIR.. :-)

Anonymous said...

Dude u copied from me. Pls do ur home work first...





You may pay me for my material u copied on ur blog which was intern copied by dis guy

Abe Pat said...

Hi Dude,
LPlease read my acknowledgemnt. Also could you send me the link from which I am supposed to have copied?

Anonymous said...

Sir I simply cannot express how I delighted I am to have found your explanation!
Truly magnificent!

MONARENG THULANE said...

it was good for me because my teacher have gave me all the analysis for each an every poem and short's stories.that is why he use to call himself THE MASTER PIECES.

Anonymous said...

Sir could you please explain the line 'from fog to endless night'.
Also what is the comparison drawn with 'squirrel's game'?

Anonymous said...

thank you sir for such a simplified and useful summary
sir! can you please explain the following phrase
"History theirs whose language is the sun"
thank you!

Anonymous said...

thank u sir

Anonymous said...

thank u...god bless u

Anonymous said...

very nice thanks www.gyandaata.com/notes

Anonymous said...

nice www.gyandaata.com/notes

Anonymous said...

Sir,please give us a similar explanation for "A Thing of beauty".

Anonymous said...

And also for "A roadside stand","Aunt Jennifer's Tigers","Keeping quiet".Please sir we have exams on the first of march.

Anonymous said...

could you please explain 'from fog to endless night' and the comparison drawn with 'the squirrel's game' please? thankyou

GoD said...

Poem is not properly explained...

aayushi bhagchandani said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH SIR FOR YOUR HELP. I AM GREATFUL TO YOU>

Anal Kumar said...

thank you very much sir. i could not find a better explanation.

SCM said...

for english class sleepy-heads like myself, this site is "shangrilla" :D

cherian johny said...

thnx much appreciated boards tmmrw;-)

Akanksha said...

Thank you very much. This was a beautiful explanation. I have come to appreciate this poem greatly because of it.

Anonymous said...

Awesome work!!!...its really gonna help me and score better!!!...thank you so much!!!...

Anonymous said...

Nyc explanation....need the same explanation fr d chp THE ENEMY

Akash Ray said...

Thanks a lot It was extremely useful

Namitha said...

Sir, thank you so much for this blog! It has been a great help. I will surely help the orphaned girls, once I can..

Anonymous said...

coool.......liked it..

Anonymous said...

Hello sir. Iam a XII std CBSE student and i thank u very much for explaining this poem............ dats all. thanks a lot

Anonymous said...

Really helpful summary for the poem.... the poem is a little difficult to understand in just a single go through but this explains every bit of it accurately and in an easy to understand manner!

Anonymous said...

but what the Padmini Mohan mam said is true because on docstoc. com the same is posted on 18/11/2009 but on this doc the comments are already made on 11/9/2009 how is it possible how can anyone make comment on a post which is not posted and which is already copied from bookrags.com where the original doc is there which is published on 12 jan 2009

Anonymous said...

thankyou so much,appreciate it..!

Anonymous said...

thank you so much sir.. i have my tests from tomorrow and i was trying to understand this poem since morning but i couldn't understand anything and could not interpret what spender wanted to convey from this poem.. then i just googled the summary of this oem and i got this one.. i am very much thankful to you..!! THANK YOU VERY MUCH..!!

Anonymous said...

awesome explanation sir.......thanks for this.....!!!....because tomorrow's my eng exam and i was not getting this chap properly....but this really helped me......

Meghna said...

Excellent

Meghna N said...

Excellent

Anonymous said...

Thank you sir. your explanation is amazing..do you teach in any school?

Ashina N .Ramesh said...

It's indeed a very useful piece of summary...But I would like to have more clarity on the line /so blot their maps with slums as big as doom//

Anonymous said...

Amazingggg.

Anonymous said...

Thank You So Much... I Tried Analysing It But Had A Bit Of Trouble. This Really Helped Me A Lot.

Thank You

- Brian

akshita said...

thank you so much sir.I have my English exam tomorrow and I could'n t study due to certain serious emergency issues.this explanation has helped me a lot.thank you once again.

Anonymous said...

really helpful.better meaning.yyik

Kirti Singh said...

thank you very much for the information

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot sir ..please do upload summary for other poems like aunt jennifer's and a thing of beauty too

Anonymous said...

excellent explanation....my teacher took like three classes on this poem and yet, i learned more about this poem from your explanation.....much appreciated..

Anonymous said...

THank u very much sir!!

Manin Divanji said...

thanx a lot sir! I did not understood the poem before but after your explaination it seems easy! thank u once again :)

Anonymous said...

thanks sir a lot for conveying the explanation of this poem.through your explanation i clearly got the idea of this poem.Thanking u once more.....now this poem is quite simple for me........:D

nightslash said...

Rootless weeds can also be interpreted as the poet trying to tell us that these children have no permanent shelter

hiba kesavan said...

thank you for a clear explanation

hiba kesavan said...

thank you for a clear explanation

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much sir.....I really am grateful to you....
Regards
Alex,Noida

Anonymous said...

Thankyou so much!! M obliged for this great explanation of this poem. :)

Regards,
Follower

Anonymous said...

thank you so much sir, this has helped me a lot.. :) :)

Aranya Mandal said...

Thanks a lot sir , this was a huge help to me .. i was never able to sort out its meaning but after reading your blog i realised the beauty of the poem .... again thanks a lot sir !

Neelav Beria said...

sir,
thanx for the excellent help before exams but i would be glad if you could elaborate the 3-8 lines.for ex- the paper seeming boys shows malnourishment and the others but a big thanks as the paid explatins were not as good as yours.

thanks a lot

Sam Ping said...

The boy with rat seeming eyes: He is paper thin, ie- he has no food to eat. Hence the rat seeming eyes/ he has to resort to stealing and pilferage for self sustenance.He is alert, cunning and sly.
The next boy is one who has inherited his fathers disease, in contrast to reciting his lessons, he recites this disease/ that's all he has to show.

asish sam raju said...


Until there r no changes in the way the poets writes their poem..... there r to be some way of describing it some way......... """Thank u so much sir for ur explanation of this poem...

Anonymous said...

Sir,Can you explain me why Shakespeare is referred to as 'wicked'?

Farsana Rahim said...

thank u sir.You made it clear

Farsana Rahim said...

Thank u sir.U explained it well

Aditya said...

Thank u sir it helped me a alot

harish kumar said...

Thanks sir really the explanation is more than enough. The problem with me is that i am not sure whether the students are getting me. Please tell me some more hints how to teach poems ib class 12. Thanks

Shashank said...

Thankyou sir! For explaining this difficult poem.
The lifes written on red Di o not suit sir!

Shashank m said...

Thankyou for explaining this difficult poem.
Thi lines in red do not suit you sir!