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Keeping Quiet | Text Explanation with NCERT Solution | CBQs | Board Exam 2024

Updated: Feb 17

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NCERT Official Live Discussion on Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

Theme:

  • The poem highlights the need for quiet introspection and mutual human understanding.

  • The poem stresses on building a peaceful and harmonious world.

  • The poem also appeals for fostering the spirit of brotherhood among the people of the world.

  • The poem appeals us to stop waging war against indiscriminate exploitation of Mother Earth for vested interests.

  • The poem shows concern on isolation of human beings resulting out of their selfishness.

  • The poem strongly condemns nuclear and chemical wars and victory with human survivors.


Stanza-Wise Explanation

(Lines 1-6)

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the Earth

let’s not speak in any language,

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.


Vocabulary:

  • Keep Still – Keep Quiet.

  • face of the Earth– Everyone living all across the world.

Paraphrase:

  • The poet wants us to keep quiet after a count-down of 12.

  • He does not want us to move our arms very much. The poet wants us not to move our arms so much because physical activity will divert us from being silent.

  • Not moving our arms also suggests stopping the use of all kinds of weapons.

  • The literary device ‘pun’ is used here while talking about arms.

(Lines 7-10)

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines,

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.


Vocabulary:

  • exotic moment : Moment of peace and quietness.

  • without rush: Without any mechanical life style.

  • sudden strangeness : Blissful experience of universal spirit in human beings.

Paraphrase

  • When People all over the world irrespective of their religions, languages and nationalities will remain quiet for a while, they will experience moment of peace and quietness.

  • On that day human beings would not go to work and no industry/factory/vehicles will work on that day, which is indicated by the word ‘engines’.

  • They will undergo blissful experience of universal spirit, which is present in all human beings. The poet means to say that only when we shall introspect in silence, we shall feel the need for fostering universal brotherhood with one another.


(Lines 11-14)


Fishermen in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.


Vocabulary:

  • harm whales– No person would be harming any other living being.

  • hurt hands : injuries and the damage salt-gathering man causes to his hands.


Paraphrase:

  • The poet means to say that fishermen on that day would not cause any damage to whales in the sea. Here the poet is urging everyone not to harm the animals.

  • Here he cites an example of whales, which are being hunted for the purpose of food or trade. The man gathering salt would also introspect that in the process of salt gathering, he has caused injuries to his hands.

  • Metaphorically, it means that in the mad rush for human beings to attain material things, they have caused damage to their health.

(Lines 15-21)


Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victory with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.


Vocabulary:

green wars : Green wars refers to war against nature.

wars with gas, wars with fire: War with chemical and nuclear weapons.

victory with no survivors: Victory in war but at the cost of precious human lives.

clean clothes: Here fostering universal brotherhood as a result of introspection.


Paraphrase

  • In these lines the poet has become optimistic or hopeful while imagining a situation when even those who wage war against nature indicated by ‘green wars’ and those who indulge in war with chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction will also foster the spirit of brotherhood.

  • They will give up the spirit of animosity for fellow human beings.

  • They would develop brotherly feeling with others and live amicably in peace and harmony.




(Lines 22-25)

What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death


Vocabulary: .


total inactivity : suspension of all activities.

no truck with death: death-like silence.


Paraphrase

  • The poet means to say that what he wants is not suspension of all activities during the process of remaining silent.

  • We should introspect by being silent so that we are able to understand why there is so much misunderstanding among human beings.

  • To bring all activities to a halt is only to facilitate introspection and not to bring life to a standstill.

  • Life is an on-going process and humanity should move on.

LINES 26-32


If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.


Vocabulary: .

single-minded : Men are focused, determined about his own progress.

Interrupt: stop


Paraphrase

  • The poet means to say that as human beings are so determined about his own progress in life by owning more and more things, they have become mechanical and have no time to introspect.

  • Hence they need to introspect by being silent so that they would certainly know why there was so much conflict and violence in the world.

  • The race for more arms and ammunition and the desire to overpower and dominate over more and more areas and countries is what has threatened mankind with death.

LINE 33-37

Perhaps the Earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.


Vocabulary:

  • Earth can teach us: The earth teaches us how new life springs from dead remains.

Paraphrase:

  • The seeds that lie dormant throughout winter germinate or come to life with the arrival of spring.

  • It appears as if nature is vibrant and throbbing with life. Therefore, the poet is optimistic about the outcome of introspection.

  • Like the earth throbs with life when the spring comes, likewise man gets new direction in life-the direction of being peaceful, empathetic and forgiving as an outcome of introspection.



Literary Devices


Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda
Literary Devices

NCERT Solution

Think It Out ( Page 96)


1. What will counting upto twelve and keeping still help us achieve?


Ans: The poet exhorts us to count upto twelve and keep quiet so as to feel exotic moment. Counting will help us to be prepared for introspection. We shall establish a communion at spiritual level with humanity at large. Introspection will help us to ward off any kind of misunderstanding with people belonging to other nations.


2. Do you think the poet advocates total inactivity and death?


Ans: No, the poet means to say that there should not be any suspension of activities during the process of remaining silent. To bring all activities to a halt is only to facilitate introspection and not to bring life to a standstill. Life is an on-going process and humanity should move on.


3. What is the 'sadness' that the poet refers to in the poem?


Ans: The 'sadness' refers to the fact that human beings do not understand one another. The race for more arms and ammunition and the desire to overpower and dominate over more and more areas and countries is what has threatened mankind with death.


4. What symbol from Nature does the poet invoke to say that there can be life under apparent stillness?


Ans: The poet draws the symbol of the Earth to explain that there can be life under apparent stillness. The earth teaches us how new life springs from dead remains. The seeds that lie dormant throughout winter germinate or come to life with the arrival of spring. It appears as if nature is vibrant and throbbing with life. Therefore, the poet is optimistic about the outcome of introspection.




CBQ-Based Extract Questions:

1. Read the given extracts to attempt the questions with reference to context


(1) What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving–

and for once could do nothing

Perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.


(A) The poet’s intention in the first line is to:

(a) give warning to the readers.

(b) give right direction to the readers.

(c) give choice to the readers.

(d) give a clarification to the readers.






(B) Select the option that best explains the stand of the poet in the expression:

‘‘I want no truck with death’’.

(a) He advises people to escape death.

(b) He asserts that death is inevitable.

(c) He assures that he does not advocate death.

(d) He expresses his desire not to die.







(C) Select the option that aptly describes the tone of the poet in the expression:

‘‘If we were not so single minded’’.


(a) Regretful (b) Critical (c) Encouraging (d) Friendly




(D) According to the poet who is to blame for the condition of threatening ourselves with death? (a) Stressful life

(b) Keeping quiet

(c) Lack of understanding

(d) State of confusion









(E) The tone of the poet in the expression ‘‘perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness’’ is: (a) unsure yet optimistic.

(b) sure and confident.

(c) poetic & melodramatic.

(d) hopeful but not confident.











(F) “What I want should not be confused with total inactivity.”

Choose the option that draws the most accurate parallel.

keeping quiet: total inactivity = ______ : ______

a) reflection and death

b) silence and chaos

c) stagnation and introspection

d) mindfulness and fear




2. If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.


(A) What do you think is the mood of the poet in the above extract?

a) gloomy, cynical

b) reflective, inspired

c) introspective, aware

d) critical, demotivated





(B) Pick the option that DOES NOT complete the given sentence suitably, as per the extract. Threatening ourselves with death __________

a) feeds on the fear of death.

b) challenges finiteness of life.

c) keeps us rushing through life.



(C) What might the “huge silence” signify?

a) melancholy

b) understanding

c) discomfort

d) flexibility





(D) Which of the following can be inferred to lead to ‘threatening ourselves with death’?

(a) Constantly being silent

(b) Constantly rushing about

(c) Constantly being sad

(d) Constantly doing nothing






(E) According to the poet, it can be inferred that silence can help humans ....................

(a) understand the earth.

(b) understand each other.

(c) understand themselves.

(d) understand stillness.





















3. For once on the face of the Earth

let’s not speak in any language,

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines, we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness. (CBSE Question Bank 2021)


(i) The poet uses the word ‘let’s’ to

(a) initiate a conversation between the poet and the readers.

(b) invite readers as part of the poem’s larger call to humanity.

(c) welcome readers into the world of the poem and its subject.

(d) address readers as fellow members of the human race.






(ii) Margaret Atwood said, “Language divides us into fragments, I wanted to be whole.”

Choose the option that correctly comments on the relationship between Margaret Atwood’s words and the line from the above extract – “let’s not speak in any language”.

(a) Atwood endorses Neruda’s call to not speak in any language.

(b) Atwood justifies Neruda’s request to not engage in any speaking.

(c) Atwood undermines Neruda’s intent to stop and not speak in any language.

(d) Atwood surrenders to Neruda’s desire for silence and not speak in any language.





(iii) Why do you think the poet employs words like “exotic” and “strangeness”?

(a) To highlight the importance of everyone being together suddenly for once.

(b) To emphasise the frentic activity and chaos that usually envelops human life.

(c) To indicate the unfamiliarity of a sudden moment without rush or without engine.

(d) To direct us towards keeping quiet and how we would all be together in that silence.





4. “What I want should not be

confused with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.”


(i) About which confusion the poet is referring to here?

(a) Keeping still means total inactivity.

(b) Introspect for sometime while being active.

(c) Stillness and keeping quiet for some time does not mean end of everything.

(d) All of the above






(ii) What is life about according to the poet?

(a) Living it gainfully

(b) Living a hectic life with no time for anything else

(c) Multiple activities to earn as much money as possible

(d) Gainfully occupied with time to analyse and introspect






(iii) Choose the book title that perfectly describes the purpose of the given lines.

(a) Silence: The Power of Quiet in the world full of Noise by Thick Nhat Han.

(b) Of chaos and clarity by Rubu Yari

(c) Awareness, Clarity, Power by Jill’s McDonald

(d) The confusion by Neal Stephenson






(iv) Explain: ‘No truck with death’.

(a) Inactivity mean death

(b) No association with death as life is to be lived fully

(c) Stillness and inactivity for few minutes in different from death

(d) Both (b) and (c)






















5. Now we will count to twelve [All India 2016]

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the Earth

let’s not speak in any language,

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.


Answer the following.

(a) What does the poet urge humanity to do?

Ans: The poet urges humanity to remain silent for the duration of twelve counts.

(b) Why does the poet want us not to speak any language?

Ans: The poet wants us not to speak any language as during the introspection, we shall all reflect on the universal language of love and brotherhood.

(c) Why should we not move our arms so much?

Ans: We should not move our arms so much so as to be able to focus on the task of introspection.

(d) What will ‘counting up to twelve and keeping still’ help us to achieve?

Ans: Counting up to twelve and keeping still will help us to realize the real impact of our selfish actions on each other and, finally, on the entire humanity.


6. It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines,

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.





















7. Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victory with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers…












8. ...perhaps a huge silence [Foreign 2016]

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with

death.
















9. Perhaps the Earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.













Short Questions from CBSE Board Exams


Q1. In a world that is constantly running after ‘more’ chasing the next new thing, would it be fair to think of Neruda’s call as merely a fanciful idea? [CBSE Question Bank 2021]


Ans. I think that especially in a world that is constantly running after more, Neruda’s idea would resonate with the people. Silence and stillness are therapeutic for the chaos that plagues modern life.


Q2. The world has become a global village, and people across boundaries, nationalities and communities are now connected to one another. With the advancement of technology, and the advent of social media, do you think that the task of keeping quiet, as envisaged by Neruda, has become easier or more complicated? Justify your stance. [CBSE Question Bank 2021]


Ans. It is precisely because we are more connected than ever before that the task of keeping quiet has become more complicated. Earlier, it was possible to divide day and night activities but now everything is on for twenty-four hours. Whether that is the media or the internet. Keeping quiet is more necessary but also more difficult at this time.


Q3. How is the earth a source of life when all seems dead on it? [CBSE 2017, 15]


Ans. The earth teaches us how new life springs from dead remains. Like the earth throbs with life when the spring comes, likewise man gets new direction in life-the direction of being peaceful, empathetic and forgiving as an outcome of introspection.













Q4. What is the sadness that the poet Pablo Neruda refers to in the poem ‘Keeping Quiet’? (CBSE 2014)


The 'sadness' that the poet refers to is the race for more arms and ammunition and the desire to overpower and dominate over more and more areas and countries which has threatened mankind with death. Man has developed misunderstanding owing to his selfish objectives.














Extra Short Questions:


Q1. Which symbol from nature does the poet invoke that there can be life under apparent stillness?

Ans : The poet uses ‘Earth’ as a symbol to invoke that there can be life after apparent stillness. The Earth seems ‘still’ from outside but is alive and vibrant deep within. Similarly, our silence can help us to maintain a harmonious life on Earth and stop destruction.


Q2. How will keeping quiet protect our environment?


Ans : Keeping quiet refers to stopping all activities for a moment and introspect. This will help us to analyse the kind of deeds we are doing for our selfish purpose but which harm nature. This moment will make us understand the fact that harmony with nature is very essential for the survival of mankind.


Q3. What will possibly be the effect of ‘keeping quiet’?


Ans : Keeping quiet will result in a mutual understanding among all human beings and understanding ourselves. We will be able to understand the fact that the balance between nature and human beings is essential for our existence on the Earth.


Q4. Which is the exotic moment that the poet refers to in ‘Keeping Quiet’?


Ans : The poet refers to the exotic moment when everyone would be silent and still and there would be no noise or mad race. It will evoke an environment of peace and quietness with no conflicts, quarrels, agreements or wars. This moment will bring a sense of togetherness among all human beings.


Q5. Which images in the poem ‘Keeping Quiet’ show that the poet condemns violence?

Ans : Pablo Naruda gives the images of ‘green war’, ‘war with gas’ and ‘wars with fire’ and then associates these wars with ‘victory with no survivors’. This is to emphasize the fact that wars will bring an end to the entire human race. This shows that he condemns violence.


Q6. What are the different types of wars mentioned in the poem? What is Neruda’s attitude towards them?

Ans : Pablo Neruda has mentioned ‘green wars’, ‘wars with fire’ and ‘wars with gas’. The poet does not appreciate the concept of war. He condemns it by saying that these wars will result in victory with no survivors. So instead of these wars and conflicts we must develop the concept of mutual understanding and co-existence.


Q7. How can suspension of activities help?

Ans : The suspension of activities will help us to introspect. It will provide an insight into the mad rush and selfish actions we indulge in. When we all are able to ponder and analyse our own actions and attitude, we will develop mutual understanding and realise the importance of co-existence.


Q8. Do you think the poet advocates total inactivity and death? Why/Why not?

Ans : The poet does not advocate ‘total inactivity’ because he has a firm belief in life. He wants everyone to live a complete life, full of peace and contentment. He wants everyone to take a break from the hectic schedule and introspect for a while to improve the quality of life.


Q9. What will be the ultimate end of man if the present scenario of wars and conflicts continues?

Ans :If the present scenario of war and destruction continues, it will lead to total destruction of the humanity. We all will perish and nobody will be left to celebrate the victory.


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