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The Photograph by Shirley Toulson | Class XI |CBSE | CB-Questions

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Lesson Architecture

1. Author Biography

2. Theme of the Poem

3. Stanza-wise Vocabulary with paraphrase.

4. Short Summary

5. NCERT Solution

6. Extra Questions for Practice.


Exclusivity/Uniqueness

Bullet point Based Content


2. Theme of the Poem:


  • This poem highlights the nostalgic moment of the poetess about the memory of her mother who has been captured inside a photograph.

  • The photograph shows the poet’s mother as a jubilant young girl with her cousins on a beach.

  • The poem focusses on the mortal nature of human beings vis-à-vis the immortality of nature.

  • There is all pervasive sadness throughout the poem.

  • The poetess shows the transient nature of human life as against the perennial nature indicated in the poem by the example of a sea.


3. Stanza-Wise Vocabulary with Paraphrase


Line 1 – 4:

The cardboard shows me how it was

When the two girl cousins went paddling,

Each one holding one of my mother’s hands,

Vocabulary:

1. Cardboard: thick hard paper used to frame photos.

2. Paddling : Walking through shallow water.


Paraphrase


  • The cardboard photograph reminds the poetess of her mother.

  • The beach scene of the poetess’ mother with her two cousins for water sport is displayed in photograph .

  • Each of the cousins was holding the hand of her mother’s hands.

  • They were walking bare feet on the shallow water of the sea.

Line 5 – 9


All three stood still to smile through their hair

At the uncle with the camera. A sweet face,

My mother’s, that was before I was born.

And the sea, which appears to have changed less,

Washed their terribly transient feet


Vocabulary


1. smile through their hair : their hair strewn over the face by the sea breeze when they smiled at the camera.

2. which appears to have changed less : The sea, which is a part of nature, has not changed.

3. transient feet : human feet are personified as having a short life span as against immortal nature.


Paraphrase:

  • All three girls posed for the camera while their hair dangled over their face.

  • They smiled at the uncle as he was taking the photograph.

  • The poetess admires the sweet and tender face of her mother during her youthful days.

  • The poetess regrets that the sea, which is a part of perennial nature, washed away their transient feet. Here, by transient feet, the poetess indicates the mortality of human beings.

Line 10 – 13:

Some twenty — thirty — years later

She’d laugh at the snapshot.

“See Betty And Dolly,” she’d say, “and look how they

Dressed us for the beach.” The sea holiday


Vocabulary:

1. Snapshot : photograph.

2. Betty And Dolly: Two cousins of the poetess’ mother.


Paraphrase:

  • Twenty-Thirty years later the poetess’ mother would laugh at her own picture.

  • Her mother would refer to her two cousins.

  • The way they all got dressed up for the sea holiday appeared to be strange to the poetess’ mother.


Line 14 – 15:

Was her past, mine is her laughter. Both wry

With the laboured ease of loss.

Vocabulary:


1. Both wry: Both here refers to the sea holiday of the poetess’ mother and the smile of the poetess’ mother that the poetess now badly misses. Both have disappeared now.

2. laboured ease of loss: Both the past memories- her mother’s sea holiday and for the poetess her mother’s smile have suffered a sense of loss, which is hard to come to terms with. ( i.e. hard to accept)

Paraphrase:

  • The poetess says that her mother’s sea holiday and the beautiful smile that her mother always wore on her face both disappeared with the passage of time.

  • It is very difficult for the mother of the poetess to forget her sea holiday and for the poetess her mother’s lively smile.

  • Both of them have at different point of time experienced a sense of loss, which is very difficult to accept.

Line 16 – 19:

Now she’s been dead nearly as many years

As that girl lived. And of this circumstance

There is nothing to say at all.

Its silence silences.

Vocabulary:

1. as many years as that girl lived: The poet’s mother has been dead for the same number of years she has lived on this earth.

2. this circumstance: the circumstance here refers to the moment pertaining to the death of the poetess’ mother.

3. Its silence silences : The silence caused due to the death of her mother silences the poetess as well. She is just speechless when she is reminded of the moment when her mother died.


Paraphrase:

  • The poet’s mother has been dead for as many years as she herself lived on this earth.

  • The poetess thinks that the circumstance that has led to the death of her mother is so painful that she has nothing to say about it.

  • The silence caused at the death of her mother has silenced everything else as it is very painful.

NCERT SOLUTION


Think It Out


Q1. What doe the word ‘cardboard’ denote in the poem? Why has this word been used?

Ans:

  • ‘Cardboard’ denotes a thick hard paper which has been used as a support to frame photos.

  • The cardboard carries the photograph of the poetess’ mother when she was merely 12-year-old.

  • The word has been used to convey the message that it has survived the onslaught of time to show the smiling face of a 12-yr-old girl who has lived and died a long time ago.

  • The word also symbolically represents the transitory life of human beings against the permanence of any art form.

Q2. What has the camera captured?


  • The camera has captured three girls on a sea holiday.

  • Each of the two cousins was holding the hand of the poetess’ mother.


Q3. What has not changed over the years? Does this suggest something to you?


  • The sea, which is a part of nature, has not changed over the years.

  • This suggests to us the permanence of nature.

  • Nature is perennial whereas human beings are transitory in this world.

Q4. The poet’s mother laughed at the snapshot. What did this laugh indicate?


  • This laugh on the part of the poet’s mother indicates that she became nostalgic.

  • She also lived that pleasurable moments with her cousins and uncle on the sea beach in her memory.

Q5. What is the meaning of the line ‘Both wry with the laboured ease of loss.’?


  • The mother had to reconcile to the loss of her happiness of sea holiday whereas the poet had to come to terms with the loss of her mother’s beautiful smile.

  • Both have suffered a sense of loss, which is hard to accept.

Q6. What does ‘this circumstance’ refer to?


  • · This circumstance refers to the moment which caused the death of the poet’s mother.

  • The death of her mother had created a vacuum in the life of the poet.

Q7. The three stanzas depict three different phases. What are they?


  • The first phase depict the mother as a twelve-year-old girl, who went on a beach holiday with her two cousins.

  • The second phase depicts the poet’s mother as a middle-aged woman who laughs at the memory of her childhood photo.

  • The third phase depicts the tinge of sadness and repentance on the part of the poet at having lost her mother who has been shown to have died.


CBE Questions


Extract 1

The cardboard shows me how it was

When the two girl cousins went paddling,

Each one holding one of my mother’s hands,

And she the big girl — some twelve years or so.



Q1. What literary device is employed in the phrase "The cardboard shows me how it was"?

A. Metaphor

B. Simile

C. Personification

D. Symbolism


Q2. How does the speaker feel as she look at the cardboard?

A. Joyful nostalgia

B. Profound sadness

C. Indifference

D. Confusion


Q3. What does the image of the two girl cousins paddling symbolize in the poem?

A. Childhood innocence

B. Regret and loss

C. Maternal love

D. Future aspirations


Q4. In the line "And she the big girl — some twelve years or so," what emotion is associated with the phrase "the big girl"?

A. Pride

B. Maturity

C. Regret

D. Envy


Q5. How does the use of the word "paddling" contribute to the mood of the poem?


A. Elicits a sense of playfulness

B. Evokes a feeling of urgency

C. Creates a somber atmosphere

D. Induces nostalgia


Non-MCQs:


Q6. Explain the impact of the speaker's choice of words on portraying memories in the description of the cardboard.


Ans: The speaker's use of "cardboard" suggests a tangible representation of memories, emphasizing their fragility and the potential for distortion over time. This choice underscores the theme of the impermanence of memories and the struggle to preserve the authenticity of past experiences.


Q7. Explore the emotional undertones conveyed through the image of the two girl cousins holding the speaker's mother's hands while paddling.


Ans: The image conveys a sense of familial connection and shared experiences. The act of holding hands symbolizes unity and support, emphasizing the bond between family members. The speaker likely experiences a mix of nostalgia and melancholy, reflecting on the passage of time and the fleeting nature of childhood.


Q8. Discuss why the speaker reflects on this specific childhood memory and its connection to the poem's theme.


Ans: The speaker may reflect on this childhood memory to explore themes of nostalgia, loss, and the impact of time on personal recollections. The specific details of the memory, such as the two girl cousins paddling and holding the mother's hands, may hold symbolic significance, representing moments of innocence and familial closeness. The reflection serves as a lens through which the speaker grapples with the transient nature of time and the preservation of cherished memories.


Extract 2


A sweet face,

My mother’s, that was before I was born.

And the sea, which appears to have changed less,

Washed their terribly transient feet.


Q1. What is the speaker's tone when describing their mother's face as "A sweet face"?

A. Regretful

B. Nostalgic

C. Melancholic

D. Critical


Q2. How does the speaker perceive the sea in relation to her mother's past?


A. Unchanging

B. Transient

C. Indifferent

D. Hostile


Q3. What does the phrase "terribly transient feet" suggest about the individuals mentioned?


A. They are physically unstable.

B. Their presence is temporary.

C. They possess extraordinary agility.

D. They are emotionally detached.


Q4. In the line "That was before I was born," what effect does the temporal reference have on the poem?


A. It evokes a sense of separation.

B. It signifies a new beginning.

C. It emphasizes continuity.

D. It creates a feeling of regret.


Q5. How does the speaker's observation of the sea contribute to the theme of the poem?


A. It highlights the constancy of nature.

B. It symbolizes the passage of time.

C. It represents the changing tides of life.

D. It conveys a sense of tranquility.


Q6. Analyze the impact of the temporal reference "before I was born" on the speaker's perception of her mother.


Ans: The temporal reference "before I was born" creates a temporal distance between the speaker and the moment described. It adds a layer of separation, emphasizing that the sweetness of the mother's face existed in a time preceding the speaker's existence. This temporal gap contributes to the speaker's reflection on the transient nature of time and memories.


Q7. Explore the symbolism behind the sea and its role in conveying the theme of transience in the poem.


Ans: The sea serves as a powerful symbol of continuity and change. Its apparent unchanging nature contrasts with the transient nature of human experiences. The washing of "terribly transient feet" in the sea symbolizes the fleeting and impermanent nature of life. The sea becomes a visual metaphor for the passage of time and the inevitable changes that occur.


Q8. Discuss the emotional nuances conveyed through the description of the mother's face as "A sweet face" and its connection to the speaker's reflections.


Ans: The description of the mother's face as "A sweet face" conveys a tender and affectionate emotion. The sweetness suggests a fond and cherished memory of the mother's visage. This emotional nuance is likely tied to the speaker's reflections on the passage of time and the realization that the depicted moment occurred before the speaker's birth. The sweetness becomes a poignant element in the speaker's contemplation of transience and the changing dynamics of life.



Extract 3


”The sea holiday

Was her past, mine is her laughter.

Both wry With the laboured ease of loss.

Now she’s been dead nearly as many years

As that girl lived.

And of this circumstance

There is nothing to say at all.

Its silence silences.


Q1. How does the speaker characterize their own past in relation to the sea holiday?

A. Nostalgic

B. Joyful

C. Contemplative

D. Regretful


Q2. What emotional quality is attributed to the laughter mentioned in the line "Mine is her laughter"?

A. Wry

B. Boisterous

C. Melancholic

D. Hysterical


Q3. What does the phrase "Both wry With the laboured ease of loss" suggest about the speaker and the girl from the past?


A. They share a humorous outlook on life.

B. They bear the weight of loss with difficulty.

C. They find ease in experiencing loss.

D. They approach loss with indifference.


Q4. In the line "Now she’s been dead nearly as many years As that girl lived," what is the effect of comparing the years of the speaker's mother's death to the girl's life?


A. It emphasizes the brevity of the girl's life.

B. It highlights the duration of the mother's absence.

C. It creates a sense of symmetry and reflection.

D. It suggests a parallelism between the two timelines.


Q5. How does the phrase "Its silence silences" contribute to the overall theme of the poem?


A. It emphasizes the power of spoken words.

B. It conveys the ineffability of certain circumstances.

C. It signifies the end of communication.

D. It introduces a hopeful tone.


Q6. Analyze the dual nature of the laughter mentioned in the poem, connecting it to the theme of loss.


Ans: The laughter in the poem seems to carry a bittersweet quality, reflecting both joy and sorrow. It becomes a poignant reminder of the speaker's mother's past happiness, now overlaid with the weight of loss. This duality enhances the theme of transience and the complex emotions tied to memories.


Q7. How does comparing the years of the mother's death to the girl's life impact the reader's perception of time and loss in the poem?


Ans: The comparison creates a poignant parallelism, emphasizing the finite nature of life. It prompts reflection on the brevity of existence and the enduring impact of loss. The juxtaposition of timelines serves to underscore the universality of experiences, where one life ends, and another continues.


Q8. Explain how "Its silence silences" conveys the emotional depth of the circumstance in the poem.


Ans:  "Its silence silences" encapsulates the profound emotional impact of the circumstance. The repetition of "silence" intensifies the depth of the unspoken grief and loss, emphasizing the inability to articulate the complex emotions tied to the mother's death. The phrase signifies the overwhelming and inexpressible nature of the silence surrounding such significant life events.


 


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