An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum by Stephen Spender – Important Questions

Stephan Spender wanted that poor and the downtrodden should have equal opportunities. In this poem, he wants to draw the attention of the society and the government to the dismal condition under which those children live and study.

Important Questions with Answers

Q. 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?

Ans. The colour of sour cream is white but not pleasant to look at. The poet uses this expression to describe the white class room walls which are also white but not pleasant looking.

Q. 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?

Ans. These contrast with the world of the children. There is no love for art or literature in their lives of which Shakespeare is a symbol. Instead of ‘buildings with domes’ they live in the dark slum houses. The world map for them means nothing because they have hardly seen anything out of their slums.

Q. What does the poet want for the children of the slums? How can their lives be made to change?

Ans. The poet wants a better life for these children of the slums. He wants that they should be given better surroundings and better opportunity to study.

Q. How is the atmosphere inside an elementary slum classroom different from the one outside it?

Ans. The children sitting inside the elementary classroom, are sick and under nourished. The atmosphere and surroundings are pate and morose. The world outside is filled with beauty and luxuries.

Q. Which words/phrases in the poem ‘An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum’ show that the slum children are suffering from acute malnutrition?

Ans. The words or phrases in the poem which show that the slum children are suffering from acute malnutrition are, ‘faces like rootless weeds’, ‘the hair torn round their pallor’, ‘paper-seeming boy’, ‘stunted, unlucky heir of twisted bones’ and ‘wear skins peeped through by bones’.

Q. 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?

Ans. There is a map on the wall. There are pictures, which show beautiful hills and valleys. But the world of the poor school children is not what is shown in the map. Their world is not sunny. It is darkened with the fog of poverty and pain from their slum only dull and dreary sky can be seen.

Q. Why does Stephen Spender feel the maps in the elementary school classroom are meaningless?

Ans. Stephen spender feels that the maps in the elementary classroom are meaningless because the children in the classroom would never be able to reach those places.

Q. How is ‘Shakespeare wicked and the map a bad example’ for the children of the school in a slum?

Ans. Both represent a beautiful world and high values which the slum children will have never experienced. Since the slum children cannot relate to these things, there was no point in giving such examples.

Q. To whom does the poet in the poem, ‘An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum’ make an appeal? What is his appeal?

Ans. The poet makes an appeal to his readers, especially the educated and well-off people the appeal is to help the poor children of the slum come out and be freed from their miserable surroundings. His appeal is that these children should be given quality education, because education holds the key to their emancipation.

Q. What change does the poet hope for in the lives of the slum children?

Ans. Stephen Spender wants a better life for the children of the slums. He wants the officials to help these poor children come out of their miserable surroundings. He wishes that these children should be given education, because education is the key to prosperity.

Q. What message does Stephen Spender convey through the poem, ‘An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum’?

Ans. The poet wants freedom from a life of hunger and misery for the poor children. He wishes that the children should be provided with quality education. They should be brought out from their filthy surroundings into the comforting lap of nature.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

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.

  1. Name the poem and the poet.
    An Elementary School Classroom in Slum; Stephen Spender
  2. Which image is used to describe the poverty of these children?
    Their slag heap refers to their badly nourished and very weak bodies due to poor living conditions in the slum which were just like unwanted waste materials.
  3. What sort of life do these children lead?
    In the dirty and unhygienic surroundings the children lead very pathetic and miserable lives full of woes, wants, diseases, poverty and uncertainty.
  4. Identify and name the figure of speech used in line?
    Simile/Alliteration.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.

Far far from gusty waves these children’s faces.
Like rootless weeds, the hair torn round their pallor:
The tall girl with her weighed-down head.

  1. Who are these children?
    These children are the poor children who live in the slum.
  2. What does the poet mean by ‘gusty waves’?
    By ‘gusty waves’ the poet means the beautiful sights of nature which are not visible in the slum.
  3. What has possibly weighed down the tall girl’s head?
    The tall girl’s head has possibly been weighed down by being burdened with sad thoughts about her misfortune, which is making her feel depressed.
  4. Identify the figure of speech used in these lines.
    Simile is used in these lines when the unkempt hair is compared to rootless weeds.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.

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 tree room, other than this.

  1. Who is the ‘unlucky heir’?
    The boy who has a stunted growth with twisted bones, sitting in the slum school classroom, is the ‘unlucky heir’.
  2. What is the stunted boy reciting?
    The stunted boy symbolizes the disability that he has inherited from his father and is reciting his lesson from his desk.
  3. Who is sitting at the back of the dim class?
    A sweet young boy is sitting at the back of the dim class. He is daydreaming of squirrels playing in a tree.
  4. What quality of unlucky heir is depicted in the Stanza?
    The unlucky heir is depicted with twisted bones which he has inherited from his father, who suffers from arthritis.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.

At back of the dim class
One unnoted, sweet and young.
His eyes live in a dream, Of squirrel’s game,
in tree room, other than this.

  1. Why is the class dim?
    ‘Class’ refers to the classroom which is dark and dingy, as it is in a slum school, where nobody cares for the lighting. ‘Dim’ is also used to denote the bleak future of these children in the class.
  2. Why is the child called ‘sweet and young’?
    The child is called ‘sweet and young’ probably because he is an innocent child who is not concerned with what is going on in the classroom. Instead, he is daydreaming.
  3. What does the child want to enjoy?
    The child wants to enjoy seeing squirrels playing in the tree outside the classroom.
  4. What is the significance of the phrase, ‘other than this’?
    The phrase, ‘Other than this’ refers to the classroom, which does not interest the boy. He wants to go elsewhere, particularly outside, where the squirrels are playing in the tree.
  5. How is the young child different from others?
    The young child was sitting at the back of the class unnoticed.
  6. What is he doing?
    He was sitting there unnoticed and dreaming of squirrels playing in a tree.

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