Keeping Quiet – Important Questions

Pablo Neruda in ‘Keeping Quiet’ talks about a strange striking theme. It is basically an anti-war poem. He shows concerns about violence, cruelty to animals, plight to manual workers. He talks about the necessity of introspection and creating a feeling of mutual understanding among human beings.

Important Questions with Answers

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

“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.”

  1. What does the Earth teach us? The Earth teaches us that there is life under apparent stillness. It means that we • can still be alive even if we appear to be ‘still’ or ‘calm’.
  2. What does the poet mean to achieve by counting upto twelve? The poet wants to achieve peace by counting upto twelve. He wants us to introspect in a moment of silence.
  3. What does the poet ask us to do? Poet asks us to keep quiet while he is counting upto twelve.
  4. What is always alive when everything seems dead? Only the Earth is alive when everything else appears to be dead.

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

Ans. Counting upto twelve and keeping still will bring us the peace of mind. We shall be in a state of mind where we will be able to see the things as they really are. We will be able to understand ourselves better and then we are expected to behave better.

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

Ans. No, he doesn’t advocate either total inactivity or death. He clarifies that he has no truck with death. According to him, life is meant to be lived to the fullest. He just wants the inhuman and destructive activities to stop.

Q. What is the ‘sadness’ that the poet refers to in the poem?

Ans. The sadness which the poet refers to in the poem is the sadness ‘of never understanding ourselves’. In the race to live our lives we forget to stop and our ponder what is it that we actually need and that leads to sadness.

Q. What symbol from nature does the poet invoke to say that there can be life under apparent stillness? Or What symbol from nature does the poet use to prove that keeping quiet is not a total inactivity?

Ans. Poet uses two symbols to prove his statement:

  1. ‘Earth’ seeming to be still is very much alive underneath/murmuring life under the apparent stillness, e.g., ‘when everything seems dead and later proves to be able.’
  2. In winter, seeds buried are dormant but sprout in the spring.

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

Ans. The poet refers to the moment of stillness and quietness as an exotic moment because it will initiate peace and brotherhood. There would be no movement, no talk, no activity and consequently, no violence.

Q. How is total inactivity on the Earth in the winter months full of life?

Ans. In the moment of total inactivity on the Earth in the winter months, the fisherman would not be catching fish. Hence, the whales in the sea will be safe. Also the man who gathers salts will be able to tend to his wounded hands for which he had no time earlier.

Q. Why does one feel ‘a sudden strangeness’ on counting to twelve and keeping quiet?

Ans. When all keep quiet for a while on counting to twelve, there will a strange atmosphere of silence; thus, we will feel ‘a sudden strangeness’ at this moment.

Q. What are the different kinds of wars mentioned in the poem? What is Neruda’s attitude towards these wars?

Ans. The poet writes about wars against humanity and nature. Green wars, wars with poisonous gases and wars with fire are the kinds of the wars that are mentioned in the poem. Neruda’s attitude towards war is one of rejection. He feels that such wars may bring victory but there are no survivors to celebrate the victory.

Q. How is the Earth a source of life when all seems dead on it?

Ans. When everything seems dead, the Earth still remains alive. The life on the Earth goes on as usual under the apparent stillness. For instance, a seed appears to be ‘dead’ but huge fruit bearing tree are ‘born’ from such seeds lying ‘dead’ here and there.

Q. How can suspension of activities help?

Ans. The suspension of activities will give people time to introspect and analyze their actions. This will help them in solving their problems and conflicts. They will develop a new understanding and hence will mend their destructive ways.

Q. What will possibly be the effect of keeping quiet? Or How, according to Neruda, can keeping quiet change our attitude to life?

Ans. As a result of keeping quiet, people would stop harming themselves and others. This will give us a better idea of the consequences of the actions, thus changing our attitude to life.

Q. How will ‘keeping quiet’ protect our environment?

Ans. Keeping quiet and introspecting will initiate peace and brotherhood among men, halting all destructive activities like waging wars which harm people besides damaging the environment. Thus, the environment will be protected.

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

Ans. The images of fishermen not harming the Whales in the sea and wars leaving behind no survivors to celebrate victory show that the poet condemns violence. The poet’s refusal to have any association or dealings with death also Shows that he is not in favor of any form of violence.

Q. ‘Life is what it is all about; …… How is keeping quiet related to life?

Ans. Keeping quiet does not mean total inactivity, but stillness and quietness to introspect on what we are doing. This means stopping our normal day-to-day activities to reflect on our actions. Thus it is related to life, although this may not be visible outwardly.

Q. Analyze the poetic devices that the poet adopts in the poem?

Ans. The poet has incorporated the use of repetition in the line ‘let’s not speak’ and ‘let’s stop for one second’ to create the poetic effect of emphasis on his readers. Even the phrases ‘count to twelve’ and ‘count upto twelve’ are symbolic, as the poet repeats his request to keep quiet for a second time. The word ‘twelve’ symbolizes a measure of time representing our clock time of real life, capturing a moment, from our present time. The phrases ‘hurt hands’ and ‘clean clothes’ are examples of alliteration. Man will cleanse his soul, heart and mind in the process. The word ‘brothers’ here implies brotherhood and synecdoche is used by using a concrete object instead of an abstract concept. There is use of metaphor in ‘put on clean clothes’, as the poet wants the warmongers to shed their blood-soiled clothes (meaning, stop wars) and put on fresh clothes (meaning, follow brotherhood).

Q. What are the main ideas contained in the poem “Keeping Quiet”? Or Write the summary of the poem Keeping Quiet.

Ans. Pablo Neruda emphasizes a unique as well as universal impact of having a sense of togetherness alongwith the need of introspection for mutual understanding. In this respect he is of the opinion to bring total inactivity among all the people. They may realize some strangeness and enjoy the exotic moments in their life. So, he urges people of all languages to stop speaking and the fishermen are asked to stop harming the whales. Those who advocate deadly weapons to destruct the humanity have been requested to stop and save humanity.

He says that we should not confuse with, his theory of total inactivity. The life will go on moving as it is to move. There is no change in the laws of nature. There can be no agreement with death but sadness may trouble us. It is very much essential for us that we must understand ourselves because there can be life under apparent stillness and their is life beyond it. The nature teaches us that everything seems dead but later proves to be alive. So it is utmost important for us to realize the feeling of mutual understanding among all of us.

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