Television – Important Questions

The poem “Television” is written by British poet Roald Dahl. Though the poem is about children, it is addressed to their parents, i.e., adults. Since its publication, the poem has received worldwide popularity and attention for its brilliant style, earthy and uncomplicated tone, and a message that is extremely significant today, when we are uncritically accepting the dominance of technology in all walks of life usually even at the expense of the actual needs of our own kids.

Important Question and Answers

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

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set –
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)

1. The poet’s treatment of his subject is critical, but he still does not sound too opinionated. Why?

Ans. In this stanza, the poet criticises the increasing craze for television among children. However, as the starting line puts it, he has learned about it primarily from other people or some other source. Thus, he does not directly start criticizing television for its bad impact on children, but traces the root of his opinion in how others perceive it. That is why he does not sound opinionated.

2. Why do you think the poet has used the adverb ‘never’ three times in the third line?

Ans. The adverb ‘never’ is generally used to mean ‘not ever’. The purpose of using it is to stress the avoidance of something not agreeable or acceptable. In this stanza, the poet wants to say that children should not be allowed by their parents to spend a lot of time sitting before the television set, because this is a harmful practice in many ways. In order to assert this point forcefully, the poet repeats the adverb ‘never’ three times. The use of capital letters twice further reinforces his point.

3. What has been referred to as ‘the idiotic thing’ in this stanza? Why?

Ans. In this stanza, the phrase ‘the idiotic thing’ has been used for the television set. In some way, the phrase reinforces the poet’s view that television is an extremely useless thing as far as children are concerned. This explains why he feels that children should be kept away from it.

4. Do you think that the idea of not installing a television set sounds practical in today’s context?

Ans. The presence of a television set in almost every urban household is almost unavoidable today. Keeping that in mind, this idea may appear to be rather unrealistic. However, the negative impact that its presence casts on children is a stark reality. Perhaps the poet is just too impulsive while expressing his view against television. But if we look at the problem with a sensitive and empathetic approach, we may find that his view is not illogical or unacceptable. As readers, we cannot simply overlook his deep concern for children that is quite genuine.

5. Describe the significance of the bracketed lines at the end of the stanza.

Ans. The pair of lines bracketed here is an example of a literary device called parenthesis. Usually, a parenthesis is added to a sentence or word, either to provide an explanation or to emphasise the point expressed by its precedent. Here, the poet employs this device to exemplify the negative impact of children’s obsession with television. Indulging in a bit of exaggeration, he says that sometimes the children stare so hard that their eyeballs fall off, and he has seen a dozen such eyeballs rolling about on the floor in one house. This ‘diversion’ from the normal track of expression lends an amusing twist to it, and makes the reading more interesting and enjoyable.

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

They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?

1. How does this stanza describe children’s fascination with television?

Ans. The poet says that it is not uncommon to see the children sitting and staring continuously at the television sets. In almost every house, the same scenario is seen. The children are so obsessive of watching the television, that they remain engrossed in it without caring for how long they have been sitting.

2. How does children’s habit of watching TV gives some relief to their elders in the house?

Ans. As the poet says, due to their obsessive indulgence in watching television, children remain glued to one place. This means that they do not perform their naughty acts like climbing out of the window sill. Moreover, they do not quarrel or fight as children are normally supposed to do. Due to this, their elders can feel relieved and feel free to cook the lunch or wash the dishes, without worrying too much about them.

3. What does the phrase ‘all that shocking ghastly junk’ imply in this stanza?

Ans. This phrase is obviously for the contents of the TV programmes watched by children so obsessively. By using this phrase, the poet wants to tell that almost all that is dished out to children in the name of information and entertainment has no use for them.

4. Who are the people directly addressed by the poet in the last three lines? Do they have a particular identity?

Ans. People referred to as ‘you’ are the parents of those children about whom the poet seems to be deeply concerned. They are not particular people with specific identities, but all the parents addressed together. The poet wants all of them to think over the problem, because children are affected everywhere. In other words, the problem that the poet talks about is generic and universal in nature.

5. What message does the poet want to give his readers?

Ans. The poet wants to tell them that they should not feel complacent just because children do not disturb them with their activities and stay away from their engagements. Instead, they must try to closely observe them and try to find out why their children do not behave as they should. What gives them a temporary relief and opportunity to do things without the intervention of their kids is actually a dangerous trap that will spoil their natural talent.

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

IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!

1. What do the personal pronouns ‘IT’ and ‘HE’ signify in this stanza?

Ans. These two pronouns respectively signify ‘television’ and ‘any child who watches television continuously for hours’. In the first four lines of the stanza, ‘IT’ has been used as the subject thus implying that the poet’s focus is on what television does in terms of its detrimental impact on a child. Subsequently, the focus shifts to the child.

2. Why are the lines of this stanza written in capitals?

Ans. These lines are written in capitals with a view to stress the main message of the poem. As they are written differently, these lines show a distinctive appeal capable of easily drawing the attention of the readers. They also suggest the poet’s penchant for experiment in terms of style and presentation.

3. What is the message that the poet wants to give here?

Ans. The message is that watching too much television fills up the mind of children with useless facts while at the same time destroying their ability to be creative or imaginative. It takes away their ability to think and they can only keep staring at the television screen.

4. Why does the poet think that a child cannot understand a fantasy or fairyland?

Ans. The ability to understand a fantasy or fairyland calls for the application of creativity and imagination. As the poet says, the unproductive and useless practice of watching television for hours and hours continuously has severely affected a child’s creativity and imagination. That is why he/she cannot understand a fantasy or fairyland.

5. ‘HE CANNOT THINK—HE ONLY SEES!’ What does this line suggest?

Ans. This is the concluding line of this stanza that presents the crux of what the poet wants to say here. In the preceding lines of the stanza, the poet categorically opines that television spoils the creativity of children so much that they cannot use their brain to understand things that are abstract and invisible for which imaginative power is required. As they are absolutely accustomed to seeing things that appear on the TV screen before them, they lose the ability to think of things and situations that are not readily presented before them in concrete form. This indicates the loss of their creativity and imaginative faculty.

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

‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’

1. Comment on the style of expression employed by the poet in this stanza.

Ans. The poet adopts a style that is simple, lucid and conversational in nature. It seems that the poet is interacting with the parents directly, and responding to their query.

2. Who are referred to as ‘you’ and ‘we’ in this stanza?

Ans. In this stanza, the personal pronoun ‘you’ has been used for the parents of children. ‘We’ is used for the speaker, i.e. the poet himself and all those who like him feel that television has badly affected children.

3. How does the poet express the dilemma suffered by the parents?

Ans. In the first four lines of this stanza, the poet focuses on the dilemma of the parents by bringing out their possible response. As it shows, the parents understand that the televisions are of course not good for the development and growth of their child. However, they do not know what they should do to entertain the children.

4. Why does the poet use the word ‘monster’ in the last line? What does it signify?

Ans. The word ‘monster’ has been used here for the television set. The poet feels that it is responsible for all the bad things that have happened to children.

5. Which point does the poet try to stress here?

Ans. The poet wants to stress the view that substitutes for televisions should be thought about, which are as entertaining as the TV sets and even overcome the flaws which the latter has. He further says that the task of finding such substitutes is quite simple. For this, the parents should take their thinking far before when this TV set was invented. He therefore asks their parents to recall the past when children were able to find better and far more productive ways to entertain themselves.

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

Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY… USED… TO… READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!

1. Who are the people addressed in this stanza? What does the poet speak of?

Ans. People addressed in the first line of this stanza are parents of children who, the poet thinks, have been affected by the ill-effects of watching TV habitually. By posing a couple of questions in the beginning, the poet tries to stir their conscience reminding them of the good old times when children used to get entertained without the TV sets.

2. What does the poet suggest as an alternative to the harmful practice of watching TV continuously?

Ans. In this stanza, the poet suggests with emphasises that for children, reading books is the best alternative to the harmful practice of watching TV. In the past, reading books was an extremely useful, engaging and productive pastime. He further says that the parents must motivate their children to read real good books in order to entertain themselves. There are so many great books that were readily available in the past and are still there for the children to read and learn from.

3. Explain the line: ‘We’ll say it very loud and slow’.

Ans. This line reflects what the poet feels about the visibly lackadaisical approach of parents to their children. Though they understand that their children’s habit of continuously watching TV is not good, they are not quite prompt and self-motivated to explore sound and effective alternative that can save their future. By being ‘very loud and slow’, the poet actually means that he has a solution, which he wants everyone to hear clearly and attentively.

4. What is the significance of capitalising some words in this stanza?

Ans. The poet has deliberately capitalised some words with a view for highlighting their importance in the context of the poem. ‘READ’ is obviously the most important of all words capitalised. By capitalising this word, he wants to reinforce his point that in the olden days, when there were no television sets, children used to read books and that was no doubt far more productive and beneficial.

5. Which famous writer has been referred to as ‘the great Scott’?

Ans. Sir Walter Scott, the famous 19th century novelist and poet, has been referred to as ‘the great Scott’ in this stanza. He wrote a number of novels that are immensely enjoyed by young and adolescent readers even today. Scott is often regarded as ‘the father of historical novel’.

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

And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)

1.. Explain the first two lines of this stanza.

Ans. In these lines, the poet talks about the great popularity of books due to which their presence was visible literally everywhere. This was because children were very fond of reading them. The number of books was so large that the process seemed to be almost everlasting, because there were always some books that ‘were waiting to be read.’

2. What types of tales were read by children in the past? How were they useful for their young readers?

Ans. As the poet says, the tales read by children in the past were fantasies with a galaxy of interesting characters. These tales were full of adventures and strange but interesting situations that honed the imagination and creativity of their young readers.

3. How was the world depicted in the fantasies different from the one that is shown in the TV programmes?

Ans. As the poet says, the world depicted in the fantasies was based on pure imagination. It had a range of unusual characters and situation to entertain and amuse the young readers. That is why the tales of dragons, gypsies, queens and whales were the most engaging pastime for children before the invention of television. Today, the television programmes miss all that, as they do not involve creativity and imagination. Through these programmes, children can only see what is presented before them in concrete form, but they cannot imagine things, characters or situations that are seen so abundantly in fantasies and tales of yesteryears.

4. Fantasies serve as a productive and interesting pastime that stirs the imagination of children. In which other way are they beneficial for the children?

Ans. One great advantage of reading books that contain these fantasies is that you can go through them anywhere. This precisely implies that it is not necessary for the readers to sit at a particular place only to read books.

5. Why has the poet used a parenthesis to end the stanza?

Ans. Parenthesis, as we know, is a word, phrase or line in brackets either inserted in a passage or stanza, or placed at the end of it. The parenthesis used here seems to be an afterthought that serves as a sort of happy diversion or ‘comic relief’ from the rest of the stanza that presents his view rather categorically and in a focused manner.

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

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!

1. Which period does this stanza talk about?

Ans. This stanza talks about the period of time when television had not been invented, and reading books was the favourite pastime of children.

2. Which important features of reading before the invention of television does the poet highlight here?

Ans. In this stanza, the poet says that a plenty of books were available for the children before the invention of television. More importantly, they had the freedom to choose books for reading, according to their preference and interest matching their age-group.

3. How does the poet respond to the practice of reading in the past?

Ans. In this stanza, the poet lists some of the most popular fictional characters that children in the pre-television era used to read and know about through different books available to them. In the concluding lines of the stanza, he seems to be simply awed by the extraordinary range of their reading and familiarity with comical or fictional characters.

4. Which age group of children can most easily relate to the fictional characters mentioned in the stanza?

Ans. Mr. Tod, Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole are the characters that fascinate small, young kids most. Thus, the children, the poet talks about here must be small kids passing through the primary stage of learning. As children grow up, they gradually start looking for more mature reading stuff.

5. The name of which famous writer of children’s books has been mentioned in this stanza?

Ans. The famous writer of children’s books referred to in this stanza is Beatrice Potter. Her name being mentioned particularly, suggests that she must have influenced the poet Roald Dahl, an outstanding writer of children’s books himself.

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

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks

1. Explain these opening lines of the stanza: So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away.

Ans. In these lines, parents are exhorted by the poet to throw away their TV sets. His request to parents is propelled by his perception that their children’s habit of watching TV for long and continuous hours is dangerous and unproductive.

2. What does the poet want the parents to replace the TV set with? Why?

Ans. The poet requests parents to replace their TV sets with a bookshelf. The reason lies in his time-tested assumption that books alone will save the natural, imaginative, sensitive and curiously passionate inner self of a child from the blunting and barren practice of watching TV. Thus, the fundamental motive is to save the childhood and ensure that children will have a better future.

3. What does the poet mean by the phrase ‘ignoring all the dirty looks’?

Ans. The poet says that bringing in a bookshelf as a replacement for TV set may not be tolerated in the beginning. Nevertheless, the parents must remain firm in their decision and overlook any resistance, because a change like this is beneficial for the future of their children.

4. What does the concluding couplet of this stanza suggest about the response of children to the initiative taken by their parents?

Ans. This couplet clearly suggests that children will not put up with the change introduced by their parents. In the beginning, they will fail to understand the significance of a bookshelf filled with books. As a result, they will protest against it. Occasionally, they may be violent also. Despite all this, the parents must go ahead with their decision as they know that this will change the lives of their dear kids for the better.

5. Parents play a major role in shaping the future of their children. How does this assumption get reflected here?

Ans. As the poet says, children who are used to watching television cannot understand its disadvantages themselves. Their parents must therefore take the initiative to change this habit and replace it with a much better and far more beneficial practice of reading books. They should therefore understand that their decision will eventually secure a great future for their children.

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

Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.

1. What does the phrase ‘Fear not’ suggest about the mental state of people to whom this stanza is addressed?

Ans. The stanza is addressed to parents whom the poet exhorts to replace TV sets with books. The poet feels that the parents are apprehensive of this change, which their children may not accept easily.

2. Explain the concluding couplet: They’ll now begin to feel the need Of having something to read.

Ans. In these lines, the poet talks about the situation in which children will start realising the urgency to read something. As he says, this will happen only when TV sets are removed from their homes and they find it impossible to watch the programmes they have been used to watching so far.

3. What does the poet’s promise relate to?

Ans. The poet’s promise is about a positive change in children, which he thinks, will be noticeable in a period of about a week or two.

4. Comment on the tone of conversation adopted by the poet.

Ans. The poet’s approach is thoroughly conversational and his tone seems to be that of a public speaker addressing a gathering of parents. It reflects a high level of understanding, insight and confidence. It seems that he is fully selfassured and knows the results with a remarkable precision.

5. Why does the poet feel that children should be compelled to have ‘nothing else to do’, in order to understand the importance and joy of reading books?

Ans. In this stanza, the poet wants to say that the habit of watching TV is too deep-seated in case of children. It is therefore difficult for them to easily realise how adversely this habit is affecting their creativity, mental strength and health. That is why he feels that when there will be no TV sets inside their homes, and children will have nothing else to do, they will be forced to accept what their parents want.

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

And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts.
They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

1. What kind of emotional response does the first line of the stanza convey? When will this response be noticeable?

Ans. The emotional response of children that this line conveys is that of sheer joy. This type of response, as the poet says, will come into notice when they start reading books.

2. What has been referred to in this stanza as ‘that ridiculous machine’?

Ans. The phrase ‘that ridiculous machine’ here refers to the TV set. It is followed by another that refers to the TV screen as ‘That nauseating, foul, unclean, repulsive television screen’. The poem has many such phrases that have been used to denounce the role of television in the lives of children excessively used to watching it.

3. How does this stanza speak of the maturing of children’s realisation regarding their newly acquired habit?

Ans. As the poet says, children will gradually understand the joy of reading and soon will gain interest. These books will make its own place in their hearts and they will become fond of reading. Subsequently, showing a mature understanding, they will realize that they had been wasting a lot of their precious time in watching the television.

4. Why, according to the poet, the children will start loving their parents?

Ans. The poet thinks that the children will soon realize that their parents did a wonderful thing for them by throwing away the television and instead, installing the lovely books to entertain and teach them so much. Due to this, they will love their parents all the more.

5. Describe a few qualities that the parents should have, if they want positive change in their children as suggested here.

Ans. Two qualities that they should have are determination and patience. Determination is required when they decide to replace their children’s bad old habits with a far more productive and positive ones. Patience is needed when their decision is resisted by their own children. Furthermore, they should also be absolutely caring and sensitive to the needs of their children.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *