Television by Roald Dahl

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.)
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?
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!
‘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?’
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!
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.)
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. Rate and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
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-
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.
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.

Summary

The poem ‘Television’ by Roald Dahl states that the television is a hypnotizer which dulls the imagination of children by all the filth it telecasts. According to Dahl, children who watch the television just constantly stare at the screen bedazzled by the shows which completely control their minds, so much so that they find it impossible to do or think of anything else.

He further says that the television set and its morbid shows that are turning our young generation into zombies where thinking is concerned. Values, morals & ethics are thrown into the dustbin & bizarre information provided by the media is being constantly chewed & digested by children these days.

He further states that before the television had come, children used to spend their time reading quality books which, as he appears to be stating in an indirect manner, develops their imagination; sharpens their senses; transports them to the most wonderful places; and allows them to spend their leisure time qualitatively. Sadly however, it is very difficult today to rid the idiot box from our homes.

Of course there are some good points about television watching especially, where the news is concerned to make the pupil aware of what is happening in society. But most of the time, the television is unable to censor the content being broadcast which ultimately leads to a sort of ‘early maturation’ of young students. Books on the other hand can be controlled where information is concerned & always benefits the minds of the scholar. In the poem, Roald Dahl also describes the way an adult can initiate the reading habit in children.

Analysis

The poem ‘Television’ consists of a total of 94 lines. These lines are not separated into stanzas. Here they are divided into meaningful segments for ease of comprehension. Roald Dahl follows the same simple rhyme scheme throughout this poem – aabb and so on in a series of rhyming couplets. Only on one occasion does he diverge from this when the end words of the lines rhyme in lines 31, 32 & 33. The poet uses the device of apostrophe when he addresses his poem to English parents and advises them on doing away with their television sets. He also uses the rhetorical device of personification to give human qualities to something that is incapable of human actions. Dahl uses the device of personification in two cases – first, when he gives television the human ability to kill something, and second, when he gives ‘imagination’ the human ability to die at its hands. The tone of this poem is contrary to what has led the poet to pen his thoughts here. Dahl is a man who lived through a period of great many inventions, including that of television. However, he is not excited by this socalled progress and development of the human race. He hankers for the olden days when life was simpler, and little pleasures were more easily experienced. He associates television with the loss of innocence in children. He is saddened to see that children do not any longer read books as ardently as they used to, when he was younger. He longs to change this, and ‘Television’ comes out of his meagre attempt to do so. In characteristic style, his aim is both to entertain and edify his readers – young and old alike.

The poet talks about the importance of books in the lives of the children and most importantly, how this passion for books has been substituted with the addiction for television. The poet makes the television set like an evil which hinders the growth of brains for the children and hampers their creativity. The poet highlights the vitality of books which are, however, ignored because of this television. The author, at the end, requests the parents to do away with the television sets from their homes and instead place a nice book shelf at its place and fill it with good books. This will aid the children to build their knowledge, creativity and at the end, will make them successful. No matter, now, the children might rebel at this change and even argue and fight with the parents for throwing away their favourite television, but at the end, they will be benefitting out of it. And a day will come, when they will acknowledge and thank the parents for doing so.

In all, the poem focuses on the concerns about the ill-effects of television on the young minds of young children. The poet is of the opinion that television kills the imagination of children. It also distracts them from the joy of reading. The poem is written not from a child but from an adult’s point of view.

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