a Photograph by Shirley Toulson
Class 11 CBSE Guide NCERT Solutions for English Core
Summary of the Poem - A Photograph
The poem describes the poetess, Shirley Toulson’s feelings about a photograph of her mother, when her mother was around twelve years or so. The poetess reminisces over the photograph with a heavy heart. She becomes sad as she feels that unlike the nature which is immortal, the human life is ever changing, short lived and mortal.
Scene in the Photograph
The photograph was taken before the poet was born. In the photograph the poet's mother is seen with her two girl cousins Betty and Dolly. It was taken by their uncle when the three girls were paddling in the sea. It shows her mother and the girls had sweet smiles on their faces. The girls were holding each of mother's hands and were dressed in beach clothes they used to wear in those days. The sea washed their transient feet. The sea is immortal, has not changed. But her mother is no more.
The poet wonders at mother's reaction if she would see the photograph after twenty-thirty years. She would laugh and ask Betty and Dolly how they dressed for the sea beach. The sea holiday was now a thing of past for the mother just to remember fondly with laughter. And the sweet laughter of the mother had become had become a thing of past for the poet.
The mother is no more. She died nearly twenty-thirty years ago. There is silence all around. And that is the reality the poet had to accept and face forever.
NCERT answers of Class XI, Hornbill (English Core)
Lesson 1 Exercise Questions
Question.1: What does the word 'cardboard' denote in the poem? Why has this word been used?
Answer: It denotes the photo-frame which is made of a very hard and thick paper holding the photograph. Cardboard is an important part of the frame as it helps to keep a photograph safe for years.
This word has been used in the poem to express the irony of the situation that a mere cardboard is able to keep the photograph of that twelve year old girl safe till now who herself was 'terribly transient' and is no more in this world for the last so many years.
Question.2: What has the camera captured?
Answer: The camera captured the poet's mother along with her two girl cousins Dolly and Betty with their natural, beautiful smiles.
Question.3: What has not changed over the years? Does this suggest something to you?
Answer: The sea has not changed over the years. It brings out the transient nature of human being when compared to the nature and is objects. It also indicates that human life is ever-changing and mortal while the nature, they live in, is immortal.
Question.4: The poet's mother laughed at the snapshot. What this laugh indicate?
Answer: This laugh indicated her joy and an innocent youthful spirit. It also indicated her sense of humour looking at the way all of them were dressed up for the beach at her childhood days.
Question.5: What is the meaning of the line "Both wry with the laboured ease of loss."
Answer: In the poem "A Photograph", both the poet's mother and the poet herself felt a sense of loss. The mother had lost her joyful childhood days that the photograph captured years ago. For the poet the beautiful smile of her mother has become a thing of past. Both are twisted under the easiness of the loss which they earned through labour.
Question.6: What does "this circumstance" refer to?
Answer: The old photograph of the mother who died years ago, revives sad nostalgic feelings in the poet. 'This circumstance' refers to the situation and the lapse of time since the poet's mother died.
Question.7: The three stanzas depict three different phases. What are they?
Answer: The first phase depicts the mother's life before the poet was born, her childhood days.
The second phase describes the period when the poet's mother has grown older, laughing at her own childhood photograph.
The third phase depicts about how the poet is left with a silence in her life after the death of her mother.
a photograph - further study