Poem 02 An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum NCERT Class 12th English Question Answers (Stephen Spender)

An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum


Stephen Spender in ‘An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum’ deals with the themes of school injustice and class inequalities. The children of a slum school are like the scum of the earth. Their faces are pale. Their hair are torn around like rootless weeds. They are stunted figures with twisted bones. They inherit diseases of their parents. They belong to the dirty world of holes. The poet thinks that the gap of the two worlds can be abridged. These unfortunate children must be taken out of these dirty and unhygienic surroundings. They must breathe in fresh and open air. They should be allowed to have full mental as well as physical development.

Main Point

1. The children of an elementary school classroom in a slum look pathetic and miserable.

2. They have pale faces. They are like rootless wild plants.

3. They are distressed. The burdens of life keep their head weighed-down.

4. Their growth is stunted. They inherit twisted bones and diseases.

5. They do have deams. They also dream of moving out in the open. They want to see squirrel’s games.

6. Literature and the works of Shakespeare are usless for them.

7. This civilized world is of important and powerful persons.

8. The powerful dictators shape the map of the world at will. But their world is not the world of these unfortunate children.

9. The future of these children is ‘foggy’ and uncertain.

10. They live in narrow streets ‘sealed in with a lead sky’.

11. Revers, capes and starry places exist only in their dreams.

12. The slums in which they live are nothing less than living hells. Actually they are a blot on their civilized world.

13. The windows to the world of joys and comforts are shut for them.

14. Governors, teachers and the powerful people must bring them out of them out of their dirty slums.

15. Everything that binds them should be brolen open.

16. Their world must expand. It must extend to the blue waves, the gold sand and the green fields. They must have freedom of expression and learning.

Textbook Exercises

Think It Out

1. Tick the item which best answers the following.

(a) The tall girl with her hea weighed down means

The girl

(i) is ill exhausted

(ii) has her haad bent with shame

(iii) has untidy hair

(b)The paper-seeming boy with rat’s eyes means

The boy is

(i) sly and secretive

(ii) thin, hungry and weak

(iii) unpleasant looking

(c) The stuted, unlucky heir of twisted bones means

The boy

(i) has an inherited disability

(ii) was short and bony

(d) His eyes live i a dream. A squirrel’s game, in the tree room other than this means

The boy is

(i) full of hope in the future

(ii) mentally ill

(iii) distracted from the lesson

(e) The children’s faces are compared to ‘rootless weeds’

his means they

(i) are insecure

(ii) are ill-fed

(iii) are wasters

Ans: (a) (i) is ill and exhausted

(b) (ii) thin, hungry and weak

(c) (i) has an inherited disability

(d) (i) full of hope in the future

(e) (i) are insecure

2. 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 off-white. The poet has used this expression to suggest the decaying aspect. Actuall the walls symbolise the pathetic conditions of the lives of these children. However, there is an impied hope in these.

3. 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 childrem=n?

Ans: They beautifully contrast with the world of these children. These pictures mean progress, prosperity and well-being. But the present conditions of these children is miserable. They are underfed, poor and live in grim poverty.

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

Ans: The poet wants these children to be removed from their dirty surroundings. Now and open surrounding would provide ideal conditions for their learning. They will then land in a world full of progress and prosperity. There will be no social injustice.

Short Answer Type Questions

01. What does the poet wish for the children of the slums?

Ans: The poet wishes that the children of slums would come out of their dull, drab and dirty surrounding. They should share the bright, heathy and spacious surroundings of the ruch and the civilized.

02. What is the message that Stephen Spender wants to give through the poem ‘An Elementary School Classroom In a Slum’​?

Ans: In ‘An Elememtary School Classroom In a Slum’, Stephen Spender deals with the theme of social injustice and class inequalities. There are two different worlds. Art, culutre and literature have no relevance to slum children. They live in dark, narrow cramped, holes and lanes. Unless the gap between the two worlds is abridged, there can’t be any physically free to lead happy lives.

03. Why does Stephen Spender use the images of despair and disease in the first stanza of the poem and with what effect?

Ans: Similes and metaphors are used to describe despair and disease in the first stanza. He uses them to describe the miserable and pathetic life of the slums. The slum children have been describe as ‘the stunred, unlucky heirs of twisted bones’. They are like ‘rootless weeds’. Their faces are pale and lifeless. The burden of life makes them sit with their heads ‘weighed down’.

04. This poem was written against the background of the Second World War. But Spender doesn’t describe the lives of generals or heroes but of the poor children of slums. Why and how does he do so?

Ans: The poem has been written against the background of the Second World War. Instead of writing about war heroes and generals, Spender highlights the social injustice. He talks of two worlds. Both of them are incompatible. There is the world of the rich. It has nothing to do with the world of narrow lanes and cramped holes. The other is the world of slum children.

05. Crushed under povert, disease and miseries do the little school children of slums have any dreams or hopes? What are they?

Ans: The children living in slums have to live in most miserable and sub-human conditions. The burden of poverty and disease crushes their bodies. They still have dreams. Their future is foggy and uncertain. They have kept their hopes alive. They dream of open seas and green fields. They dream of about the games that a squirrel plays on the trees.

06. The poet say: ‘And yet, for these children, these wondows, not this world, are world’. What is the real world for them and which is not for them?

Ans: The conquerors and dictators can change the map of the world at will. But their ‘map’ and world is not the world of slum children. Their world is the world of stinking slums. Narrow lanes and dark cramped holes make their world. Their world is not the world of ‘domes’, ‘bells’ and ‘flowers’. Their world is the world of poverty and disease.

07. ‘So blot their maps with slums as big as doom’. Why does the poet express such an angry protest?

Ans: The civilized world has drawn its own map. This world has been separated from the world of slums. The dirty slums with their narrow lanes and cramped holes are little hells. The poet protests against social injustice and class inequalities. He wants that the islands of prosperity should be flooded with the stink and dirt of the slums.

08. What should governors, teachers, inspectors and other important and powerful persons do to improve the lot of children living in slums?

Ans: Two world exist. They are quite opposite and incompatible to each other. The gap between them must be abridged. Governors, teachers and powerful persons can play an important role in it. They can help in removing socail injustice and class inequalities. They must bring them out of their ugly and dirty surroundungs. All goods things of life, the sea, the sun and the fields should be within their easy reach.

09. ‘History is theirs whose language is the sun’. Justify the veracity of this statement.

Ans: Stephen Spender concludes the poem with a beautiful metaphore. ‘History is theirs whose language is the sun.’ This world is not ruled by the dumb and driven people. Only those who speak with confidence, power and authority are heard and obeyed. Their language must have the warmth and power of the sun.

10. Describe the devices used by Stephen Spender in the poem to create the desired poetic effect.

Ans: In ‘An Elementary School Classroom In a Slum’ the poet uses modern imagery. He employs similes, metaphore and contrasts as peotic devices to create the desired effect. ‘Open-handed map’ and ‘slag-heap’ are modern image. They are conveyed through very effective metaphors. The faces and hair of children in slums are like ‘rootless weeds’. Their spectacles are like ‘bits (chips) of stones’. The use of similes has been done judicioulsly.

Important Stanzas For Comprehension

Read the stanzas given below and answer the Question that follow each:

Far far from gusty waves these children’s faces.

Like rootless weedds, the hair torn round their pallor:

The tall girl with her weighed-down head. The paper-

boy, with rat’s eyes. 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 the tree room, other than this.


Gusty- blowning strongly | Rootless- uprootes | Weeds- useless wild plants | Torn round- (here) scattered around in disorder | Pillor- (here) pale faces | Weighed down- depressed due to burden | Paper-seeming- looking lean and thin | Stunted- (here) undeveloped, not fully grown | Unlucky- unfortunate | Heir- successor | Twisted- bent, distorted | Reciting- enumerating | Gnarled- knotty | Dim- not clear | Unnoted- not marked or not noticed | Tree room- place made in the tree

Paraphrase. The children are sitting in the classroom of a slum school. They are far far away from the winds or sea waves. The disorderly and unkempt hair on their pale faces look lile rootless wind plants. The tall girl who is sitting there is depressed. She keeps her head down. That boy who is sitting in a corner, is very thin. His eyes are bulging out like those of the rat. His growth is blocked and the body remains undeveloped. He inherits twisted bones. Actually he is not reciting a lesson from his desk. He is enumerating the knotty-disease of his father. A sweet young boy sits at the back of the dark room. He is unnoticed. Dreams seem to be alive in his eyes. He dreams of outdoors games outside his dull and drab classroom. He dreams of squirrel playing games in the hollow of the tree.

(A) How do the faces of the children of this slum school look like?

Ans: The faces of the children of this slum school look pale. Their unkempt and uncombed hair look like rootless wild herbs or plants.

(B) Explain ‘weighed-down head’.

Ans: The burden of misfortunes has drepressed and bent down the head.

(C) Who is the unlucky heir and what is he reciting?

Ans: A lean and thin boy having a rat’s eyes will inherit twisted bones. He is reciting how his father developed that knotty disease.

(D) Find words from the passage which mean the following:

(i) blowning strongly (ii) undeveloped (iv) not clear/bright

Ans: (i) gusty (ii) stunted (iii) dim

(a) 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. The paper-

seeming boy, with rat’s eyes.

(A) Where do you think are these children sitting?

Ans: These childern are sitting in the classroom of an elementary school in a slum.

(B) How do the faces and hair of these children look?

Ans: The faces of the children look lifeless like rootless weeds. Their is torn around their pale faces.

(C) Why is the head of the tall girl weighed-down?

Ans: The head of tall girl is weighed down as she has no dreams and hopes for her future.

(D) What do you understand by ‘The paper-seeming boy, with rat’s eyes’?

Ans: “The paper seeming boy’ is very weak, lean and thin. His eyes resemble that of a rat and dominate his bony and frail body.”

Source:- Laxmi Publications (P) Ltd