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Chapter 10- An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum Interview Questions Answers

Question 1 :
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?

Answer 1 :

The colour of “sour cream” is off-white or yellowish. The poet has used this expression to describe the classroom walls in order to underline the prevalent neglect. The dull colour and the suggested bitterness, echo the situation of the children.

Question 2 :
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 children?

Answer 2 :

The poet saw the lives of slum children as far removed from that which is represented in schoolbooks, maps, photographs of alpine valleys, pictures of buildings with domes and the bust of Shakespeare. The glories of the world filled the textbooks and their classroom walls but failed to liberate these children from the reality of their impoverished existence in the cramped waste of modem industrial towns. The pictures serve as a stark contrast to the lived reality of the children.

Question 3 :
What does the poet want for the children of the slums? How can their lives be made to change?

Answer 3 :

Stephen Spender, in this poem, questions the value of education in a slum. He appealed to the governors, teachers, inspectors and visitors to rescue the poor and oppressed from the “tomb” of class discrimination. The poet appeals to them to work towards the social and economic development of these children.

Question 4 :
Describe the three deprived children as described by Spender in the poem.

Answer 4 :

Among the three deprived children described by Spender in the poem, the first is the tall girl with a “weighed-down head” signifying that she was mentally and physically exhausted. The second is the “paper- seeming boy” with frightened eyes. He was malnourished with twisted bones. The third is an unnoticed “sweet and young” boy whose eyes “live in a dream”.

Question 5 :
Mention the characteristics of the slum children.

Answer 5 :

The slum children are described as drained of energy; pale and thin. They are undernourished and unkempt like the “rootless weeds”. They are exhausted—mentally, physically and emotionally.

Question 6 :
The first three stanzas spell a scene of dejection and despair. Justify.

Answer 6 :

In the first stanza, the poet spells a scene of dejection and despair by using words such as the “rootless”,“stunted”, “twisted”, “gnarled”, “dim” and “diseased”. The poet speaks of the children’s faces as “rootless weeds”—unwanted, ugly and parasitic. They were unkempt and exhausted, sickly lean and like rodents. They had inherited their diseased bones from their parents. Their pitiable plight is reflected by equally dim and pathetic classrooms. They were doomed to be the “slag heap” of society like useless and unwanted “rubbish”.This antithetical imagery lends a contrast between the slum children and the subjects of their learning.

Question 7 :
Contrast the imagery of the slum with donations on the wall.

Answer 7 :

The slum is described as dark and dim where the children live on slag heap. They have a foggy future. The course of life for them is a narrow street with a lead sky that encloses on them. This is in contrast to the donations on the wall. Shakespeare’s head symbolizes an enlightened mind and the cloudless bright skies and the Tyrolese valley are contrasted with the foggy environment of the slum. The donations talk both of beauty and progress, while the slum is regressive.

Question 8 :
What do “sour cream walls” symbolize?

Answer 8 :

The “sour cream walls” symbolize the unkempt walls where the paint is yellowing and has lost lustre. Metaphorically, it reflects the despondent look of the students as well as the bitter life of the slum children.

Question 9 :
Who can change the lives of the slum children and how?

Answer 9 :

An enlightened person like a governor, inspector, or visitor can transform the lives of the slum children. These educated minds can liberate the imprisoned minds of the children. The poet then visualizes liberated children running on the “gold sands” and delving into the books. Their mind will be empowered and enlightened like the sun.

Question 10 :
Discuss the use of metaphors in the poem.

Answer 10 :

The poem uses a lot of comparisons or metaphors. The “gusty waves” symbolize the energy that ought to be found in children. The image of the fog is an implied comparison with the bleak future of children; for this purpose the poet uses the words “painted with a fog” and closed down with a “lead sky”. The children live “from fog to endless night” and for them “time and space are foggy slum”. The exposure to education and liberation of the mind is compared to being shown “green fields” and allowed to run “azure on gold sands”.


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