1. Tree  Sprinting–  Movement of young  trees backward as the car moved forward has been called trees sprinting . it is symbolized for  life .
  2. Children spilling–    children looked happy  when they are moving out of their homes. 
  3. Late winter’s moon–  poet’s mother’s face colour was  compared to the colour of late winter’s moon which is pale as her skin has lost its sheen ( splendor/glamour) and looks pale.
  4. Ashen like that of dead– mother’s face looked pale and faded. It was grey like ash. It looked lifeless like corpse / dead body.
  5. Familiar ache– number of times when poet separated from her mother. Those separations were painful to her. After so many separations this pain and separations were familiar to the poet.   Separation from her mother is the childhood fear of poet.
  6. Smile at departure–smile is used to pacify  poet herself and her mother. The poet wants to hide her fear and attempts to be glad and cheerful. It  is a way of reassuring herself that all will be fine.

Topics to be focused-

  1. Mother’s look during the drive to cochin–  pale and wan like a corpse during the drive to cochin.
  2. Removing the thoughts of her ageing mother –  looking out of the window of her car. Sprinting trees and children spilling are source of happy life , vigour and vitality.
  3. Significance of smile – The poet smiles as she bid farewell to her mother and assure her that they would meet again. As she looked at her mother, who looks pale and weak due to old age, her heart is pained to think that her mother might not live long. She smiles but her smile is only an effort to cover up the hidden fear and pain in her heart. It is a smile put on deliberately to hide her tears. Her situation is quiet ironical.
  4. Poet’s feeling at airport/ childhood fear of poet –   insecurity about  losing her mother just as all young children often are. The same old feeling  come back to haunt her when she sees her mother’s pale face and lifeless face. She is tortured by the fact that she may not see her alive again.

Poetic Devices –

The imagery used in the poem is suggestive of both death and youth. The image of `young trees and merry children’ are a contrast to the mother.

• The poetic devices used are simile, metaphor, repetition and personification:

Simile –              a)   her face ashen like that of a corpse      b)  As a late winter’s moon

Personification –      Trees sprinting

Metaphor –         merry children spilling out of their homes

Repetition-         smile and smile and smile…



  1. Gusty Waves – by the term “ gusty waves ” , the   poet means the beautiful sights of nature which is not visible in the slum.
  2. Weighed down – the tall girl’s head has possibly been weighed down by being burdened with sad thoughts about her misfortune which is making her feel depressed.
  3. Reciting gnarled diseases – the boy whose bones are twisted inherited disability caused by a disease of bones from his father, while sons inherits property from their fathers.  
  4. Painted with fog – the future of these slum children is dark and uncertain and it means that it cannot be seen.
  5. From fog to endless night –  it means from morning till night . the poor children of the slum have a miserable existence . they suffer from morning to night everyday.
  6. With mended glass –   it means that the glass of spectacles had cracked and the pieces had been stuck together, instead of getting a new glass. It is another sign of poverty.
  7. Skins peeped through their skins –  it is used to describe the weak and worn-out  looks of the slum children.
  8. Their tongue run naked into books –  it means that the slum dwellers should be exposed to good, modern education and there should be no restrictions on them.

Topics to be focused-

  1. The message of the poem –  the poet want freedom from a life of hunger and misery for the poor children. He wishes that the children should be provided with quality education. They should be brought out from their filthy surroundings into the comforting lap of nature.
  2. Changes the poet wants to bring in the lives of slums –the poet wants a better life for the children of the slums. He wants the officials to help these poor children come out of their miserable surroundings. He wishes that these children should be given education because of education is key to prosperity.
  3. Theme –  the theme of the poem is  to highlight the plight of slum children . their dark homes and neglected schools are like tombs for them. They are far removed from the sunshine of knowledge, and a normal civilised life. They need to be removed from their unhealthy surroundings. The poem reflects the rage of the poet against subhuman of millions of slum children.
  4. Shakespeare is wicked and the map is a bad example –both represent a beautiful world and high values which the slum children will have never experienced . since the slum children can not relate to these things, there was no point in giving such examples.
  5.  Maps are meaningless – the poet feels that the maps in elementary class room are meaningless because the children in the classroom would never be able to reach those places.

Poetic Devices –


• ‘gusty waves’ — the privileged children are compared to gusty waves —energetic and exuberant.

• ‘future’s painted with a fog’ — refers to the future of the slum children which has been compared to the fog because it is uncertain and unclear.

• ‘sealed in with a lead sky’ — refers to the dull and grey colour of the sky and also the depressing future of the slum children

• ‘stars of words’ — refers to the words or literature written by writers like Shakespeare that create images which are as bright, beautiful and inspiring like stars.

• ‘from fog to endless night’ — refers to the future of the slum children which is without any ray of hope, a future that can only go from bad to worse.

• ‘wear skins peeped through by bones’ — refers to the thin emaciated bodies of the children which has been reduced to mere skin and bones.

• let their tongues /Run naked into books’ — refers to the act of allowing children to go taste/experience the variety of life as depicted in the books or giving the children an experience of the beautiful bright world outside the depressing confines of the slum.

• ‘whose language is the sun’ — refers to the children who live in pleasant surroundings and thereby have happier lives.


• ‘like rootless weeds’ — the children have been compared to weeds or the unwanted section of the society.

• ‘like bottle bits on stones’ — The spectacles frame their stony-eyed expressions/hard faces.

• ‘windows that shut upon their lives like catacombs’ — the classroom and the homes in which the slum children lives have been compared to the underground burial chambers


• ‘weighed down’ — refers to the burden of poverty and hopelessness that weighs down the slum children.


• ‘reciting’ literal — the boy is reciting the lesson. figurative — he is more prominently reciting his father’s disease i.e. he has inherited his father’s disease of twisted bones and deformity.

• ‘sour cream’: literal — the neglected walls have turned a dirty yellow figurative — a dismal place where all dreams turn sour (in this case the classroom)

• ‘lead sky’ literal — sky polluted with industrial fumes figurative: A sky that does not open opportunities.


• ‘squirrel’s game’ — something that helps the child to escape the grim reality of his surroundings `civilized dome riding all cities’ — cities that show the progress of the civilization and its marvellous architecture also


• ‘open-handed map’ — a map drawn arbitrarily by the people in power and the privileged.

• ‘map with slums as big as doom’ — the grim reality of the lives of the slum children.

• ‘fog’ — bleak and unclear.

• ‘ships and sun’ — adventure and beautiful lands offering opportunities.

• ‘slag heaps’ — industrial waste, toxic filth and squalor.

• ‘windows’ — windows of the slum classroom do not open out to opportunities and the wide world. They show only fog covered slums where they are confined.

• ‘green fields, gold sand’ — colour, happiness, nature and golden opportunities.

• ‘white and green leaves’ — learning from pages of books and nature.

• ‘run azure’ — experience the rich colours of the blue waves.

• ‘sun’ — symbol of enlightenment /clarity/ equality/purity.


Break O break open till they break the town

‘ Far, far’



  1. Twelve –  there are 12 hours in a clock and 12 months in an year. It is a measure of time.
  2. Let’s not speak in any language – the poet means that nothing should be spoken , either verbally or non- verbally . so that there is no misunderstanding .
  3. Not move our arms–  it means that we should be still and not make any  movement. Arms refers to weapons and the arms in the human body.
  4. Keeping quiet – the poet wants us to keep quiet so that we can discontinue our activities. This silence will give us time to introspect the solution to the social, political and religious problems to understand ourselves and shape destiny properly.
  5. Hurt hands – it imply the destruction that humans have caused to themselves and the environment in pursuit of their selfish needs.

Topics to be focused-

  1. What will counting upto twelve and keeping still help us achieve ? – If we count upto twelve and keep still, it will give us some time to analyze our deeds. It will allow us some moments to think about the result of our activities. People in the world are involved in wars and are also damaging the environment in order to achieve their aims. Unfortunately this is taking all of us toward our own end. So, we need to think in order to achieve peace and harmony.
  2. total inactivity and death- the poet doesn’t advocate total inactivity and death. He clarifies this in his poem that he wants all the people to just stop for a while in order to analyze their activities and their consequences. He wants human beings not to support war and damage to the environment.
  3. symbol from Nature – The poet takes the example of earth to prove that there can be life under apparent stillness. The earth never gets inactive. We experience the change in the seasons which brings so many different things with it. In winters, things come to a standstill as the water bodies freeze; the trees shed their leaves, etc. But as soon as the spring season comes, it brings with it the lovely flowers, flowing rivers and a new life is given to the nature. So, the poet wants to convey that we should stay calm but that doesn’t mean that it will bring total inactivity and stillness.
  4. ‘sadness’ that the poet refers to in the poem- The sadness is the result of our own actions and deeds. According to the poet we all are in a hurry of achieving various tasks in our life. This rush sometimes proves dangerous for us. As we don’t analyze our actions, so we land ourselves in a number of problems. These problems then become the reason for our sadness as referred to in the poem.

Poetic Devices

The poet has used symbols and comparisons to explain how we can end conflicts, wars and corrosive activities that are leading to the death of our civilization. He advocates keeping quiet and still for a while to introspect and understand ourselves and our relationship with our brothers and nature to build a peaceful and harmonious world order.

  ‘Count to twelve’ – symbolizes a measure of time. The clock has twelve markings on it, the year has twelve months and the day has twelve hours 

Let’s-repetition to create a bond with the reader and stress his point.

‘Fishermen in the cold sea…hurt hands’-symbolic image  showing how man is ruthlessly destroying nature and harming other species in cold blood for his selfish need and greed.

 The ‘hurt hands’ – the sore hands of the salt gatherer would make him realize how he is harming himself by his mindless corrosive activities.

‘…put on clean clothes’- metaphor. The poet says that quiet introspection will make us comprehend the destructive nature of wars. Man would shed his blood soiled clothes and don on clean clothes i.e. he would cleanse his soul, heart and mind, purging it of all anger and hatred.

Brothers – symbol of mankind

In the shade- metaphor– just as shade protects us from the harsh sun, we will protect and shelter each other as brothers, thus live in peace and harmony.

no truck – euphemism

Earth can teach us as when everything… symbol, Just as earth, the greatest creator, in its sleeping mode appears to be dead on surface but is actually dormant and carefully preserving the seeds of life, human beings too need to keep still and quiet to rejuvenate and awaken the life forces within and be productive.

Alliteration: we were, so single – minded

Enjambment: and for once could perhaps a huge silence……..of threatening ourselves with death.

Alliteration: ‘wars with’ – ‘w’ sound is repeated, ‘clean clothes’ – ‘c’ sound is repeated

Assonance: use of vowel ‘o’ (victory with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers)

Repetition: use of ‘war’

Alliteration– ‘we would’ – ‘w’ sound is repeated, ‘sudden strangeness’ – ‘s’ sound is repeated, ‘his hurt hands’ – ‘h’ sound is repeated

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