ICSE Class 10 Poems and Short Stories Television (Roald Dahl)
Television Synopsis and Important Questions
Roald Dahl is one of the most prolific English writers. He has written short stories, novels, poems and screenplays. Being a fine storyteller, he is largely followed by young readers. He has written several classics for children.
The poem ‘Television’ takes a comic look at a serious problem among young children today. The poem advises and inspires us to read books instead of watching television. This is one of the most relevant poems of our time. These days, TV has become more than just a medium of entertainment. In this poem, the poet warns us about the dangers of excessively watching television. TV robs the power of imagination and creativity of our mind. The poet advises us to read books as it will enable us to discover new levels of joy and find fulfilment in life. He tells us that there is a whole new and exciting world waiting for us in the form of reading books. The poem is a long one which initially describes the problem and later on provides a solution to it. The poem is in very simple language and form. The poet has capitalised the important portion for emphasis, especially when he talks about the undesired consequences of watching television.
In current times, it has become a custom in nuclear families that kids are often put in front of a TV set so that they stay calm for some time. This soon starts becoming an excess for kids. This affects the mental growth and knowledge levels of children. The author is apprehensive about this fact, and so he has penned down all his thoughts in this poem.
Let us understand the poet’s views by analysing the poem.
Dahl in his poem warns that we will become zombies if we keep staring uninterrupted at the television set for long hours. The poet starts with a normal tone. In the beginning, the poet advises and addresses parents to not allow children to watch television. The poet seems desperate to make people avoid watching television for the welfare of their children. He gives the reference of the experience that we have learnt that TV creates a negative impact on our children. He wants to direct our attention towards the adverse effects of TV viewing on children. He advises that people should not allow children to watch television, and it is best that we do not install the TV set at all. The poet calls the TV an idiotic thing in the poem. The poet has tried to answer why watching TV is an idiotic activity and why parents should not allow children to watch TV at all. The poet, as a mouthpiece of a number of people, begins by saying that children should never be allowed to watch television.
He further proceeds as if he has undertaken a long research on the bad effects of watching television by visiting a large number of households. In almost every house it is found that children are lazing around all day and staring at the television screen without doing any productive work. They sit in front of the TV screen all day and get irritated if asked to pay attention elsewhere. Here, the poet is basically describing the behaviour of children while watching TV in their homes. The poet says that TV sets have become part of every house because every house that he has gone to has a TV set. He has seen children watching TV with mouth wide open and eyes constantly on the screen. When sitting for a long time before the TV set, children adopt the wrong body posture. Sometimes they sit or lie in a lazy and casual manner and get sloppy. But still, they stare at the television set until their eyes become too tired to prove this. He gives the reference of a house that he has visited the previous week. He saw six people lying on the floor and the surprising fact was that it was daytime. The people were lying not because of the labour they had done but because of the fatigue of their eyes which could no longer watch TV so that they had to sleep on the floor. The poet is using a bit of exaggeration in these lines to tell you that people and children have become addicted to watching television.
The poet discusses the effects of continuous television watching on children. Children get so hypnotised by watching television that all they do is sit and stare at the television set. Their mind is filled with the junk that is being telecasted on it. The only benefit of television is that it keeps children occupied and still. They do not trouble their parents and let them complete their household chores peacefully. The poet says that children sit for a long time before the television staring at the screen. They forget their surroundings and keep sitting at a single place as they probably forget everything around them in the real world. He has used the term ‘hypnotise’ to denote that children watch TV as if they are under some magic spell. Children's minds are totally occupied with shocking stories or serials which are mostly unreal and inappropriate for their age. TV shows waste their valuable time and make them lazy. They do not get involved in any physical activities or exercises making their body dull and their minds inactive.
The poet describes the possible advantages for parents to let children watch TV. The poet says that while watching television, there is silence as children do not indulge in fights or kick each other or go out of the window. Here, he is trying to say that they do not create any havoc or mess in the house. If allowed to watch television, they sit still, thus allowing parents to get their chores done. They are so happy watching TV that they allow their mother's to cook lunch and wash utensils in the sink without disturbing them. The poet then puts a question to parents of whether they have ever thought of the harm which watching television does to their loving children. He himself answers the question wisely. He says that watching TV takes children away from the real world and that they live in virtual reality. Regularly watching TV damages a child’s imagination and creativity. Kids are not able to think on their own or do anything creative as they are obsessed with watching TV. These lines indicate that the poet himself has suffered the possible disadvantages of watching television. He says all these things understanding the pressures of parents to manage children at home. At the same time, he also makes it clear to them that a little privilege is actually affecting their child’s brain and imagination. He thinks it is too much of a price paid for keeping children still at home.
The poet continues to describe the effects of television on a child's mind. He has written this stanza in capital letters to emphasise that watching too much television has a bad impact on children. He says that it clogs their mind like a pipe that is clogged with a lot of waste material and junk. It deteriorates the senses, kills their imagination and restricts them from experiencing the world’s fantasies. Children watch different shows on different channels. Sometimes there are opposite ideas, and sometimes whatever is shown on TV is far from reality. These things mess up with the organised ideas and thoughts in children's minds. Precious time is wasted on infectious thoughts. Children do not get the idea of how to improve skills or personality. The poet also feels that due to watching TV continuously, children cannot use their imagination to understand how a fantasy or fairytale functions. Their mind gets used to virtual images of virtual reality. The poet believes that children only believe what they watch for hours on TV. Their thought process gets blurred, and they cannot form their own opinions. The child is not able to analyse or interpret a thing. He really loves to watch what is shown on TV without doing much of thinking. There is no brain activity, resulting in the darkness of the mind and a decrease (or compromise) in brain sharpness.
As the poet continues the rant regarding the disadvantages of television, he also reminds adults of the time before the TV was invented. The poet before asking parents to take away the TV set from children says that he knows that parents will raise their voice and will say many things in support of television which has become an integral part of a child's life. It cannot be substituted with anything. He questions on behalf of parents. If children are not allowed to watch TV, what is the option that is left for them to utilise their time? How should children be entertained?
In answer to this question, the poet again puts before adults or parents a question and asks them about the time when TV was not invented. He asks them to remember how we used to entertain ourselves or be satisfied as children when there was no TV. It is like an addiction—a monster—that needs to be avoided. The poet reminds parents of the time when they preferred other modes of entertainment.
He also reminds us of the earlier times of when there was no TV and when young children used to read a lot of books. Reading used to give them a lot of entertainment as well as satisfaction. People spent half of their lifetime in reading books.
The poet further describes how books were found at every place whether it was a children's room or bedroom or by the bed. Everywhere lots of books could be seen. They were present on the nursery shelves, nursery floor and at all places in the house. Different kinds of books conveying different ideas leading to different sorts of entertainment for everyone.
The poet is advocating the habit of reading books rather than watching TV. The best way to entertain themselves when they were children was to read books. Reading was so popular that time that half of the individual’s life was spent in reading books. In the absence of TV, there used to be lots of books in the nursery shelves of children. Half of the books could be found lying on the floor of the nursery. There used to be books in children’s bedrooms. Some books could be found lying by the bed. Books used to be in such abundance that some of them always remained pending to be read.
The poet now talks about the popular books of adventures that children used to read during his childhood. Girls and boys used to read amazing stories of dragons, gypsies, queens, whales, treasure isles, smugglers, pirates, ships, elephants, cannibals and so on. This description suggests that there was no dearth of books on any subject, and parents made all types of books available for children. The description found in these books used to be so interesting and fascinating that children used to get totally absorbed in those types of books. It made them always ready to discover a new world hidden in books. The story looked interesting and amusing and there was no matter with the content. It always seemed a new story like a beautiful newborn baby. The poet is trying to describe the characters and the imaginary places by listing out specific characters and parts of books that were read during his times so that he can create relevance for readers.
The poet continues the list of various books and different and interesting characters. He admires a variety of books in earliest times and how they were provided to children for their entertainment and it always served the purpose. Children were thoroughly entertained and could not keep themselves away from the books. The poet says that earlier children used to read a lot of books. They used to read stories written by Helen Beatrix Potter, an author of children's books featuring animals with colourful illustrations. The poet praises the children's author for fantastic stories on animals. He also mentions lines like ‘how the camel got his hump’, and ‘how the monkey lost his drum’ as well as characters like Mr Toad, Mrs Tiggy Winkle, Mr Rat and Mr Mole. Vivid descriptions from these stories show the poet’s love for these books and how he enjoyed them in his childhood days. He is so fond of these characters that he can recall them describing his enjoyment. In his childhood days, the books were very interesting and had amazing stories.
In the next stanza, the poet advises parents to be firm and stick to their decision of getting rid of the television set. He says that there is no need for parents to install a television set at home. Instead, they should install a bookshelf containing different kinds of books filled with amazing and fascinating stories. In response, children may behave violently and hate them. He sincerely requests parents to throw away the TV set and replace it with a new bookshelf filled with a variety of books. The poet wants parents to ignore all the dirty looks, the screaming and the crying of children. Young children may even try to bite their parents in anger. Children may even try to hit their parents with sticks, but everything would last for a very little time. All the tantrums will go away when they start enjoying the books that are given to them by their parents. The poet assures parents that they need not worry as sooner or later they will get a positive result for their action.
The poet has described the possible behaviour of children in the absence of the television set. Their violent behaviour may scare parents who are worried about them, but he says that parents should not get scared of all these tantrums and anger. The poet assures parents that in a week or fortnight without the television sets and when children have nothing else to do, they will finally resort to the need of reading books for entertainment. They will start reading books and liking them.
The poet finally tells parents that once children start reading books, they are certainly going to enjoy them and then there is no turning back towards the television set. The poet reassures parents that once young children start reading books, they will find it very interesting. Their imagination will bloom once their reading habit is residing in the heart. Children will become avid readers as reading provides them with new thoughts, the ability to imagine and the knowledge and wisdom inherent in those books. Children will start getting a unique type of satisfaction of a fulfilling experience and they will really start relishing reading books. A time will come when they will start hating television and will call it a ‘silly machine’. As they discover the pleasures of reading books, children will call the television screen disgusting, dirty and not worth watching at all. Children will be thankful to their parents and will start respecting them for inculcating the habit of reading in them. Once when children start reading, they will be exploring an altogether different world. Their imagination will take them to different levels and then they will be able to understand what fantasies and fairytales are. Even they will be able to create characters in their mind and remember them for life. These characters and stories will stay with them for a lifetime and will also give them good guidance and values which should be possessed in their growing years.
The poet has made use of a very interesting and simple rhyme scheme for readers to be amused and understand his point of view clearly. The rhyme scheme and different figures of speech have made it very clear for readers to understand the disadvantages of television and to enjoy the perks of reading.
Short Answer Questions
- How does TV control the activities of children?
Ans. TV makes children sit glued to it as children watch the TV open-mouthed. They never blink while watching the TV, which is really harmful to their eyes. Watching TV makes children lazy and inactive, as they keep sitting and adopt the wrong body posture while watching television.
- What does the poet witness in every house?
Ans. The poet has observed in every house that children watch television eagerly gaping at the screen. They loll and slop and lounge about it and stare until their eyes pop out. The poet believes that television is an idiotic thing which makes its viewers stupid and dull.
- What hypnotises children and how?
Ans. The poet says that TV hypnotises children. He has used a line saying 'until they are hypnotised by it' to indicate to readers the effect of television on children. They stare at the TV with so much attention that they almost get hypnotised by it. Similar to a hypnotised person who does whatever he is dictated, children imitate whatever is shown on TV.
- Why do the brains of children become soft as cheese?
Ans. Uninterrupted and continuous TV watching clogs the brain according to the poet. He also says that it kills the creativity of children. They just keep seeing what is being shown without thinking. There is nothing to imagine, as everything is being shown. This results in their brain becoming soft like cheese that cannot imagine or understand fantasies.
- What is the significance of writing some lines in capitals and repeating some words as the poet has used in some stanzas?
Ans. Capitalisation is the use of capital letters to convey an emotion of criticality, and repetition is the purposeful use of words and phrases again and again to create a smooth flow and emphasis. It stresses the view to never to install a TV set as it has a bad effect on children. The poet wants to convey the idea to not install a television set in the first place. This strong idea is conveyed using capital letters and repeating some words in lines and stanzas by the poet.
- What is the poet's intention behind the line 'HE CANNOT THINK—HE ONLY SEES'
Ans. The poet wants to warn parents about the ill effects of watching TV. This line clearly states that creativity and imagination of a child get damaged by watching TV every day. The child is lost in a virtual world oblivious of his surroundings and his analytic power does not develop. The poet categorically says that too much of watching TV spoils the creativity of children as they are not able to use their brain to understand things.
- Why are parents so concerned about the entertainment of children?
Ans. Parents are concerned about the entertainment of children as it is very important for the development of a child. If a child does not get entertained, he will get bored and eventually will be used to it. It will affect his growth adversely, while if he is entertaining himself, his mental and physical growth will be positive. According to the poet, parents put their children in front of the TV to complete their household activities without disturbance.
- What alternative has the poet suggested in place of the television set?
Ans. The poet directly asks parents how they spent their childhood when there was no TV set. He answers it himself saying that we all read. There were numerous books in every room of the house and nursery. The number of books around was so much that some of them were just waiting to be read. The poet suggests to not install the TV set at all but have a bookshelf filled with various books instead.
- How has the poet described the scene of the houses where people are fond of reading books?
Ans. The poet very beautifully describes the scene where there used to be no TV sets. At that time, children used to read books. There used to be a lot of books in the children's nursery, on the floor, in the bedroom and by the bed. The description suggests that at that time reading used to be a passion with children and half of the time was spent in reading books. This is how they kept themselves entertained and also kept their imagination and creativity alive.
- List some of the various characters listed by the poet.
Ans. The poet has listed many characters and stories that children used to like and read when there was no television. The cannibals used to eat a very sweet-smelling dish named after Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus in Homer’s epic poem ‘The Odyssey’. Apart from this, the poet has mentioned Mr Tod—the dirty rotter, Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland, Mrs Tiggy Winkle etc. He has mentioned stories that had various animals, smugglers, pirates, cannibals, dragons, gypsies, queens and whales.
- How does reading develop an imaginative mind?
Ans. Reading fairytales and adventure stories certainly develops a child's creative ability. Reading of books triggers a child’s thought process and makes his brain function more. This brain activity is very necessary to understand things around him. It also enhances the imaginative power as there is no ready image in front of him. He is reading something so he delves into the imagination to bring that image in his mind whether it is a dragon or a fairy or a fun adventure.
- What is the poet's honest request to parents?
Ans. At the end of the poem, the poet makes a final request to parents. He requests them to throw away their television set and install bookshelves in its place. He asks them to stuff the shelves with books and encourage children to read them. He knows this change will be difficult in the beginning, but he assures that once children get habituated to it, they will think why did they ever resort to television for entertainment at all.
Long Answer Questions
- How has the poet described the TV set to be an ‘idiotic thing’?
Ans. The poem ‘Television’ is a way the poet Roald Dahl has conveyed the harmful effects of installing a TV set at home. Dahl is critical of the television set and calls it an ‘idiotic thing’ out of aversion for it. The phrase ‘idiotic thing’ (even idiot box) is a transferred epithet, in the sense that it is not the television set that is idiotic, rather it produces dullness in the mind of those who watch it. He believes that it clogs and freezes the mind of young children. The poet advises parents never to install the ‘idiotic thing’ so as to save their children’s thinking and imagination from decaying. TV is not only idiotic but also a monster that hypnotises children and fills them with junk. Moreover, he believes that the ability to think of new ideas diminishes when a child passively engages in watching television. Watching too much television destroys children’s ability to create or understand the world of fantasy. With their minds clogged and cluttered, they become dull and thus loll and slop and lounge about. Their brain becomes soft and their thinking power rusts and freezes.
- Who has the poet addressed and what are his motives?
Ans. The poet Roald Dahl has addressed parents and guardians of the modern age. He is very critical of the overuse of television for children's entertainment. He thinks that it is a ridiculous machine which is responsible for killing the imagination of children. He says kids will turn into zombies and their brains will stop functioning if they continue this habit. He has time and again referred to and understood the views of parents. He knows that they put their children in front of the TV so that they are able to complete their household activities without any disturbance. He has directly addressed them asking how did they spend their childhood in the absence of television. He has not only remarked about the ill effects of a TV set but also provided a solution to this problem and has made an earnest request to all parents to ban TV completely. He suggests to replace it with a bookshelf instead. His motives are for the betterment of a child's brain.
- Why does the poet say that TV kills the imagination of children?
Ans. ‘Television’ is written by Roald Dahl. In this poem, the poet has described how a TV set takes a toll on the development and growth of a child’s mind. Imagination helps you to form a picture in your mind of something that you have experienced or thought about.
In today’s time, children sit for hours in front of the television set. A child in such case does nothing but just watches the TV. He does not think too much. He loses the capability to understand and respond to the environment around him. This ability to think of new ideas diminishes when a child passively engages in watching television. Watching too much television destroys the child’s abilities to create or understand worlds of fantasy.
This loss of creativity is pointed out by the poet explicitly in the poem.
- What is the importance of reading books?
Ans. The habit of reading opens up one’s mind and makes them imaginative. When they have to imagine the visuals of their books on their own, the horizons of their thinking are broadened. They will spend most of their time reading interesting and informative books which will educate as well as entertain them. It will have a great effect on their understanding and knowledge. Children will be well equipped with varied information about the world around them. The knowledge and other benefits that they gain from the pleasurable pastime of reading will make them thankful towards their parents. They will love their parents even more for saving them from the idiot box and making them read wonderful books.
- How can we infer the poet’s fascination with reading books and stories?
Ans. The poet Roald Dahl has made a strong statement about reading and has made his dislike for television very clear. He talks about the times when books were the only and most beloved pastime of children of all ages. He has enlisted a number of classics (like the works of Rudyard Kipling) which were hugely popular in those times. He has narrated how the youngest ones among children used to read the works of Beatrix Potter whose variety of funny characters had kept generations of children entertained. The poet has mentioned a number of fictional characters whose books were read by children and were hugely popular. The list of characters includes Penelope, Mr Todd, Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland, Mrs Tiggy Winkle, Mr Rat, Mr Mole etc. He has listed wonderful and fantastic stories that children preferred to read when there was no television. He has mentioned about stories involving dragons, gypsies, queens and whales. The stories had various animals and had treasures and quests.
- What is the moral learnt and conveyed from the poem ‘Television’?
What is the central idea of the poem television?
Ans. The central idea of the poem is that the poet associates television watching with loss of imagination and creativity of children. He hankers for the older days when life was simpler and people were fond of reading. Television makes children inactive and affects their body posture too. It is keeping children entertained at the cost of killing their creativity and imagination. The parent’s role in the development of children is crucial as they are the ones who mould their children’s habits and behaviour. It is parents who need to inculcate the habit of reading in children instead of letting them watch television. Reading is a very good habit and brain exercise for children. It enriches their mind and introduces them to a whole new world they never knew existed. It also boosts their imaginative power and makes them aware of things around. The poet makes an earnest request to parents to not install the TV set at all and install a bookshelf instead. This is the moral and central idea of this poem.
- Why do parents install the TV set in their houses?
Ans. In the poem ‘Television’, the poet Roald Dahl becomes very critical about the ill effects of television. The poet in a very amusing tone says that children do not indulge in hyper activities while watching TV like climbing out of a window, fighting and kicking each other as they remain glued to one place. A mother feels relieved and can complete her household chores without worrying too much about her children. While television is harmful and useless for a child, it proves to be useful and convenient for parents. Children remain quiet and occupied and do not disturb parents. They leave their parents free to cook lunch or wash utensils lying in the sink.
Apart from this fact, the poet also says that parents are concerned about the entertainment of their child, and therefore, they install the TV set. They do not realise that this TV set is keeping children entertained at the cost of killing their imagination and creativity.
- How has the poet described the addiction of watching TV?
What is the role of the TV set to make children inactive?
Ans. ‘Television’ is written by poet Roald Dahl. He has listed many points that justify his point and also requested parents to inculcate the habit of reading in children. The poet declares a TV set guilty of making children inactive. It makes children addicted to it so that they are not able to get rid of its spell. It confines them within a room in which it has been installed and forces them to stare at it continuously sitting or lying in one place and in the same posture. Under its spell, other physical activities become secondary so they are ignored. This ignorance of physical activity makes children inactive. Children are hypnotised by the device that they refuse to move or do anything. They will not even blink, and thus, their eyes are affected when sitting continuously or lazing around while watching TV. It also affects the body posture of a child. The poet described one of his experiences when he had visited a house. He observed children lying on the floor watching TV and lazing around. He has witnessed this scenario many times. He has commented that it leads to the addiction of watching television.
- Give your views either for or against throwing away the TV set from home.
Ans. As the poet Roald Dahl elaborates about the harmful effects of watching television on children, he also makes an appeal to inculcate reading. When he says to throw away the television set, he makes use of hyperbole. It is an exaggeration of expression done for emphasis. I am not in support of watching too much television, but I am definitely against throwing it away. Restricted and limited use of television should be permitted to children. A proper balance between watching TV and other activities should be maintained. There should also be a limit to the shows and channels that a child watches. If we maintain a limited use of the television set, it will not be harmful.
- How far do you agree with the poet's idea of reading books for entertainment? Justify your answer.
Ans. In the poem ‘Television’, the poet has discussed the ill effects of TV watching and also discussed the solution to it. The poet says that instead of throwing children in front of the TV set, parents should encourage them to read. I agree with the poet when he advises children to read books for entertainment. Books not only enhance your vocabulary but also open a new world for a child. It transports children to a different dimension where they are free to imagine and create new wonders. Reading of books triggers children’s thought process and makes them creative. This creative bent of mind further enhances personality. Unlike the television set, books give a glimpse into the past and serves as a portal for unknown mysteries as well.
- Is it possible to strike a balance between watching TV and reading books?
Give a reason to support your answer.
Ans. Yes, I think it is not possible to throw out the TV set from our houses but most certainly TV watching can be limited to a few hours. Parents too must sacrifice their habit of TV watching if they want their children to reduce TV watching hours. Moreover, the reading habit is to be inculcated right from childhood. Children cannot be expected to develop it overnight. A balance must be maintained between television watching and reading books. Parents need to schedule a time for children. They should also restrict what shows and channels are being watched by children. Children should be aware of the disadvantages of excess TV watching and the advantages of reading books that open a whole new world for them. If these things are maintained in the proper order, then television will not be of any problem for us. It should be used as a limited mode of entertainment.
- Can the transition from TV watching to reading books be done instantly? How?
Justify your answer.
Ans. No, the transition from TV watching to reading books cannot be done instantly. The transition is beset with difficulties for parents. The balance can be struck by parents by minimising TV watching on the condition that children equally spend time on reading books. Children will give dirty looks to their parents. They would probably show their anger and rebellion against them. Parents need to be patient and spend quality time with their kids to bring about this transition. There is a need to establish the value of reading books in a child's life, and kids themselves should develop the reading habit. Parents should read out books to their children in an interesting manner. Once children start taking interest in reading, they will spend less time watching TV and will be motivated to read more. In the modern household, especially in nuclear families, there are fewer people to interact with one another. Even in such cases, parents should try and make provisions in order to inculcate good habits like reading in children instead of watching too much television. Restricted use of television and more use of reading will help in maintaining a proper balance.
- Give a brief summary of the poem.
Ans. The poet has written this long but simple poem in order to make an appeal to parents of today’s world to replace the television set by a reading bookshelf filled with various sorts of books. The poet, in an effort to warn parents towards the ill effects of TV, asks them if they have considered what harm it does to their children when they continue to watch it for a long time. He says that it rots the sense in the head and kills the imagination dead. This is and should be the major concern for all parents. Television watching is a passive activity. It receives everything as it is. It blocks fresh thinking. So, it makes the child dull. He cannot distinguish between things. His brain becomes as soft as cheese and he loses the power to think and imagine things.
As he describes the harmful effects of a television set, he also asks parents about how we entertained ourselves when the TV was not present in every single house. In response, he says that we read books and that made our lives colourful. He requests parents to add colour to the lives of children of the modern age too. He asks them to replace the TV set with a bookshelf and use books for entertainment. Reading of books triggers a child’s thought process and makes him creative. This creative bent of mind further enhances his personality. Initially, children will not be very fond of this idea and may rebel against it. However, after they get used to it, there will be no turning back and one could allow their brains to get active. Children would be so enamoured by books that they will begin to wonder why they used to watch the stupid machine at all.
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