The poem ‘A Photograph’ is written by Shirley Toulson, and through this beautiful literary piece, she tries to convey her mother’s loss. She reminisces about her mother, and by looking at the photograph, she remembers her mother’s carefree days when she was 12 years old. She cannot bear the loss and can’t even express it adequately.
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About The Poet: The Summary Of A Photograph
Shirley Toulson was a writer, journalist, and poet who has also given her services in the Auxillary Territorial Service during World War 2. Through this poem, she tried to explain her loss and remember her mother’s laughing and smiling face when looking at a photograph pasted on the cardboard.
The poem is a paean to her mother while she was looking at a photograph pasted on cardboard. The picture shows three girls each holding mother’s hands from the side and it was clicked on a sea beach when her mother was 12 years or so with her girl cousins, Betty and Dolly.
Her uncle clicked their photograph and the poet was allured by her mother’s sweet face. The sea touched her terribly transient feet which explains that nature remained unchanged but humans are mortal and could remain with us forever. The beach holiday looked like her mother’s favorite memory and she laughed by looking at her as hoe they were dressed. They cherish those memories but felt bad as they all could not relive those moments again.
Now, the poet’s mother had deceased for 12years and the poet is unable to explain her sorrow for her lost mother.
Let’s get started with the poem explanation to get a better understanding of the poet’s views.
The cardboard shows me how it was When the two girl cousins went paddling, Each one holding one of my mother’s hands, And she the big girl — some twelve years or so
The first stanza explains that the poet was looking at an old photograph pasted on a cardboard sheet. The picture shows three girls walking on the sea beach each holding their hands. The girl who is standing in the middle is the tallest and oldest, the other two are her cousin and probably younger. The girl in the middle was the poet’s mother and was around 12 years or so at that time.
- Paddling; walking; move through the water along the sea coast.
All three stood still to smile through their hair At the uncle with the camera. A sweet face, My mother’s, that was before I was born. And the sea, which appears to have changed less, Washed their terribly transient feet
In the above lines, the poet describes the way the picture was taken. Her mother’s uncle clicked and told them to pose for the picture. All three stood still to pose for the photograph. Their hair was all strewn over their face and it grabbed the poet’s attention. She mentioned her mother’s sweet face. The photograph was taken long ago when her mother was in childhood days enjoying her carefree days. The poet calls their feet ‘Terribly transient” as they were young then and now old.
- Transient – short-term; temporary
Some twenty-thirty — years later She’d laugh at the snapshot. “See Betty And Dolly,” she’d say, “and look how they Dressed us for the beach.” The sea holiday
After 20-30 years later, she laughed at the picture and would tell the poet to look at her cousins Dolly and Betty and how they all were dressed for the beach holiday.
- Snapshot – photograph
Was her past, mine is her laughter. Both wry With the labored ease of loss. Now she’s been dead nearly as many years As that girl lived. And of this circumstance There is nothing to say at all. Its silence silences.
The poet remembers the beach holiday and she knows that it was the mother’s most cherished memory of the past. While the poet’s most cherished memory was her mother’s smiling and laughing at the picture. They both tried to compensate for their loss. Then the poet says that her mother died 12 years ago the same age as that of the photograph. She was unable to express her grief as death has also silenced her mother.
- Wry – ironic; mocking
- Silences – a complete absence of sound
A Photograph: Literary Devices
- Alliteration – Stood still; Through their; My mother’s; Terribly transient; Silence silences
- Oxymoron – Laboured ease
- Epithet – Terribly transient
A photograph Multiple Choice Questions
After a change in the assessment scheme and the rationalization of the syllabus, we are providing you all with the MCQs of A photograph to be able to know the latest pattern and be prepared for the examinations. Let us look at some important multiple-choice questions.
1. What was the last phase in the poem?
- After her mother died
- After she has grown up
- After her mother grew up
- None of the above
Ans- after her mother died
2. What Epithet literary device was used in the poem?
Ans- terribly transient
3. What is the meaning of the word wry’?
None of the above
4. What was the favorite memory of the poet?
Her mother’s memories
Her mother’s laughter
Her own vacation memories
Her childhood memories
Ans- her mother’s laughter
5. After how many years did her mother laugh on seeing the photograph?
6. Who took the photograph of her mother with her cousin?
Her mother’s friend
Ans- her uncle
7. Who is on both sides of her mother?
Cousins, betty, and dolly
Cousins, Dolly and Adam
Ans- Cousins, Betty and Dolly
8. How many people were in the photograph?
Two girls and one boy
Only her mother
Ans- three girls
9. What was the age of the poet’s mother when the photograph was taken?
Eleven years old
Twelve years old
Thirteen years old
Fourteen years old
Ans- twelve years old
10. Who is the poet of the poem’ A Photograph’?
Ans- Shirley Toulson
NCERT Solutions of Class 11 Poem A Photograph
Q1. What does the word ‘cardboard’ denote in the poem? Why has this word been used?
The word cardboard denotes the photograph pasted on a hard thick paper. This word has been used to refer to a practice in the past when photographs were pasted on cardboard and framed with a glass front to preserve them.
Q2. What has the camera captured?
The camera has captured the three girls—the poet’s mother and her two cousins, Betty and Dolly, in their swimming dresses with the poet’s mother in the middle and the two cousins on either side holding her hands and walking feet in seawater.
Q3. What has not changed over the years? Does this suggest something to you?
The sea has not changed over the years. Its waves are as fresh, shining, and tireless as they were years ago. The changelessness of the sea reminds us of the changes in the human face with advancing age.
Q4. The poetess’s mother laughed at the snapshot? What did this laugh indicate?
This laugh’ indicated her joy at remembering an incident connected with her past life when she was quite young and free from the tensions and worries of life.
Q5. What is the meaning of the line “Both wry with the labored ease of loss”.
The sea holiday and the laughter of the poet’s mother are incidents of the past. There is a sense of loss associated with them. Both are amusing yet disappointing as the state of feeling comfortable or relaxed is unnatural or forced. This sense of loss is quite painful to bear.
Q6 What does ‘this circumstance’ refer to?
This circumstance refers to the death of the poet’s mother.
Q7. The three stanzas depict three different phases. Name them.
The girlhood of the poet’s mother—the period before the birth of the poet.
- Her middle age—the period during the childhood of the poet
- The period after the death of the poet’s mother.
A photograph Extract Based Question
Now she’s been dead for nearly as many years As that girl lived. And of this circumstance There is nothing to say at all. Its silence silences.
1. How long has the poet’s mother been dead?
The poet’s mother has been dead for about twelve years.
2. What is the meaning of the word ‘ circumstance’ in this poem?
The word circumstance in the poem means the death of the poet’s mother.
3. Why is there nothing to say at all?
There is nothing to say at all because the poet has lost her mother and her beautiful smile forever.
4. What silences the silence?
The silence of death silences the silence.
A Photograph: Extra Question and Answers
1. Describe the three girls as they pose for the photograph?
The three girls went to the sea beach to be photographed by their Uncle. The younger cousins were holding hands with the elder cousin. They smiled through their hair as they stood still for a photograph.
2. Why would the poet’s mother laugh at the snapshot?
The poet’s mother would laugh at the snapshot as it would revive her memories of the old happy days on the sea beach and the strange way in which they were dressed for the beach.
3. What are the losses of the poet’s mother and the poet?
The poet’s mother’s loss is of her old happy days on the sea beach while the loss of the poet is the beautiful smile of her mother as she is now dead.
4. The entire poem runs through the lament of the loss of something near and dear. Which feeling is presented prominently here?
The nostalgic feeling is presented prominently in the poem.
We have penned down the line-by-line explanation of the class 11th poem A Photograph by Shirley Toulson along with the ncert solutions and multiple-choice questions to meet the demands of the current scenario of the new assessment scheme.