Summary of the poem My Shadow
“My Shadow” has been written by Robert Stevenson and was first published in1885. The poem describes the excitement of a child who is innocently fascinated by his own shadow. It also illustrates the imaginations of a child and the pleasure that children obtain in ordinary things.
This poem is written from a young child’s perspective who finds pleasure in the company of his own shadow. Everyone has a shadow of himself, but the child is unable to comprehend the reason behind it. He is unable to understand why it resembles us, it acts like us, it jumps when we jump and when we run, it runs. The shadow can get taller, smaller and sometimes invisible, to his surprise. His innocent mind is of the opinion that the shadow fears being alone. That is why, all the time, he sticks to him.
One day, however, when he wakes up before sunrise, he sees the morning dew on the yellow flowers but he doesn’t find his shadow around him. Finding himself alone, he assumes that, because he does not understand the science involved in it, the shadow must be asleep and he thinks it’s lazy as it goes to bed in front of him. What attracts the reader, however, is the way the poet has captured the imagination of a child.
Major Themes in “My Shadow”
The main themes of this short poem are innocence, curiosity, surprise, and imagination of young children. The poem includes the joy of a child who is pleased with his own shadow, mesmerised and puzzled. He explains in detail how he is accompanied by his shadow. This description gives a clue to the child’s curious nature, who keeps an eye on his environment.
arrant – adj. Notorious in a way that is disapproved of; well-known. (Line 3, 4th stanza.)
coward – n. Somebody who is too easily or too greatly frightened. (line 3, 3rd
notion – n. 1. An idea, opinion, concept. 2. A vague understanding or impression. (Line 1, 3rd stanza.)
nurse – nursie – n. A person’s nurse, caretaker, or babysitter. Robert Louis
Stevenson had a nurse nicknamed “Cummie.” Her name was Alison Cunningham and he dedicated “A Child’s Garden of Verses” to her, “My second mother, my first wife.” (Line 4, 3rd stanza.)
shadow – n. A darkened shape on a surface that falls behind somebody or something blocking light. (line 1, 1st stanza; line 4, 3rd stanza; line 3, 4th stanza.)
quatrain – n. Any stanza unit of 4 lines, whether rhymed or unrhymed. The quatrain is the most common stanza form in English poetry.
stanza – n. A number of lines of verse forming a separate unit within a poem.
couplet: n. Many poems contain couplets.
1. A closed couplet: two lines that rhyme, one after the other, usually equal in length, and form a complete sentence or unit of meaning; and/or
2. An open couplet: two lines that rhyme but are separated by other lines in between.
Questions and Answers
Q.1. Who is the speaker of the poem in my shadow?
Ans. The poem is written in the first person. Since the speaker refers to the shadow as “he”, we can assume that the speaker is male. The main activities in which the speaker is engaged are “jumping” into bed and going out to play. These activities suggest that the speaker is a child.
Q. 2. What are the changes that occur in the poet’s shadow?
Ans. The poet’s shadow becomes sometimes very short, sometimes too long, straight, erect and change its position with time.
Q. 3. What does the speaker think of his shadow in Stanza 3?
Ans. In stanza 3 of the poem “My Shadow” the speaker thinks that his shadow is a coward and sticks to his body always. The speaker says that the shadow fears everyone and sticks to him more than he ever sticks to his nurse or babysitter.
Q. 4. What did the speaker find one morning before the sun was up?
Ans. The poet has written the poem mainly for children. On a fine morning, when the poet woke up he found shining dew in every buttercup. The dews were shinning like sunshine. It made the poet very happy. This is mainly related to a child’s enthusiasm and the positive nature of them.
Q. 5. Why is the Shadow funny?
Ans. The way the shadow grows makes it funny. It does not grow like proper children. It sometimes grows tall and sometimes gets very small. It sticks to a person and follows and jumps along with him.
Additional Questions With Answers
Q. What is the funniest thing about The Shadow?
Ans. The funniest thing about the Shadow according to the Author R.L. Stevenson is the way it grows. It doesn’t grow slowly like normal children. It doesn’t grow gradually. At times it’s so tall that it looks like a stretched rubber ball.
Q. Does a shadow grow like a proper child?
Ans. No, a shadow does not grow slowly like a proper child because it shoots up taller sometimes like an Indian-rubber ball but sometimes it turns small.
Q. Why does the child think that the shadow is so lazy?
Ans. My Shadow summary is a short poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson. The poem revolves around a child and his shadow. He is fascinated by his own shadow that moves with him. The child starts noticing things about his shadow. He notices that it resembles him. Moreover, he also sees that the shadow does the same things as the child. For example, when he is in bed, the shadow is doing the same thing. Sometimes it gets into bed even before the child does. But there are still some things that confuse the boy. It is that the shadow changes its size. Sometimes it grows very tall and sometimes it grows small. One day, the child decides to get up early on. He sees the dews of the flowers, but the shadow is absent. He assumes, therefore, that his shadow is so lazy that he still sleeps in bed.
For instance, when he gets in bed, the shadow does the same as well. Sometimes, it gets into bed before the child can. However, some things still confuse the child. It is that the shadow keeps changing its size. Sometimes, it grows very tall and other times it turns small. One day, the child decides to get up early. He notices dews on flowers but the shadow is missing. Thus, he assumes that his shadow is so lazy that it is still sleeping in bed.
Short Answer Questions
1. Who is ‘he’ in the poem?
‘He’ is the narrator’s shadow.
2. What do we call the device we use to give human characteristics to something that isn’t human? Can you find two examples of this in the poem?
Ans.The device we use to give human characteristics to something that isn’t human is called personification.
The answer may include: ‘He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;’
‘And I see him jump before me…’
‘The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow’
‘For he sometimes shoots up taller…’
‘And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all’
‘He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,’
‘…can only make a fool of me…’
‘He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;’
‘…like an arrant sleepy-head,’
‘Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.’
3. How many rhyming couplets are there in the poem?
Ans.There are eight rhyming couplets in the poem.
4. Why is the way the shadow grows ‘not at all like proper children’?
Ans. The way the shadow grows is not like proper children because proper children grow very slowly, whereas the shadow sometimes ‘shoots up taller’ or ‘gets so little that there’s none of him at all’. This is because when the sun is high in the sky, your shadow appears shorter and when the sun is low in the sky, your shadow is longer.
5. Use the text to help explain what a coward is. How do you know?
Ans. A coward is someone who lacks courage. We know this because the shadow stays close beside the child, who says they’d think “shame” to stick to their nurse (childminder or guardian) in the same way.
6. Who does the narrator mean when using the word ‘nursie’?
Ans. The narrator means someone who takes care of a child, like a nanny or a babysitter.
7. Does the language in the poem indicate that this is an old or modern poem? Give two examples to back up your answer.
Ans. Various answers which suggest that the language is old rather than modern, e.g. words such as notion, arrant, ought and nursie indicate that the poem is old as these words aren’t commonly used today.
8. In the final verse, which line gives the scientific reason as to why the narrator can’t see their shadow when they go outside? Explain your choice.
Ans. ‘One morning, very early, before the sun was up,’
The narrator couldn’t see their shadow because it was still dark, leading them to believe that the lazy shadow had stayed in bed.
1. Where does the shadow go and with whom? (Read line 1.)
A. The shadow goes in and out with the person in the poem. (Line 1.)
2. Does the person in the poem think the shadow is important? (Read line 2.)
A. No, he does not see of what use the shadow is. (Line 2.)
3. What happens when the person in the poem jumps on the bed? (Read line 4.)
A. He sees the shadow jump before him. (Line 4.)
1. What is the funniest thing about the shadow? (Read line 1.)
A. The way he grows. (Line 1.)
2.a. Does the shadow grow like children?
2.b. How do children grow? (Read line 2.)
A. b. Slow. (Line 2.)
1. Does the shadow know how children ought to play? (Read line 1.)
A. No, he hasn’t a notion or idea. (Line 1.)
2. Who does the shadow stick close to and seem like? (Read line 3.)
A. He stays so close to the person in the poem he seems like a coward. (Line 3.)
3. How would the person in the poem feel about sticking close to his nurse the way his shadow does? (Read line 4.)
A. He’d feel ashamed. ((Line 4.)
1. What happened to the shadow before the sun was up? (Read the 4th stanza.)
1. It could not be seen, unavailable like someone home in bed sleeping. (Line 4.)
Rhyme pattern in the poem:
The poem “My Shadow” has 4 quatrain stanzas containing 2 rhyming closed couplets in each stanza. Lines 1 & 2 rhyme and lines 3 & 4 rhyme in each stanza.
1st stanza: aabb; aa – me, see; bb – head, bed.
2nd stanza: ccdd; cc – grow, slow; dd – ball, all.
3rd stanza: eeff; ee – play, way; ff – see. me.
4th stanza: gghh; gg – up, buttercup; hh – sleepy-head, bed.