“Dear Mum” poem by Brian Patten

Dear Mum Summary

‘Dear Mum’ is a comic poem written by Brian Patten. It is actually a letter written by a child to his mom who wasn’t at home and he spent the day alone. It reveals the child’s inappropriate behaviour. He had broken the cup and vase brought from China by his mother’s grandfather. However, the mischievous child claims that he has no idea how this happened. He claims that he did not turn on the water, but the water began to overflow mysteriously. He had taken the jam and left the jam stain on the kitchen wall, but he claims to his mother that these strange things happened on their own and that there were ghosts in the house. So, this poem is about a child’s innocence and how he tries to conceal from his mother the mischievous things he has done.

We know, as Mum will know, that a cup can’t break itself and that our protagonist is responsible. So too is he responsible for everything he tries to absolve himself of in the poem – and that’s its joke. Yet here Patten’s also making a poetic joke: he’s using a type of metaphor – a poetic lie – called personification to embody the protagonist’s thoughts. Personification pretends that inanimate objects are alive, and this poem has several as well as the self breaking cup: magically appearing jam stains and self-cracking vases. It’s like a magic imagined world has come alive.

There’s a growing irony too in the poem: the more the poetic voice claims innocence, the more we realise they are guilty.

In terms of its form, Patten employs shifting irregular line lengths and no strict verse form or rhyme scheme – though he does end his poem with a rhyming couplet, which just finishes it off with a flourish:

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Questions and Answers

Q No 1. What happened to the following things at home? Complete the table.

1. The cup: The cup broke on its own.

2. The blue vase: There was a crack on a blue vase.

3. The sink: The tap was open, and the sink overflowed.

4. The washing machine: There was a cat in the washing machine, and it began to run on its own.

5. The flour: The flour managed to raise on its own.

6. The new white carpet: Muddy footprints appeared on the new white carpet.

Q. No 2. Who do you think might have really caused these things to happen?

Answer: The child in the poem might have really caused these things to happen.

Q. No 3. The child in the poem says, “… without me even turning on the tap, the sink mysteriously overflowed.”

(a) Is this possible?

Ans: No, this is not possible.

(b) What might have caused the sink to overflow?

Ans. The child must have opened the tap which caused the sink to overflow.

(c) Explain the meaning of ‘mysterious’ in this line.

Ans. Here, mysterious means nobody knows how these things happened.

Q No. 4a. Which phrase suggests that the child might have caused the jam stain on the kitchen wall?

Ans. The phrase that suggests that the child might have caused the jam stain on the kitchen wall is:

‘A strange jam stain about the size of a boy’s hand.’

Q. No 4b. Which lines suggest that the child is scared of his mother’s reaction?

Ans. The following lines suggest that the child is scared of his mother’s reaction: ‘knowing you are going to have fit; I’ve gone to Gran’s house for a bit…’

Q. No 4c. Which four words create a sense of mystery in the poem?

Ans. The four words that create a sense of mystery in the poem are:

  1. mysterious
  2. strange

  3. magic

  4. haunted

Q. No 5. Which of the things that the boy describes is most unbelievable?

Ans. ‘The cat turning on the washing machine’ is the most unbelievable thing that the boy describes in the poem.

Q. No 6. Think of five words to describe the boy in the poem. Ans. Five words to describe the boy in the poem are:

  1. mischievous
  2. intelligent

  3. clever

  4. resourceful

  5. creative

Q. No 7. Why do you think the child writes a letter to his mum? What would you do in a similar situation?

Ans. The child writes a letter to his mum as he knows that she will be angry at him. By writing the letter he tells her what has happened but is not at home to face her immediate anger. I would do the same in a similar situation.

B. Answer these questions:

1. Does the title of the poem give us any clue about its structure? Explain.

Ans: Yes, the title gives us a clue about its structure. The letter is addressed to ‘Mum’ so we can assume that it is written by a child and a child always writes
when he has done some naughty things.

2. What did the child do after so many things had gone wrong?

Ans: The child went to his granny’s house after so many things had gone wrong.

4. Why do you think the child wrote a note to his mother?

Ans: The child wrote a note to his mother because he knows that his mother will get very angry when she will see the condition of the house.

Textual Questions

1. What happened to the blue vase? Was the vase precious to the mother? Why?
Ans. A crack happened to the blue vase. Yes, the vase was precious to the mother her great dad had bought it from China.

2. Where is the cat? How do you think it got there?
Ans. The cat is in the washing machine. The child might have put the cat in the washing machine.

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3. Whose footprints are on the carpet?
Ans. The child’s footprints are on the carpet.

4. Is the house really haunted? Why do you think so?
Ans. No, the house was not really haunted. All the strange that the child wrote to his mother were actually done by himself.

5. Does the boy think his mother will believe him? How can you tell?
Ans. The child does not think that his mother would believe him. The child says that he was going to his grandparent’s house for a while because he knew that his mother would have chid or beat him when she returns to the house.

6. Do you think the boy is clever? Give a reason for your answer.
Ans. The boy is naughty and clever. The power of imagination helps him to write a letter to his mother. The boy knows that his mother would never believe him and she would be cross with him when she would come back and so he went to his grandparent’s house before she returned.

7. Should children be allowed to be mischievous?
Ans. Yes, children should be allowed to be mischievous. However, parents should check their mischief from time to time lest they should go off hand.

8. What would you do if you were in Mother’s place and you returned home and realized what had happened?
Ans. If I had been at Mother’s place, I would have returned home and laughed on reading the letter. Then I would have cleaned up the mess in the house before going to pick up my son from my parents’ house. I would talk to him, explain things to him, and teach him that he should not destroy valuable items but follow good habits. I would also have told him to go outside and play with his friends in the park.

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