Summary of Television By Roald Dahl


The poet says that one important thing that they have learnt is to never let children get into the habit of watching television. In fact, he says it would be better to not install a television in one’s home. In every house that they have visited, the poet says that they have seen children transfixed by the television screen, spend long and inactive hours watching it. He says it’s easy to understand why mothers don’t mind because television viewing takes up children’s attention to an extent that it keeps them away from playing, running around, getting into mischief, fighting and bothering parents.

But, he says, they should stop and think about the effects of television on children’s minds, how it kills imagination and creativity, hinders the development of independent thought and reason and negatively impacts their mental qualities. They may well ask how they should keep the children occupied and entertained if they throw the sets away. Then, the poet proceeds to say that earlier, before the days of television, children would spend most of their time in reading books on various topics. So he begs parents to get rid of the television set and get a bookshelf in its place.

Questions and Answers

Reference to context

Read these lines taken from the poem and answer the questions that follow.


1. Or better ……………………………… at the screen.


a. Who is the poet addressing?

Ans:- The poet is addressing the parents.

b. What does he refer to as ‘idiotic’?

Ans:- He refers to the television as ‘idiotic’.

c. Who is ‘them’?

Ans:- The poet refers to the children as ‘them’.

d. What were they gaping at?

Ans:- They were staring at the television screen.


2. Oh yes ……….. cook the lunch.


a. Who or what does the poet mean by ‘it’ and ‘them’?

Ans:- The poet refers to the television as ‘it’ and the children as ‘them’.

b. How does ‘it’ keep ‘them’ still?

Ans:- Children get so engrossed in watching television that they barely engage in any other activity and become nearly immobile in front of the television set.

c. What point does the poet wish to make through these lines?

Ans:- The poet wishes to draw the attention of parents to the fact that spending hours in front of the television makes children inactive mentally and physically.


3. ‘All right!’ you…………. Please explain !’


a. Who does the poet refer to as ‘you?

Ans:- The poet refers to the parents as ‘you’.

b. What is the ‘set’?

Ans:- The television is being referred to as the ‘set’.

c. Why would they take the set away?

Ans:- The parents should take away the television as watching it makes the children’s minds dull, spoils their capacity for thought, imagination, comprehension and reason, and also discourages them from getting any physical and mental exercise.

d. How does the poet respond to this?

Ans:- The poet responds by asking parents to recall how children kept themselves engaged before the invention of television. He suggests that children should get back into the habit of reading books.


4. Just How……………used to know,


a. What is the poet referring to in these lines?

Ans:- The poet is referring to stories and characters from well-known children’s books.

b. Who used to know the books?

Ans:- Children used to know about these books.

c. Why is there a reference to books in this extract?

Ans:- The poet makes a reference to books in the context that reading was one of the most popular pastimes of children before television made its way into their lives. He urges parents to reintroduce reading and exploring the world of books to their children.

Extra Questions

EXTRACT I

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Q: What is the most important thing that the poet has learnt?

(i) The most important thing that the poet has learnt is that children should never be allowed to watch television as it fills their mind with junk. He has learnt that a better solution to the problem would be not to install a television set in their homes in the first place.

Q: What is referred to as an idiotic thing’ in the extract? Why do you think that poet advises not to install it?

ii) Television set is referred to as an idiotic thing”. The poet advises not to install it because it hypnotises and produces dullness in the minds of those who watch it.

Q: Describe what the poet sees at every house with television. Why is he upset with what he has seen?

Answer: In almost every house with television, children were seen lazing about all day and staring at the television screen without doing any productive work. It upsets him because he considers television as a monster that kills children’s imagination.

Q: Explain the figure of speech used in the lines: Last week in someone’s place we saw A dozen eyeballs on the floor.

Answer: The figure of speech used here is hyperbole, which uses exaggeration for emphasis or effect. To emphasize their hypnotic effects of television, the poet says that the previous week at someone’s place he had seen a dozen eyeballs rolling about on the floor.

Q: What purpose do the repetitions serve in the extract?

(a) Give two examples of repetition in the extract.

(b) What type of rhyming scheme is followed in the extract?

Answer: Repetitions are used in the above extract to emphasize that children should never be allowed to watch television as they just sit and stare at it without doing anything productive.

(a)

  • Is never, NEVER, NEVER, let
  • Them near your television set
  • They sit and stare and stare and sit

(b) The rhyming scheme followed throughout is aa, bb, cc, dd and so on.

EXTRACT II.

Q: The poet says “it keeps them still”. What keeps the children still? How?

Answer: The television set keeps the children still as it hypnotises them with all the junk that it telecasts.

Q: How does television prove to be useful and convenient for the parents?

Answer: Television proves to be useful for the parents because it keeps their children still and occupied. The children then do not indulge in unnecessary fights and let their parents do their household chores peacefully.

Q: According to the poet, what ill effects does TV have on children?

Answer: It produces dullness in their minds, It kills their imagination and thinking ability. It hypnotises them and fills them with junk.

Q: How does TV kill children’s imagination? Name and explain the figure of speech used here.

Answer :Watching too much television destroys the children’s ability to create or understand Worlds of fantasy, their mind gets clogged and cluttered, they became dull and their thinking power rusts and freezes. The ability to think of new ideas diminishes when a child passively engage in watching television. The use of capital letters and words such as ROTS, KILLS, CLOGS, CLUTTERS put stress on what television does to one’s imagination.

The figure of speech used here is personification. Here, not only he gives television the human ability to kill something but also gives imagination the ability to die at its hands.

Q: Do you think Dahl is critical of television in the lines above? Give reasons for your answer.

Answer: Yes, Dahl seems to be critical of television because he seems to highlight only the negative effects of television on children, such as It rots their senses,- kills their imagination,-clogs their mind,—makes them dull,—makes them incapable of understanding worlds of fantasy,— freezes their thinking power.

EXTRACT III

Q: Whose and what question is the poet answering in the above extract? What does he say in his answer?

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Answer: The poet here answers the parents’ query that if they take the television set away, what type of entertainment they would give to their children to keep them occupied.

The poet replies by asking parents to recall how children had kept themselves entertained by reading books before television was invented.

Q: What monster is the poet referring to in the above extract? How was the situation different before its invention?

Answer: The poet refers to television set as a monster that kills children’s imagination. Before television was invented, children would actively engage themselves only in reading. Books could be found everywhere — on the nursery shelves, on nursery floor, in the bedroom or by the children’s bed.

Q: THEY… USED… TO… READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ Some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!

What do these lines indicate about the style of the poem?

Answer: The following lines use repetition to create a smooth flow and to put emphasis on the fact that children used to only read books before monstrous television was invented. Moreover, the use of capital letters stresses on the word READ implying the importance of reading books.

Q: Why are some words printed in capital letters, while others printed in small letters?

Answer: This is done to catch the reader’s attention and emphasize that instead of watching television, children should engage themselves in reading as they used to do before television was invented.

(Note: Use of capital letters is equivalent to shouting).

Q: Comment on the use of visual imagery in the last four lines of the extract.

v) Once children start reading they get so involved in reading that there would be books everywhere. The last four lines describe such a scenario. There would be books everywhere. The nursery shelves would be filled with books. Books would be scattered on the floor and by the children’s bed.

EXTRACT IV.

Q: Which figure of speech is used in, “The younger ones had Beatrix Potter”? Give an example of the rhyming scheme in the extract.

(i) ) Figure of speech used here is Synecdoche. Example of the rhyming scheme: Potter, Rotter.

Q: Give the significance of the lines: Oh, books, what books they used to know, Those children living long ago!

ii) The poet remembers the time when children used to only read books. They used to read books filled with tales of treasure islands, voyages, smugglers, pirates, ships, elephants and cannibals. It was a time when young children travelled to an all-new adventurous world of animals with Mr Tod, Squirrel Nutkin, and Piling Bland.

Q: Why is the reference to “children living long ago” important in the above extract?

(iii) The reference is important because it transports the readers to a time before the television was invented when children used to read.

Q: According to the poet, what should be done to save children from hypnotism of television? State whether his suggestion is practical.
iv) The poet suggests that TV sets should be thrown out and should be replaced with bookshelves.

His suggestion does not seem to be practical as television is also a medium for education. Children can be guided to watch educational programs and newscasts.

Q: Give your views either for or against throwing away the TV sets from their houses.

(v) TV sets should not be thrown out of the houses. Dahl mentions only the negative aspects of television. Television has educational benefits as it is an audio-visual medium and can help children learn by watching. However, there is a need to maintain a balance between watching television and other activities.

EXTRACT V.

Q: The poet says, “Then fill the shelves with lots of books”. Why does he give this advice to the parents?

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(i) He gave this advice in continuation of his suggestion of throwing TV sets away. According to the poet replacing TV sets with bookshelves would be best as far as children are concerned.

Q: Who will give “dirty looks” and to whom? Why? What all other tantrums would follow this?

ii) Children will give dirty looks to their parents when their TV sets would be replaced with bookshelves filled with books. Children would then scream and yell and fight with their parents.

Q: Despite children screaming and yelling, the parents are advised to “fear not”. Why?

iii) The parents are advised to “fear not” because their children’s tantrums would be temporary; what would be permanent is their love for books which would soon follow.

Q: Is it important to instil in children the need to read books? Why?

(iv) Yes. Watching television for hours makes the children dull and passive. It kills their imagination; on the other hand, reading books will help them to travel to new and exciting worlds of ‘dragons, gipsies, queens and whales.” Dahl remembers his days when television was not invented and children would spend their time reading; a time when nursery floor and the side of their beds were filled only with books; a time when young children travelled to an all adventurous world of animals with Tod, Squirrel Nutkin and Pigling Bland.

Q: The poet advises children to read books for entertainment. How far do you agree with his advice?

v) To develop a habit of reading books is an important advice that the poet gives. Reading transfers one to a beautiful world of imagination and fantasy. Reading fills one’s heart with true joy and happiness. But the poet appears to advise reading for entertainment, which seems to be a limited approach. There are other artistic fields that a child can venture into like painting, theatre, games, dance, singing etc.

EXTRACT VI.

Q: What will “they start”? How does the poet feel about it? Which words tell you so?

Answer: It refers to children’s act of starting to read books once television is uninstalled from their houses. The poet feels very excited about it as he employs an easy, delightful and cheering tone while talking about books. His excitement is reflected through: “oh boy, oh boy”

Q: According to the poet, reading books would fill children’s hearts with joy. Do you agree? Give a reason for your answer.

Answer: Yes. Watching television for hours makes the children dull and passive. It kills their imagination; on the other hand, reading books will help them to travel to new and exciting worlds of ‘dragon, gipsies, queens and whales.”

However, the medium of children’s joy cannot be limited to one activity. Children should be able to experience other artistic

Q: Comment on the poet’s different use of language for television and the books.

Answer: He has a strong dislike for television and he describes it as nauseating, foul, unclean, monstrous and idiotic. However, he firmly believes that reading is a powerful tool for learning and considers bookshelf “lovely” and associates “joy and happiness” with reading books.

Q: How, according to the poet, can children benefit from reading books?

Answer: The poet suggests that TV sets should be thrown out and should be replaced with bookshelves.

His suggestion does not seem to be practical as television is also a medium for education. Children can be guided to watch educational programs and newscasts.

Q: Give the negative aspects of watching television as stated in the extract.

Answer: The television is a “ridiculous machine”-a silly invention of modern science that does not have any positive effect. It is “nauseating” and disgusting to watch. It is “foul”, morally bad and offensive. It is “unclean” as it telecasts only “junk”. The television screen thus is repulsive.

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