Literature and Life – Shel Silverstein

22 Jan

The Little Boy and the Old Man by Shel Silverstein:




Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.
Q1: What is the underlying message that is being conveyed in this poem?
Q2: Has Shell Silverstein used any particular poetic technique that brings out this message more clearly?



Ans1: The underlying message of this poem is that the old man and little boy thinks only about their current life. Not their past or future.


Ans2: Yes, the poetic device he applied in the poem is dialogue to bring out more life to the conversation between the old man and little boy.





Messy Room:








Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
His underwear is hanging on the lamp.
His raincoat is there in the overstuffed chair,
And the chair is becoming quite mucky and damp.
His workbook is wedged in the window,
His sweater’s been thrown on the floor.
His scarf and one ski are beneath the TV,
And his pants have been carelessly hung on the door.
His books are all jammed in the closet,
His vest has been left in the hall.
A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,
And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.
Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
Donald or Robert or Willie or–
Huh? You say it’s mine? Oh, dear,
I knew it looked familiar!


Q1: Can you say that the poem is humourous? If so, how?


Q2: What aspect of the human character has been highlighted in this poem?



Ans 1: Yes. The poet has exaggerated a lot by describing the messiness of the room. The room was in a mess and the persona could find fault in it and pointing fingers to whose room it belongs too. However, the persona fails to recognise that the room belongs to him.



Ans 2: It shows how people are quick to point fingers and find fault in others but never realises one self’s mistakes. When we point a finger at others, there will be three pointing back to us.





Clooney The Clown:



I’ll tell you the story of Cloony the Clown
Who worked in a circus that came through town.
His shoes were too big and his hat was too small,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.
He had a trombone to play loud silly tunes,
He had a green dog and a thousand balloons.
He was floppy and sloppy and skinny and tall,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.
And every time he did a trick,
Everyone felt a little sick.
And every time he told a joke,
Folks sighed as if their hearts were broke.
And every time he lost a shoe,
Everyone looked awfully blue.
And every time he stood on his head,
Everyone screamed, “Go back to bed!”
And every time he made a leap,
Everybody fell asleep.
And every time he ate his tie,
Everyone began to cry.
And Cloony could not make any money
Simply because he was not funny.
One day he said, “I’ll tell this town
How it feels to be an unfunny clown.”
And he told them all why he looked so sad,
And he told them all why he felt so bad.
He told of Pain and Rain and Cold,
He told of Darkness in his soul,
And after he finished his tale of woe,
Did everyone cry? Oh no, no, no,
They laughed until they shook the trees
With “Hah-Hah-Hahs” and “Hee-Hee-Hees.”
They laughed with howls and yowls and shrieks,
They laughed all day, they laughed all week,
They laughed until they had a fit,
They laughed until their jackets split.
The laughter spread for miles around
To every city, every town,
Over mountains, ‘cross the sea,
From Saint Tropez to Mun San Nee.
And soon the whole world rang with laughter,
Lasting till forever after,
While Cloony stood in the circus tent,
With his head drooped low and his shoulders bent.
And while the world laughed outside.
Cloony the Clown sat down and cried.




Q1: Explain the irony in this poem.
Q2: Does Shel Silverstein manage to convey some harsh realities in this poem?
Q3: What poetic devices has the poet used to effectively convey his message?


Ans 1: The ironic part in this poem is that Cloony tried to be funny by performing tricks he did but to no avail. He then tried to tell the folks how sad and hurt he felt. Cloony thought that he would gain sympathy from the folks but all he got was laughter from the sadistic folks. In the beginning, Cloony tried to be funny but he did not succeed. However, when he tried to pour his sorrows to the people, all he got was laughter.


Ans 2: Yes, he has.  The harsh realities are that people do not understand each other well and they would rub salt in peoples’ wounds.


Ans 3: Well, the poet has used poetic devices like alliteration to emphasize how the folks laughed at him: “Hah-Hah-Hahs” and “Hee-Hee-Hees.” Also, irony was used in the poem to describe how the people responded to Cloony’s jokes and misery.

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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


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