Toads by Philip Larkin – CHSE Alternative English

Stanza 1..

A ‘toad’ is a small amphibian species with an ugly look. It hibernates for long months, and is known to be not particularly agile.

In this poem, ‘toads’ has been used in a metaphoric sense.

Explanation .. The author is clearly an over-worked jaded person who finds his life robbed of all good things because of the heavy work burden. He wonders if he can get rid of the ‘toads’ or tiresome routine of work through wit and trickery.

Stanza 2 .. The author has to work for six days a week, so that he can earn just enough to ‘[ay his bills’. Here, ‘paying ones bills’ means ‘meeting the bare expenses of living. The author feels that it’s bad bargain, and he is losing out too much to gain too little.

Stanza 3 …The author argues that men of letters, and orators earn their living through lectures and talk shows. In the same way unsavoury characters manage to earn their living through acts that are hardly respectable. Even the assistans attached to doctors make a living although, just bare enough.

Stanza 4.. Even poor and the destitute living on roads manage to scavenge enough food to feed themselves. To fight off the cold, they keep fire buckets near them. Occasionally, they get tinned sardines (a rather costly food) to eat. None of these people starve.

Stanza 5.. Thwir children move around in bare feet as they can’t afford shoes. Their emaciated wives with their sunken faces don’t have to starve.

Stanza 6 .. Then the author wonders if he could resign his job, and tell the same bluntly to his boss. In second thought, he realizes that leaving the job could have catastrophic consequences for him as all his earnings would dry up.

Stanza 7 .. The author reasons that things are not that easy or simple. Just as the irksome toad, there is another toad inside him that is quite demanding and unforgiving. It does not give anything free.

Stanza 8 .. The second toad is quite hard-nosed. It does not allow any reverie where the comforts of life come on their own without toil. If one wants to marry a beautiful girl, or live a comfortable life, one has to work hard for it.

Stanza 9 .. The author realizes that the toads are quite separate from each other. However, they must co-exist in an individual to make up his bitter-sweet life. In other words, human life must have a component of luxury and comfort, and a component of slog, and sweat.

Questions and answers of Toads..

Q1. What does the poet mean by ‘Toads’?

Answer .. The word ‘Toads’ has been used as  metaphor to describe the innate tendency among humans to be shirkers, indolent, and parasitical. The other ‘Toad’ exerts the opposite influence on their hosts, driving the humans towards luxury, comfort, fame, and indulgence.

Q2. How do the two questions with which the poem begins set the tone of the poem?

Answer … The author obviously is irked by the  control the ‘toads’ exert on his life  making it so unbearably hectic and loathsome. He questions its intrusion, and wonders if he could expel it by using his wit.

The whole poem centers around human life so full of wok, and the unbearable burden it exert to cause so much suffering on him. However, he concludes that expelling the toad could bring poverty, drudgery, and want to life.

Q3. The thing that oppresses the poet ……………………..

Ans . Yes, the more the poet thinks about the ‘toad’, the more he loathes it. So, his indifference grows as he thinks about it more and more. It also shows how innately he dislikes the creature.

Q4. Which stanza expresses ………     ……….?

Ans .. Six days a week…………………………….proportion (2nd stanza)

Q5.. Identify the stanza …………………. (Stanza 3)

Q6.  What is the poet’s attitude ………….?

Ans. It’s one of sympathy. He cited this extreme example to drive home the point that one can still keep his pot boiling by being virtually without s job.

Q7. What can the poet mean by………………………

Ans .. By ‘unspeakable wife’, the poet wants to underline the wxretched appearance of the women.


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