1. Comment on the tone of the poem.
The tone of the poem is that of sadness. Shirley Toulson looks at an old photograph of her mother and is reminded of her mother who is no more. She recalls the moment when her mother was twelve years old and looked sweet and happy.
2. What is the significance of the ‘cardboard frame?’
The cardboard frame or the photograph shows the lack of permanence of human life.
3. What emotions does the poet’s mother have when she looks at the photograph?
The mother feels nostalgic looking at her bygone years. She laughs out loud and tells her daughter how her cousins had dressed up for the beach. She recalls those days when she was innocent and playful.
4. What is silenced and how has it silenced the poet?
The death of the poet’s mother has silenced the poet. The poet is left without words, she has nothing to say.
5. ‘Each photograph is a memory.’ Justify the statement in the light of the poem.
Photographs are memories that are captured and kept for lifetime purposes. Shirley Toulson’s “A Photograph” captures one such moment when her mother was young and she went on a beach holiday with her cousins. Gone are these days of the mother and her cousins but the photograph manages to bring back those memories even after thirty years later. The laughter of the mother while seeing the photograph has become a past incident. But the photograph allows the poet to recall and revive the laughter through the image captured thirty years back. Therefore, photographs are indeed memories.
6. What does the word ‘cardboard’ denote in the poem? Why has this word been used?
The cardboard is a part of a photo frame that keeps the photograph intact. It is made of very stiff and hard paper. The poet has ironically used it in her poem, ‘The Photograph.’ This cardboard helps in keeping the photograph of the 12 year old girl safely intact who herself was of transient nature.
7. What has the camera captured?
The camera had captured the three girls, the pretty face of the poet’s mother who was a girl of twelve at that time. It has also captured the smiling faces of the two girl cousins Betty and Dolly. They are holding the hands of the poet’s mother.
8. What has not changed over the years? Does this suggest something to you?
Only the sea has not changed over the years. The pretty faces and the feet of the three girls have changed over time. They are transient because time spares none.
9. The poet’s mother laughed at the snapshot. What did this laugh indicate?
The poet’s mother laughed at the photograph which was taken years ago. In the photograph, she as well as her two little cousins stood holding each other’s hand. She laughed at all of them because they were heavily dressed up for the beach. Perhaps they looked funny to her. Their laughter indicated the youthful spirit.
10. What is the meaning of the line “Both wry with the laboured ease or loss”
Both the mother and the poet suffered a great sense of loss. The mother lost her childhood innocence and youthful spirit that the photograph had captured some years ago. On the other hand, the poet has lost the smile of her mother, which has become a thing of the past. Later, she loses her mother too.
11. What does “this circumstance” refer to?
The ‘circumstance’ here refers to the death of the poet’s mother. The photograph of her dead mother makes the poet nostalgic and brings sad feelings from the past. But the poet has nothing to say at all about the circumstance because death is inevitable.
12. The three stanzas depict three different phases. What are they?
The first stanza shows the poet’s mother as a twelve year old girl with a pretty smiling face. Then she is paddling with her two girl cousins on a beach. They all have a happy youthful laughter. This is before the poet was born. The second stage describes the middle-aged mother laughing at her own snapshot that was taken a long time back. The third stage describes the silence on the poet’s face at the death of her mother.
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