Summary of Television by Roald Dahl

Summary of Television

‘Television’ consists of a total of 94 lines. These lines are not separated into stanzas. Here they are divided into meaningful segments for ease of comprehension.

Lines 1-6:

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.

In these lines, Roald Dahl is addressing all British parents and telling them that the most important thing one must learn while raising children is to keep them away from the television set. He also says that it is possible to come to a better solution to the problem by not installing a television set in their homes in the first place.

Lines 7-12:

In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)

In these lines, Dahl speaks as if he has undertaken a long research on the bad effects of watching television by visiting a large number of households in Britain. In most houses, he has found the children lazing about all day and staring at the television screen without doing any productive work at all. Next, he indulges in a bit of exaggeration that is nonetheless amusing when he says that sometimes the children stare so hard that their eyeballs fall off & he has seen a dozen eyeballs rolling about on the floor in one house.

Lines 13-16:

They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.

In these lines, Dahl says that children entire attention is captured  by the television screen and they cannot concentrate on anything other than what they are watching.

Lines 17-24:

Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?

In these lines, Dahl admits that he knows that television can be a convenient way to keep children occupied. While watching television, children never cause trouble or throw tantrums. As a result, their parents can go about doing their household chores without any interruption. However, parents do not stop to consider what television might do to their children.

Lines 25-33:


These lines are written in capitals to emphasize that they carry the main message of the poem. This message is that watching too much television fills up the mid of children with useless facts while at the same time destroying their ability to create or understand worlds of fantasy in their imagination. It takes away their ability to think and they can only keep staring at the television screen

Lines 34-37:

‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’

In these lines, Dahl anticipates what the parents’ next question would be. They might agree to take away the television set from their children but will ask how they are supposed to now keep their children entertained and occupied

Lines 38-41:

We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’

In these lines, Dahl tells parents that they cannot have forgotten how children kept themselves entertained before the recent invention of the television.

Lines 42-48:

Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
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!

In these lines, Dahl says that before the coming of television children would read and it is a shame that now they don’t.

Lines 49-52:

The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!

In these lines, Dahl creates the alternate landscape that has been mentioned in the section on the poem’s setting. In this landscape, children’s rooms are filled to the brim with books.

Lines 53-62:

Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)

In these lines, Dahl talks about the kind of typical fantasy stories that the children would read in his day. These were stories of adventure with many interesting characters.

Lines 63-72:

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!

In these lines, Dahl pays a tribute to another children author like him- Beatrix Potter. Potter’s books were known for the use of animals as characters, and the various colourful illustrations.

Lines 73-80:

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-

In these lines, Dahl makes an earnest appeal to parents to throw away their television set and replace it with a bookshelf, ignoring all the objection of their children.

Lines 81-85:

Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.

In these lines, Dahl feels sure that sooner or later the children will turn to reading books to pass the time.

Lines 86-94:

And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

In these lines, Dahl says that the children will not be able to stop reading books once they have started & then will wonder why they had ever liked watching television. In the end the children will thank their parents for introducing them to books. You may go through the critical analysis of the poem here.

You can also check out this video playlist for this poem to learn through an audio-visual format!

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