A Photograph Summary in English by Shirley Toulson
A Photograph by Shirley Toulson About the Poet
|Born||20 May 1924, Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom|
|Died||15th May 2014|
|Education||B.A Literature from Brockenhurst College in London|
|Books||The Drovers, The Celtic Year a Celebration of Celtic Christian Saints Sites and Festivals More|
A Photograph Summary in English
The poet views the photograph, taken before she was bom, of her mother and her two cousins. It was of the three girls, when they went to the beach. The two cousins were younger than the narrator’s mother, who was about twelve years old then. Both the cousins were on either side of the mother holding her hands. The three of them smiled at the camera as the uncle clicked the photograph. The camera had caught them smiling as the breeze ruffled their hair.
The poet notices her mother’s sweet face of a time before she was bom. Her face had changed much, unlike the sea which had remained unchanged. The sea washed their unbearably short-lived feet. The mother is now dead. The poet recalls how twenty or thirty years later her mother would look at the photograph and recall with amusement how, as young girls, they had been dressed for the beach. She had been out for a holiday to the beach years ago and felt nostalgic about it, just as the poet felt when she relived the memories of her mother. She recalled with pain the memories of her mother’s laughter. She found it difficult to come to terms with her mother’s death. She remembers her mother who died a long time ago: she has now lived without her for almost half of her life; and this fact overwhelms her into silence.
A Photograph Summary Questions and Answers
Read the lines and answer the questions that follow.
The cardboard shows me how it was
When the two girl cousins went paddling,
Each one holding one of my mother’s hands,
And she the big girl—some twelve years or so.
All three stood still to smile through their hair
At the uncle with the camera….
a. What does the ‘cardboard’ denote?
It is a photograph.
b. What is seen on the cardboard?
On the ‘cardboard’ three girls can be seen—one of whom is the poet’s mother.
c. What were they doing?
They were playing in water near the seashore.
d. Why were the girls holding the poet’s mother’s hand?
The poet’s mother was a little older than the two of her cousins, around twelve years old, and was thus holding on to their hands.
e. What was the uncle doing?
The uncle was clicking their photograph.
f. Where is the mother now?
The poet’s mother is dead.
g. “All three stood still to smile through their hair.” What does this suggest?
They were smiling with tousled hair over their faces because of the breeze.
h. Who were the other two girls?
The two girls were the poet’s mother’s cousins—Betty and Dolly.
2. A sweet face,
My mother’s, that was before I was born.
And the sea, which appears to have changed less,
Washed their terribly transient feet.
a. Who is the ‘I’ in these lines?
The poet is the ‘I’ in these lines.
b. What did she feel about her mother?
The poet thought her mother had a sweet face.
c. What has not changed?
The sea has remained unchanged over the years.
d. What has changed?
The faces of the people have changed. They are older. The poet’s mother is dead.
e. What is suggested by the words ‘transient feet’?
The words suggest the transience of life.
f. Name the poetic device used in the line: “Washed their terribly transient feet.”
(a) transferred epithet
3. Some twenty—thirty—years later
She ’d laugh at the snapshot. ‘See Betty
And Dolly, ’ she ’d say, ‘and look how they
Dressed us for the beach. ’ The sea holiday
Was her past, mine is her laughter, Both wry
With the laboured ease of loss.
a. Who is the ‘she’ in these lines?
The poet’s mother is referred to as ‘she’ in these lines.
b. What was she looking at?
She was looking at her photograph that was clicked twenty to thirty years back.
c. Who were Betty and Dolly?
Betty and Dolly were cousins of the poet’s mother.
d. Why was she amused?
She was amused at the way she and her cousins were dressed for the beach.
e. What are the two things that are ‘a matter of the past’?
(a) To the poet’s mother, her childhood is a thing of the past.
(b) To the poet, her mother’s laughter was a thing of the past.
f. What is suggested by ‘the laboured ease of loss’? Name the poetic device used.
It was a painful effort to recall the time that has so easily slipped away. The poetic device used is oxymoron.
4. Now she’s been dead nearly as many years
As that girl lived. And of this circumstance
There is nothing to say at all.
Its silence silences
a. Who had been dead many years?
The mother has been dead for many years.
b. Who is that girl?
The young girl is the mother, aged twelve.
c. Why does the poet say “As that girl lived”?
To the mother, the little girl was the past that was true a long time back just as the mother was a living reality to the poet years back.
d. Explain: “Its silence silences”. Name the poetic device used.
The stillness of the photograph and the overwhelming sense of her mother’s loss mutes the poet. The poetic device used is paradox.