Television Poem Summary in English by Roald Dahl

Television Poem Summary in English and Hindi Pdf. Television Poem is written by Roald Dahl.

Television Poem Summary in English by Roald Dahl

Television Poem About the Poet

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was the most popular British writer of his times. His writings, both for children and adults, are still very popular. In 2008 the well-known newspaper The Times placed him 16th on the list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.” Born in Wales, he avoided university education and went on an expedition to Newfoundland. He served as a fighter pilot during the World War II. His works for children include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits, etc. Tales of the Unexpected meant for the adults is quite popular.

His main aim in writing is to entertain and edify his young readers. So he uses a light, amusing tone most of the time. His children’s books champion the kind-hearted and castigate the inhuman villains. Most of his works have been translated in several languages of the world. Among the important awards he received were the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Award as Children’s Author of the Year in 1990.

Television About the Poem

All about the Poem Television:
The poem ‘Television’ is a didactic poem. It makes an earnest appeal to the parents to wean their children from watching television. In their craze for the idiot box, children have lost their innocence and interest in reading books.

‘Television’ by Dahl is a long, didactic poem written in a light tone with a message that is relevant in our times. It is an earnest appeal to parents to wean their children from watching television to reading of books. In their craze for the ‘idiot box’, children have lost their innocence.

They have become unruly and disobedient. They are no longer interested in the world of fantasy in children’s stories. The poet is saddened that watching television in excess makes children dull and unimaginative. So the parents must throw the television set out of their homes and replace it by a set of books. They will at first face bitter opposition but later they will be thanked for this thoughtful, good action. Dahl’s opposition to TV watching is because of it being a passive process during which we are not as actively engaged with the material as we are during the process of reading. This passivity makes our brain slow and strained.

Television Poem Theme

I. Watching Television
The poet describes the television set as the ‘idiot box’ out of his aversion to it. Those who continue to watch television are, in fact, involved in a passive process. They are not actively engaged with the stuff that they watch. They receive and accept it as it is. This is contrary to what happens when we read something interesting. We remain active and alert, and use our mental faculties, sharpening our brain. No wonder, Dahl prefers reading books to watching television.

II. Death of Imagination
Dahl was primarily a story writer and a thinker. He wrote stories for children with the view to inducing them to imagine those things which they cannot see, feel or touch. This is possible only if children are possessed of keen imagination. He was distressed to find that children who begin to prefer television watching to reading of books accept only the things which are visible. They no longer want to enter the world of fantasy. Dahl rightly thinks that television has pronounced the death of imagination, which is essential for creativity. In this sense, he was far ahead of his time in warning the parents against too much television watching by the young ones.

III. Habit of Reading
An important theme of the poem is that reading books is a very useful activity for the children. It must be encouraged by the parents by replacing the television with lots of books. Dahl wants the children to read whatever interests them. Once they have begun to read books they will simply wonder why they have wasted a lot of time in watching the ‘idiot box’.

Television Poem Summary in English

Opposed to Television at Home
‘Television’ is a poem that gives a rude shock to the young TV watchers. However, it makes them aware of the truth about TV watching. Parents, who are addressed in the poem directly, realize how they have neglected their duties towards their children by allowing them to go on watching TV in order to buy time and peace for themselves at home.

The poem begins on an abrupt and dramatic note. The poet addresses parents and exhorts them never to let their children come near the TV set. He goes on to the extent of saying that the ‘idiotic thing’ (TV set) should not be installed at home at all. He cautions parents against the excessive watching of TV by their children. The children go on staring at the TV screen for hours. Their eyeballs, out of exhaustion, come out. In a hyperbolic manner, the poet says :
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)

Advantages to the Parents
The poet admits that there are some advantages to the parents as their children watch TV. The children remain quiet and do not make mischiefs. They do not disturb their parents. The parents get time to do domestic chores.

But the disadvantages of too much television to the children cannot be ignored. By using all capital letters the poet underlines the fact that watching television in excess means the death of imagination. Says he : ‘


Parents’ Point of View
The poet, then, introduces the parents’ point of view. The parents might ask him how their children will be entertained in the absence of the television. The poet reminds them that they have forgotten how as children they read books when there was no television. In the past, books were a good source of entertainment. Then he refers to several books of adventure and fantasy used to be read in the past by the children. The children were fascinated by fine fantastic tales of dragons, gypsies, queens, whales and smugglers.

Appeal to Parents
So the poet appeals to parents to throw the TV set away and install in its place a bookshelf on the wall. They should ignore the bitter opposition of their children to this move for some days. Slowly but surely, the children would start reading books and soon realize the uselessness of the ‘ridiculous machine’.
Gradually, the children would consider this ‘ridiculous machine’ nauseating, foul and unclean. The television screen will appear repulsive to the children.

Television Poem Stanza Wise Explanation

Lines 1-6
The poem opens in an abrupt, dramatic way. The poet addresses the parents to convince the childem about the negative impact of watching television on their minds. He says that they have learnt an important lesson about television. It is that television is an ‘idiot box’—that it makes the viewers stupid and dull. Therefore, the children should not be allowed to come near the television set and view its programmes. The poet adds that the television set should not be installed inside our houses at all.

Lines 7-12
The poet gives a general observation here. He says that it has been observed that children sit or stand before the television set lazily and stare at the screen continuously. They go on watching television until their eyes seem to come out. The poet humorously says that a week ago he saw a dozen eyeballs of children lying on the floor, as a result of excessive TV watching.

Lines 13-21
Children go on staring at the television screen. They seem to be hypnotised by it. But what they get out of this activity is useless and harmful stuff. The poet admits that parents have some advantage in letting the children watch television. Children remain quiet and do not disturb them. They do not climb out of the windows. Nor do they indulge in fights with one another. They leave their parents free to cook lunch or wash utensils lying in the sink. The poet here cautions against the inherent danger in getting such freedom by the parents.

Lines 22-33
This is the crux of the poem. The poet uses all capitals to emphasise his point. He asks parents if they have ever considered what harm television does to their children when they continue to watch it for a very long time continuously. He says :


This is and should be the major concern of all parents. Television watching is a passive activity. It blocks fresh thinking. So it makes the child-viewer dull. He cannot distinguish between the real and the fantastic. His brain becomes as soft as cheese and he loses the power to think and imagine things. This has been confirmed by many independent research surveys.

Lines 34-48
The poet is aware of the parents’ objection. He knows that the parents will ask him if the television set is removed there will be no means left with them to entertain their children. They will like to know as to how to entertain them. The poet retorts by asking a rhetorical question as to how they used to entertain themselves as children, before this ‘monster’ (television) was invented. Perhaps they have forgotten. As children, they used to read and read and read. The nursery shelves were full of books. Surprisingly, they would spend half of their lives reading books. Reading books was the only and the main source of entertainment in the past.

Lines 49-61
The poet here reminds the parents that the rooms of children were full of books in the past. These books contained wonderful stories about huge monsters, gypsies, queens and princesses, whales and treasure islands. In some of these stories the smugglers and sea-robbers used to operate in boats with covered oars. There were stories about elephants and the cannibals. The cannibals used to eat a very sweet smelling dish named after Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus in Homer’s epic poem ‘The Odyssey’. The children who read about it wondered what the dish could be.

Lines 62-69
Small children were fond of the stories of the famous English writer Beatrix Potter. The stories were about Mr Tod and his dirty dog, the squirrel Nutkin, the small pig named Bland or about Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. These stories were fascinating. They were about the camel’s getting the hump on his back or about the monkey losing the rear part of his hairy body. There was a story about Mr Toad, Mr Rat and Mr Mole.
Obviously these are the stories which fascinated all children before the invention of television.

Lines 70-79
Long ago, children used to read a lot of books. Therefore, the poet’s plea to parents is to throw away the television set and in its place on the wall install a bookshelf, and fill it with books. Children would protest, would be angry, could make dirty and angry faces, could cry loudly and might even bite, kick and hit the elders with sticks. Parents should ignore their reactions for their ultimate benefit.

Lines 80-85
The poet persuades parents to remove the television set without any fear. He assures them that their children having nothing to do would begin to feel the need to read something in about a week. Once they begin to read, they would take to reading voraciously.

Lines 86-93
The poet is in an assuring mood. He tells the parents that once the television set is removed and the children start reading books, the children would be so much enamoured of books that they would begin to wonder why they used to watch the stupid ‘machine’. They would find the television set ‘nauseating, foul and repulsive’. Later, they would love their parents for replacing the television set with books.

Television Poem Glossary

Lines 1-6
never let : never allow
install : fix/set
idiotic thing : (here) television. It is called ‘idiotic’ as it makes us idiots.

Lines 7-12
gaping : looking attentively for a long time/staring
loll : move or stand in a lazy manner
slop : spend time lazily
lounge about : sit or stand in a lazy manner
pop out : bulge outward (sign of complete tiredness)

Lines 13-21
hypnotised : highly influenced and controlled by its charm
absolutely : completely
ghastly : frightening
junk : useless stuff
still : silent
punch : box

lines 22-33
tot : small child
rots : decays
clogs and clutters : blocks the mind and fills it with useless thoughts
fantasy : something unreal
as soft as cheese : very pliable

Lines 34-41
darling : beloved
contented : satisfied
monster : demon (television is here called a demon for its wicked influence)

Lines 42-48
proceed : move forward
Great Scott! : an expression of surprise or disbelief
galore : in plenty
Gadzooks (=God’s hooks) : the nails on the cross – a kind of oath

Lines 49-61
cluttered up : crowded (in large number)
nursery : a room meant for young children
fantastic : marvellous
dragon : a mythical monster in the shape of a huge reptile having a lion’s claws, etc.
gypsies : wandering people
isles : islands
pirates : sea robbers
cannibals : those who eat human flesh
Penelope : the name of the wife of a great Greek hero Odysseus (here: the name of a dish named after Penelope)

Lines 62-69
Beatrix Potter : the name of a British writer famous for his animal stories
rotter : an unpleasant person
Pigling Bland : the story of a young pig written by Beatrix Potter
rump : the rear fleshy part of an animal
mole : an animal that lives underground

Lines 70-79
install : fix
lovely : beautiful
screams and yells : loud cries of protest

Lines 80-85
oh boy, oh boy! : exclamation of great surprise

Lines 86-93
watch : observe, notice
keen : eager
ridiculous : foolish
nauseating : disgusting
repulsive : hateful
kid : child

Television Poem Critical Appreciation

The title of the poem ‘Television’ is very relevant and appropriate as the poem deals with various aspects connected with television. Dahl exhorts the parents not to allow their children to watch television. He enumerates several ill-effects of watching television. Then he proceeds to count the several benefits of reading books. He argues in favour of reading books. He looks upon television as ‘the idiot box’, as ‘a monster’, and as ‘a ridiculous machine’ and dubs it as ‘nauseating’, ‘foul’, ‘unclean’ and ‘repulsive’.

Modern Response
Dahl might seem to be exaggerating to the young viewers of television. However, his viewpoint has been endorsed by several eminent persons and study surveys. There are many homes without television sets. However, in our new technology age, even television set has been replaced by smart phones and other gadgets. Consequently, the habit of reading has been pushed further back. The new generation gets every type of knowledge from the Net or the television. Dahl’s warning, however true, has a few takers these days. But those who want to add wisdom to knowledge must go back to good old books. Books, traditional or non-traditional, are irreplaceable.

Television Poem Style and Literary Devices

Form and Structure
The poem consists of 93 lines and is fairly long in the modern context. It is not divided into separate units or segments. It is written in a free style simply because the poet’s main aim is to give a message, and not to create any special poetic effect. The looseness of form can only be justified keeping in view its didactic purpose.

Literary Devices

Rhyme Scheme
The poet uses rhyming couplets, with the exception in lines 31, 32 and 33, throughout the poem, and the rhyme scheme is aabb; as in these opening lines :

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set—

Rhetorical Devices

  • The poet uses personification by giving human qualities to the television – the quality to kill something or devour something. That is why, the television is to him ‘a monster’, nauseating and repulsive.
  • The poet uses apostrophe, a rhetorical device, while addressing his poem to the parents, an absent audience.

Figures of Speech

  • The poet uses traditional metaphors as :
    (i) we saw/A dozen eyeballs on the floor
    (ii) this monster
  • Only one simile occurs in the poem :

The poet uses almost the language of prose in writing this poem. He has avoided the use of figures of speech. The use of capital letters is made to put emphasis on the message. It is significant that the poet uses ‘we’ instead of T to underline the fact that what he wants to say is not merely his personal opinion, rather it is the opinion of a number of persons like him who are worried about the children’s habit of watching the television.

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