The poet, Vikram Seth, very cleverly gives us a message of the importance of self-confidence and moral courage in his poem - The 'Frog and the Nightingale'. Once in a bog, a frog sat under a Sumac tree and croaked all night in a loud and unpleasant voice. The other creatures loathed his voice but their complaints, insults and brickbats couldn't stop him from croaking stubbornly and pompously, insensitive to the disturbance he was causing.
Then, one night a nightingale appears at the bog. Her melodious voice captures the admiring attention of the creatures of the Bingle Bog. Ducks and herons swim towards the Sumac tree to hear the nightingale serenade. Some lonely creature even weeps hearing her song. When she stops, there is thunderous applause with the creatures demanding a repeat performance (encore). The jealous frog disturbed by the intrusion of a challenging rival listens to the nightingale dumbstruck.
Next night, when the modest bird prepares to sing, the plotting frog interrupts and posing as a music critic, says that the technique was fine, of course, but it lacks a certain force. Unassuming and not used to any kind of criticism, she defends herself by saying, "At least its mine".
The nightingale soon became famous and the frog grew richer, earning money from her concerts. Eminent personalities like the Owl (Earl) of Sandwich and Duck (Duke) of Kent attend the concerts. The frog sat and watched with mixed feelings of happiness and bitterness. Happy because he was earning money and jealous because the bird was receiving so much attention.
Meanwhile, the frog makes the nightingale rehearse hard even when it rained and constantly criticized and abused her, ensuring that she became broken in spirit. Fired and spent, her voice lost its beauty and the creatures stopped coming to hear her sing. Morose and depressed, she refused to sing, but the frog goaded her to practice. Scared and unhappy, the nightingale tried, burst a vein, and died.
Ans. The Frog sat under a Sumac tree in the Bingle Bog.
2. What was the reaction of the creatures to the Frog's singing?
Ans: They hated his singing. They begged him to stop. They hurled abuses and stones at him but it had no effect.
3."In this I've long been known for my splendid baritone". Explain.
4."You'll remain a mere beginner. But with me you'll be a winner". What does this reveal about the frog's character?
Ans:The frog is very presumptuous and boastful.
5."This is a fairy tale - And you're Mozart in disguise. Come to earth before my eyes". What does this reveal about the Nightingale's character?
Ans:The bird is fawning. She is also not a good judge of character.
6.Explain the lines: "And the Sumac tree was bowed with a breathless titled Crowd".
Ans.There were so many creatures sitting on the Sumac tree listening to the bird's singing. These were well-known personalities such as the Owl of Sandwich, Duck of Kent, Matin Cardinal Mephisto who had come to enjoy the concert.
7.Explain the lines: "And the frog with great precision counted heads and charged admission".
8.Said the frog 'I tried to teach her but she was a stupid creature' , do you agree with the Frog's view. Give two reasons to support your answer.
Ans.Yes, I agree because the bird was not a good judge of character and could not see through the frog. She did not have confidence in herself and was very gullible.
9. Not too bad.... But far too long the technique was fine, of course, but it lacked a certain force". What does this reveal about the Frog's nature?
Ans. The frog is behaving extremely superior and in a condescending manner. He is also extremely cunning and is trying to convince her to take training from him.
10. "And the ticket office gross crashed, and she grew more morose".
a) Why did the ticket office gross crash?
b) Why did the bird grow morose?
Ans.a) The bird was tired and sick. The spirit was broken. Her voice lost its beauty and the people got tried of her voice and stopped coming.
b) The frog was successful in breaking the bird's spirit. He was goading her to practice harder. The bird could not take in the pressure and grew depressed and sad.
11.Give a character sketch of the Frog.
Answer: The Frog is a cunning and stubborn creature. Brimming with confidence, he did not stop singing even when bricks are thrown at him. He is jealous of the Nightingale's singing and cleverly plans to destroy her. Winning her trust he forces her to practice hard all the while criticizing and abusing her. He is a mercenary and benefits from her concerts. So hard hearted he is that he does not even soften when she dies dismissing her as a stupid creature who deserves her end. A shrewd judge of character, he capitalises on the Nightingale's weak and timid nature.
12.Give a character sketch of the Nightingale.
Answer: The Nightingale is shy, timid and modest to a fault. She is not a good judge of character and cannot see through the Frog's plotting and scheming. She is easily influenced and forgets that one should sing for one self and not for others. In a way, the bird is responsible for her own tragedy.
13.How did the Nightingale meet her death?
Answer: The Nightingale practiced very hard in the rain. Her voice grew hoarse and lost its beauty. The animals stopped coming to hear her sing. She grew sad and depressed because she had got accustomed to the applause and praise. Finally, one day when she was forced to practice she burst a vein and died.
14.How did the Frog scheme to break the birds spirit and destroy her?
Answer: The Frog was clever. He appeared before her as a music critic and promised to train her. He got her addicted to the appreciation of the audience. Forcing her to practice in bad weather, he broke her physically. He also ruined her mentally by constantly scolding and undermining her confidence. Finally, heartlessly, he forced her to practice when she was not up to it. She tried, but burst a vein and died.
15. "Well poor bird she should have known.
That your song must be your own".Is the Frog right in his view? Give reasons to support your answer.
Ans: The Frog is right. The bird should have continued singing for herself. She should have had confidence in herself and not allowed the frog to destroy her.
16.Inspite of having a melodious voice and being a crowd puller the nightingale turns out to be a loser and dies. Is she responsible for her own downfall?
Ans:The nightingale has an enchanting voice and she enthralls the creatures of the bingle bog with her singing. The Cunning and jealous frog with his cacaphonic voice decides to ruin her. The nightingale is different and a poor judge of character. She comes under the influence of the manipulate frog who trains her in bad weather and makes her in over practice. As a result the nightingale loses her confidence, her health and finally pays for her foolishness with her life. The bird's gullibility and servility leads to her tragic end
17."Now the nightingale, inspired flushed with confidence, and fired with both art and adoration sang"
(a) Explain 'art and adoration' (b) What was the outcome of her singing?
Ans.(a) The nightingale was elated because the frog, who she thought was a music critic, had appreciated her singing. She was also very thrilled because she was enjoying the adulation of the public when she sang.
(b). She became a huge success. Creatures from all over came to listen to her singing. Very important creatures like the coot of monte cristo and duck of kent and ladies with tiaras glittering came to listen to her. The frog collected money from the concerts and grew richer. Finally with the frog's persuasion she sang more and more, burst a vein and died.
18. And the foghorn of the frog blared unrivalled through the bog.
(a). Explain 'foghorn' (b). Why was he 'unrivalled' now?
Answer: (a) Foghorn is a loud unpleasant noise which warns ships against dangers in the frog. The unpleasant cacaphonic voice of the frog is compared to the foghorn.
(b) The frog had been singing in the bog despite the criticism and insults heaped on him by the creatures of the bingle bog. With the arrival of the nightingale he felt threatened. He planned and schemed to put the bird out of the way. He earned money from her concerts, finally, when the nightingale dies, he is relieved and happily goes back to singing in the bog.
19. What was the philosophy of the frog? Do you agree with it?
Answer: The frog despite his wicked nature had a sound philosophy of life. He believed that "your song must be your own". He had confidence to sing though he received so many brickbats. Nothing could still his determination to sing because he enjoyed it. In contrast the nightingale was out to please people and finally destroyed herself. I do agree with the frog that one should trust oneself and not come under the influence of another person. Self-confidence and individuality are two important aspects of a happy and well-developed personality.