Question – The Snake and the Mirror: Do you like to look at yourself in the mirror? What do you think about at such times? Have you ever seen a dog, a cat or a bird look into a mirror? What do you think it sees?
Answer – The Snake and the Mirror: Yes, I like looking at myself in the mirror. At such times, I often think about the ways to make myself look more presentable to others.
No, I have not seen a dog, a cat or a bird look into a mirror. However, I have seen birds looking at their reflection in water. I think they do not realise that what they see is their own reflection and not another being of their own species facing them.
Question: Discuss in pairs and answer each question below in a short paragraph (30 – 40 words).
- “The sound was familiar one.” What sound did the doctor hear? What did he think it was? How many times did he hear it? (Find the places in the text.) When and why did the sounds stop?
- What two “important” and “earth-shaking” decisions did the doctor take while he was looking into the mirror?
- “I looked into the mirror and smiled,” says the doctor. A little later he says, “I forgot my danger and smiled feebly at myself.” What is the doctor’s opinion about himself when: (i) he first smiles, and (ii) he smiles again? In what way do his thoughts change in between, and why?
- The doctor heard a scuttling sound, which he thought to be of the rats.
He heard it thrice: as he entered his room; after combing; while looking at himself in the mirror.
The sounds stopped after the doctor heard a dull thud, because the snake had fallen to the ground.
- While looking into the mirror, the doctor took two “important” and “earth shaking” decisions: that he would shave daily and grow a thin moustache; and that he would always wear an attractive smile on his face to look handsome
- (i) When the doctor first smiles, he has an inflated opinion of himself, admiring his looks and profession.
(ii) In the second instance, the doctor smiles at his foolishness and helplessness.
His thoughts change after his encounter with the snake from being a proud doctor he moves on to accept his stupidity.
Question: This story about a frightening incident is narrated in a humorous way. What makes it humorous? (Think of the contrasts it presents between dreams and reality. Some of them are listed below.)
- (i) The kind of person the doctor is (money, possessions)
(ii) The kind of person he wants to be (appearance, ambition)
- (i) The person he wants to marry
(ii) The person he actually marries
- (i) His thoughts when he looks into the mirror
(ii) His thoughts when the snake is coiled around his arm
Write short paragraphs on each of these to get your answer.
Answer: What makes this frightening story humorous is the interspersion of humorous and witty comments in the narration. Besides, the presentation of contrasts between dreams and reality also contribute to the humour element in the story. Some such contrasts are discussed below.
- There is a visible discrepancy between the lifestyle of the doctor and his high opinion of himself. Even with a meagre income and modest living condition, he considers himself an eligible bachelor. He is extremely proud of his looks and profession. The special attention that he lays on his looks “on his moustache, hair and smile” to look handsome brings in the element of humour in the story.
- There is also a contradiction between the kind of wife the doctor aspires for and the lady he finally marries. The doctor wants to marry a rich woman doctor. He also wants his wife to be fat, who would not be able to catch hold of him if someday he does something silly and has to run away from her. But, contrary to his wishes, he ends up getting married to a slim lady who could run like a “sprinter”.
- When the doctor looks into the mirror, he is full of admiration for himself and thinks of ways to make his self more appealing. He decides to shave daily and keep a thin moustache. He regards his smile quite attractive and resolves to smile always. But, when the snake is coiled around his arm, he smiles for a different reason. This time it is at his foolishness and stupidity, as he did not have any medicines for snakebite. Perhaps he realizes the futility of his vanity.
Question: Here are some sentences from the text. Say which of them tell you, that the author: (a) was afraid of the snake, (b) was proud of his appearance, (c) had a sense of humour, (d) was no longer afraid of the snake.
- I was turned to stone.
- I was no mere image cut in granite.
- The arm was beginning to be drained of strength.
- I tried in my imagination to write in bright letters outside my little heart the words, ‘O God’.
- I didn’t tremble. I didn’t cry out.
- I looked into the mirror and smiled. It was an attractive smile.
- I was suddenly a man of flesh and blood.
- I was after all a bachelor, and a doctor too on top of it!
- The fellow had such a sense of cleanliness…! The rascal could have taken it and used it after washing it with soap and water.
- Was it trying to make an important decision about growing a moustache or using eye shadow and mascara or wearing a vermilion spot on its forehead?
Question: Expressions used to show fear
Can you find the expressions in the story that tell you that the author was frightened? Read the story and complete the following sentences.
- I was turned _____________.
- I sat there holding _____________.
- In the light of the lamp I sat there like _____________.
- I was turned to stone.
- I sat there holding my breath.
- In the light of the lamp I sat there like a stone image in the flesh.
Question: In the sentences given below some words and expressions are italicized. They variously mean that one
- is very frightened.
- is too scared to move.
- is frightened by something that happens suddenly.
- makes another feel frightened.
Match the meanings with the words / expressions in italics, and write the appropriate meaning next to the sentence. The first one has been done for you.
- I knew a man was following me, I was scared out of my wits. (very frightened)
- I got a fright when I realized how close I was to the cliff edge.
- He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw the bull coming towards him.
- You really gave me a fright when you crept up behind me like that.
- Wait until I tell his story – it will make your hair stand on end.
- Paralyzed with fear, the boy faced his abductors.
- The boy hid behind the door, not moving a muscle.
1. I knew a man was following me, I was scared out of my wits. (very frightened)
2. I got a fright when I realized how close I was to the cliff edge. (frightened by something that happens suddenly)
3. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw the bull coming towards him. (very frightened)
4. You really gave me a fright when you crept up behind me like that. (frightened by something that happens suddenly)
5. Wait until I tell his story – it will make your hair stand on end. (makes another feel frightened)
6. Paralysed with fear, the boy faced his abductors. (too scared to move)
7. The boy hid behind the door, not moving a muscle. (too scared to move)
Question: Reported questions
Study these sentences:
- His friend asked, “Did you see the snake the next day, doctor?”
His friend asked the doctor whether / if he had seen the snake the next day.
- The little girl wondered, “Will I be home before the TV show begins?”
The little girl wondered if / whether she would be home before the TV show began.
- Someone asked, “Why has the thief left the vest behind?”
Someone asked why the thief had left the vest behind.
The words if / whether are used to report questions which begin with: do, will, can, have, are etc. These questions can be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Questions beginning with why / when / where / how / which / what are reported using these same words.
The reporting verbs we use in questions with if/whether/why/when etc. are: ask, inquire and wonder.
Remember that in reported speech,
- the present tense changes to past tense
- here, today, tomorrow, yesterday etc. change to there, that day, the next day, the day before, etc.
- I / you change to me / him / he, etc., as necessary.
- He said to me, “I don’t believe you.”
He said he did not believe me.
- She said to him, ‘I don’t believe you.’
She told him that she did not believe him.
Report these questions using if / whether or why / when / where / how / which / what.
Remember the italicized verbs change into the past tense.
- Meena asked her friend, “Do you think your teacher will come today?”
- David asked his colleague, “Where will you go this summer?”
- He asked the little boy, “Why are you studying English?”
- She asked me, “When are we going to leave?”
- Pran asked me, “Have you finished reading the newspaper?”
- Seema asked her, “How long have you lived here?”
- Sheila asked the children “Are you ready to do the work?”
- Meena asked her friend if she thought her teacher would come that day.
- David asked his colleague where he would go that summer.
- He asked the little boy why he was studying English.
- She asked me when we were going to leave.
- Pran asked me if I had finished reading the newspaper.
- Seema asked her how long she had lived there.
- Sheila asked the children if they were ready to do the work.
Question: Try to rewrite the story without its humour, merely as a frightening incident. What details or parts of the story would you leave out?
Answer: One hot summer night, a doctor returned home late at night. He heard a familiar scuttling sound of rats from above while opening the door. He heard the sound thrice. The doctor was sitting at a table – on which stood a lamp and a mirror – when he heard a dull thud as if a rubber tube had fallen to the ground. At the same time that the doctor turned his back to find out the source of the thud, he found a snake wriggling at the back of his chair. As the snake slowly slid along the arm of the doctor, he found himself paralysed with fear. The doctor sat there without a muscle moving, silently praying to God. The doctor felt helpless and foolish at that time as he did not have any medicine for snakebite. By chance, the snake turned his head to the mirror and it slowly slithered away towards it. Taking the opportunity, the doctor ran till he reached his friend’s house, where he took bath and changed into fresh clothes. Next morning, he returned to his house to shift his belongings only to find that his belongings had been stolen by a thief.
To turn the story into just a frightening incident without humour, I would leave out the following elements from the story: the author’s description about his beauty and his admiration of the same; his ambition to marry a fat and rich female doctor; the part about the snake admiring its beauty by looking into the mirror; the doctor’s remark about the thief leaving back only his dirty vest.
Question: Read the description given alongside this sketch from a photograph in a newspaper (Times of India, 4 September 1999. Make up a story about what the monkey is thinking, or why it is looking into a mirror. Write a paragraph about it.
The fairest of them all
A monkey preens itself using a piece of mirror, in the Delhi ridge.
(‘To preen oneself’ means to spend a lot of time making oneself look attractive, and then admiring one’s appearance. The word is used in disapproval.)
Answer: One day, a monkey was preening itself in a broken piece of mirror that he had picked up from the nearby garbage bin. He looked at himself for a long time and wondered why the female monkey he had recently approached rejected him. He had earlier judged himself too handsome to be declined. But the sudden turn of events left him bewildered. Hence, that day looked at himself in the mirror for a considerable amount of time. Finally, he concluded that the female was a fool and that he actually was one of the best-looking monkeys in their troop. He spend some time contemplating which other female monkey was worth his attention. Having made him up his mind, he decided that he would ask his mother to pick out the excess lice from his body before approaching his new-found love.
Question: Using some of the expressions given above in exercise III, talk about an incident when you were very scared. You may have a competition to decide whose story was the most frightening.
Answer: Once we went on a school excursion to Jim Corbett. Me and my friend Chhavi were asleep in our room at the resort when we heard some noises – rustling of leaves, scratching sound on our door and rattling of pebbles. Both of us got up in a jerk. I sat on my bed paralyzed with fear. There was silence for the next few minutes before we heard that scratching sound again. This time I nearly jumped out of my skin. Chhavi got up from the bed to look out of the glass window but I sat there without moving a muscle. When she removed the blinders I could see darkness all around. Suddenly we noticed a hooded figure move in the darkness. Seeing this, my hair stood on end. Both of us started crying and shouting for help when we heard some voices calling our names. Somebody turned on the lights outside our room and we saw our friends standing outdoors. They apparently were playing a prank. Till this day I remember the way I was horrified and scared out of my wits.
Read the passage given below and answer the questions that follow:
Question: It seemed as if God appreciated that. The snake turned its head. It looked into the mirror and saw its reflection. I do not claim that it was the first snake that ever looked into the mirror. But it was certain that the snake was looking into the mirror. Was it admiring its own beauty? Was it trying to make an important decision about growing a moustache or using eye shadow and mascara or wearing a vermilion spot on its forehead?
- Where did the snake move its head?
- Why did the narrator call it the “first snake”?
- Find a word in the passage that means “look at with pleasure and satisfaction”.
- The snake moved its head towards the mirror.
- The narrator calls it the “first snake” because this was the first snake he had seen which enjoyed looking into the mirror.
Question: “I took my friend and one or two others to my room to move my things from there. But we found we had little to carry.”
- Why did narrator want to remove his thing?
- Why was there little to carry?
- Write the opposite of “friend”.
- The narrator wanted to remove his things as he wanted to leave his house because of the fear of the snake.
- There was little to carry because thieves had stolen his things.
Question: I didn’t jump. I didn’t tremble. I didn’t cry out. There was no time to do any such thing. The snake slithered along my shoulder and coiled around my left arm above the elbow. The hood was spread out and its head was hardly three or four inch from my face!
It would not be correct to say merely that I sat there holding my breath I was turned to stone.
- Why did the author not jump, tremble and cry?
- Did the snake bit the speaker ? What was his reaction?
- What does the word “tremble” from the above lines mean?
- The author did not jump, tremble and cry because a snake had fallen on his shoulders.
- No, the snake did not bite the speaker. He said, “Oh!” He had a relief as he was not bitten by the snake.
Question: The snake unwound itself from my arm and slowly slithered into my lap. From there it crept onto the table and moved towards the mirror. Perhaps it wanted to enjoy its reflection at closer quarters.
- Where did the snake settle after uncoiling from the writer’s arm?
- Why did the snake move towards the mirror?
- What does the word “slithered” mean?
- The snake settled in the writer’s lap after uncoiling from the writer’s arm.
- The snake moved towards the mirror to have a closer look of its image.
Question: I did not tremble. I didn’t cry out. There was no time to do any such thing. The snake slithered along my shoulder and coiled around my left arm above the elbow. The hood was spread out and its head was hardly three or four inches from my facet.
- What did the snake do to him (doctor)?
- How far was death from him?
- Find a word from the passage which means the same as “stretched”.
- The snake coiled around his left arm above the elbow and spread out its hood.
- Death was just three or four inches away from him.
Question: What was the doctor thinking while he was seated before the mirror?
Answer: The doctor thought of various medicine he had and if any medicine was good enough to save him if the snake did bite him. He also realized that God had punished him for being so proud and arrogant.
Question: Why did the doctor run from his house?
Why did the doctor run away to his friend’s house?
Answer: From writer’s arm the snake slithered into his lap, crept onto the table and then moved towards the mirror. The writer revived, got up from the chair and leapt into the yard and ran to his friend’s house to save his life.
Question: How did the doctor show the presence of mind when he encountered the snake?
Answer: The doctor showed great presence of mind on seeing the snake: He neither jumped nor cried out. He sat on the chair holding his breath. His body was still but his mind remained very active.
Question: How did the snake change the writer’s opinion about himself?
Answer: The writer was proud of being a doctor. Coming face-to-face with the snake made him humble. He thought he was only a poor and stupid doctor who should not be proud of his profession.
Question: While looking into the mirror, what important and earth-shaking decisions did the doctor make?
What were the two important decisions taken by the doctor while looking into the mirror?
Answer: The important decision made by the doctor was that he would shave daily and grow a thin moustache, to look more handsome.
The earth-shaking decision made by the doctor was that he would always keep that attractive smile on his face.
Question: What did the doctor do on seeing the snake?
Answer: The doctor saw the snake’s reflection in the mirror. He, then, went to have a closer look. He got up from the chair and ran away from the house.
Question: What type of woman did the doctor in the story “The Snake and the Mirror”, want to get married to and why?
Answer: The doctor, who had plenty of money and good medical practice, wanted to get married to a woman who was fat. The reason he gave was that if he, the doctor husband ever made any mistake, and tried to run away, she would not be able to catch him and stop him from escaping.
Question: Why did the author of “The Snake and the Mirror” fantasize a fat woman as his wife?
Answer: The author of “The Snake and the Mirror” fantasizes a fat woman as his wife since she would never be able to catch the doctor on his mistakes. She would not be able to run after him and he would be saved of all kinds of punishments. Thus, the author fantasizes a fat woman as his wife.
Question: Why did the snake leave the doctor’s arm?
Answer: The snake left the doctor’s arm because it saw its reflection in the mirror and was fascinated by it and so wanted to enjoy its own reflection by having a closer look. Like his parents even he respects all religions.
Question: What made the doctor utter “Death lurked four inches away”?
Answer: The doctor was under the grip of the snake, and sat motionless as a statue, his body was inactive but mind was completely active. He knew very well that the snake would bite him at the slightest movement. This is what made his utter these words.
Question: “Birds of the same feathers flock together” goes the saying. Does the encounter between the snake and the doctor in the story “The Snake and the Mirror” support the saying? Why or why not?
Answer: Yes, the story supports the saying which means that the people of similar habits and tastes find each other. The doctor enjoyed self-appreciation and could not resist the temptation of looking at his reflection in the mirror. He also takes a number of decisions, so as to improve his looks. The snake that coiled itself on the doctor’s arm, kept staring at its reflection in the mirror for a long time, enjoying its beauty and appreciating its form. The snake was so much engrossed in its beauty that it forgot as to why it had come to the author’s house.
Question: Without mirror, the story will lose its charm and reality. Justify.
Answer: The story would lose its charm and reality without the mirror because it fascinates both the characters i.e., doctor and the snake. The doctor makes two important decisions – saving daily and growing thin moustaches to make himself more handsome and keeping a smile on the face all the time while looking at himself in the mirror. The snake also feels attracted to look at his face in the mirror and leaves the doctor’s arm. It sits on the table in front of mirror and the doctor finds an opportunity to move away to save himself. Thus, the story does revolve around the mirror and therefore its important.
Question: What are the similarities between the doctor and the snake?
Answer: The doctor and the snake had striking similarities. Both were victims of self-adoration. This is clearly visible in two decisions of the doctor- to shave daily and a grow moustache and also to wear an attractive smile on his face to look handsome. While the snake enjoyed looking at his reflection at closer quarters. It did not move the doctor’s arm and later crept into the table and moved towards the mirror. ,
Question: Justify the title of the story ‘The Snake and the Mirror’.
Answer: The story revolves round the narrator, the snake, and the mirror. The narrator hears some familiar sounds – a dull thud and a snake lands on his shoulder. The doctor is terrified and sits there like a stone. He suddenly feels the presence of the creator of the world and death 4-inches away. He forgets danger and smiles feebly. The snake looks into the mirror, moves towards the mirror and wants to enjoy a close reflection in the mirror. Thus the title is justified as the story revolves around the snake and the mirror.
Question: Describe in detail the doctor’s feelings when he saw the snake coiled around his arm?
Answer: The doctor was so engrossed in his day dreaming that he did not realize that a snake had wriggled over the back of the chair and landed on his shoulders and could round his left arm with its hood spread out. The doctor sat there without moving an inch, he was afraid lest the snake might strike. He thought of various medicines he had and if any one of them was good enough to save him if the snake struck him. He realized the presence of God and felt that it was a punishment for being proud and arrogant.
Question: God has a lot of ways of controlling Our lines. Discuss this in the light of the story ‘The Snake and the Mirror’.
Answer: Our life is definitely in the hands of God. He is fire supreme power in control of our lives. At times we forget this like the young doctor. He was under the false belief that he was the one who would decide what was going to happen in his life. He was standing in front of the mirror with a lot of pride thinking about his future. The snake was a symbol of God’s control over him. It made him realize that he was close to death and not to life. He was not the master of his life.