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A Photograph Class 11 English Notes

Please refer to A Photograph Class 11 English Notes and summary provided below. The following summary and solved questions have been designed as per the latest syllabus and books issued by CBSE, NCERT, and KVS. By going through and learning the below notes for Class 11 English you will be able to understand the entire chapter and easily solve questions in your exams. Also, refer to the Class 11 English Chapter Summary for all chapters in your textbooks.

Class 11 English A Photograph Summary and Questions

The following A Photograph Class 11 English Notes and questions answers will help you to easily learn the entire chapter. You will be able to solve all questions in upcoming Class 11 English exams and score better marks


The poem captures three different moods and situations in three stanzas. The first one tells about a snapshot or an instant cardboard-photo of three girls. They are cousins. The eldest one, 12 years old, became the mother of the poetess after marriage. They are enjoying a sea holiday, putting on funny dresses. Their uncle clicks the camera and captures the smiling faces of all the three.

Some 20-30 years later, the mother looks at the photo and laughs. She tells the poetess how her cousins Betty and Dolly had all dressed for the holiday. The outing on the beach in a quaint dress was the mother’s past. But her laughter has become a thing of the past for the poetess. The mother passed away some twelve years ago. The void created by her death has made life dull and eventless.


The poetess looks at the photograph of her late mother, with her two cousins on a sea beach. The mother was the eldest of the three, 12 years old, and had a lovely face. They were escorted by the uncle, who clicked the camera. The girls stood in shallow water. The sea waves seemed to be washing their feet which changed fast with the passage of time. Only the sea has shown no change in its behaviour over the years.

The mother happened to see her photo after a time-gap of some 20-30 years. She was amused to see the pretty, beach dresses of all the three girls. She blushed and laughed. She told the poetess that they had been dressed for the pleasure trip by her cousins Betty and Dolly.

The sea holiday was the mother’s past, but after she had passed away, her laughter became a thing of the past for the poetess. Both had lost their newness with the passing of time. The photograph is twisted and faded; the memory of the mother’s laughter has also grown faint.

The mother of the poetess died some 12 years ago. The poetess has faced only blank silences after her mother’s death. She has nothing to say about that period since the mother left.

Short Questions

Question. What has not changed over the years? Does this suggest something to you?
Answer: The sea has not changed over the years but a great change has come in those who one paddled in its bench. It suggests that while human life is terribly transient the sea has always remained the same.

Question. What does the word “cardboard” denote in poem? why has this word been used?
Answer: The word cardboard has been used for mother’s photograph. Now the photograph is just a cardboard because the mother is already died.

Question. What does ‘this circumstance’ refer to?
Answer: It refers to the present mental state of the poet. She feels terribly sad and lonely without her mother.

Question. What has the camera captured?
Answer: The camera has captured three little girls. One of them is the poet’s mother. The others two are the mother’s girl cousin each of them is holding one hand of the mother. The mother was then a girl of twelve. All the three girls are smiling through their flying hair. They are standing in shallow water in the sea beach.

Question. What is the meaning of the line “both wry with the labored ease of loss”
Answer: The poets here bring out similarities between the face of her mother and her own face. Both the faces had turned wry due to the intense feeling of their great loss. The mother had lost the joys of her childhood. The poet had lost the laughter of her mother who was now dead.


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.

Question. What does the word ‘cardboard’ denote in the poem?
Answer: Why has this word been used? The photograph in the poem is called cardboard because it is too difficult to call it a photograph. Having lost its colors and having lost the clarity of its images in it, the photograph is now just a cardboard.

Question. What had the camera captured?
Answer: The camera has captured some happy moments from the childhood of the poet’s mother. It was a scene taken from a beach where she had gone with her cousins and her uncle for a sea holiday. The girls stood huddled together, the poet’s mother in the middle, held tightly by her cousins Betty and Dolly.

Question. What does the cardboard refer to?
Answer: The cardboard refers to the childhood photograph of the poet’s mother and her cousins who went out to the beach.

Question. Who does ‘all three’ refer to here?
Answer: All three’ refers to the poet’s mother and her two cousins.

Question. What scene from mother’s childhood has been captured in the photograph? Who had taken the photograph?
Answer: The scene that has been captured in the photograph is from the poet’s mother’s childhood when she went for paddling with her two cousins. The uncle had taken the photograph.

Question. Who was the big girl and how old was she?
Answer: The big girl was the poet’s mother. She was then twelve years old.

Question.How did the cousins go paddling with the poet’s mother?
Answer: The girl cousins, Betty and Dolly, went paddling with the poet’s mother holding her hands.

Question. Why did they smile through their hair?
Answer: They smiled through their hair because they were posing for a photograph.

Question. Explain the contrast given in the last two lines of the first stanza.
Answer: The contrast is between the sea and the human life. The sea had remained the same for all these years, but the humans have undergone changes. The poet’s mother grew up and now she had been dead for some time.

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.

Question. How is the poet able to remember her mother’s childhood?
Answer: The poet is able to remember her mother’s childhood by looking at the photograph.

Question. Where was the poet’s mother when the photograph was clicked?
Answer: The poet’s mother was on the sea shore with her cousins, posing for a photograph.

Question. What has not changed over the years?
Answer: Does this suggest something to you? The sea has not changed over the years. It is still the same. The sea symbolizes immortality against the transient existence of other creatures in the nature

Question. When did this incident take place?
Answer: This incident took place when the poet’s mother was twelve years old.

Question. What has stood the passage of time and what has not?
Answer: The sea has stood the onslaught of time. It is still the same. However, the poet’s mother and her cousins underwent changes. Her mother grew up to be an adult and now she is no more.

Now she’s has been dead nearly as many years
As that girl lived. And of this circumstance
There is nothing to say at all,
Its silence silences.

Question. What impact has the photograph on the poet?
Answer: The silence of the photograph silences the poet. She experiences the great loss of her mother.

Question. Why doesn’t the poet want to think about the photograph any more?
Answer: The poet doesn’t want to think about the photograph any more because it brings the pain of loss to her mind.

Question. Each photograph is a memory. Justify the statement in the light of the poem, The Photograph.
Answer: The Photograph is a memory for a number of reasons. Photographs leave behind them memories as old as the day they are captured. Once a person is photographed, for the person as well for the rest, the person lives along with the photograph. The photograph gets unprecedented/unexpected importance once the person in the photograph is no more. Since then the person or the scenery brings back painful memories rather than happy memories. However happy the person used to be, his memories make us cry. In the poem too, Shirley Toulson makes this idea very clear. In the first place, the poet uses the photograph to bring back her mother’s memories because she had lost her quite too early. The mother had been dead several years, leaving behind the poet only memories. She has no medium to remember her mother than this photograph. Although the heavy silence that the pain of losing her mother descends upon her and silences her, the poet never ceases to look at it. A photograph has a longer memory than our minds.

Question. Why has the poet nothing to say about this circumstance?
Answer: The poet has nothing to say about this circumstance as the memory of it brings pain to her.

Question. Write a note on the use of mathematics in the poem.
Answer: The poem presents the chronology of the poet’s life and incidents. Analyzing each line, we can conclude that the poet was a little child when her mother died. As the poet says that her mother had been dead as many years as that girl lived, it is evident that “that girl” is no one but the mother. On a deeper consideration, we can assume that the mother had died when she was hardly 22 to 25 years, more or less.

Question. What does ‘this circumstance’ refer to?
Answer: This circumstance refers to the grave, silent memories of loss that the photograph brings to the poet whenever she looks at the photograph.

A Photograph Class 11 English Notes

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