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English CBSE Class 11 NCERT Hornbill Chapter 6 The Browning Version Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words

THE BROWNING VERSION

(Explanation)

 

Notice these expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context.

Remove Division or grade in school exam.
Slackers Those who get less marks
Muck Boring, Dirty
Kept in Made to overstay in  school as punishment
Got carried away To do or say something without control
Cut To end, To discontinue
Sadist One who likes to trouble others
Shrivelled up Dried, Not having any feelings

This is an excerpt from The Browning Version. The scene is set in a school. Frank is young and Crocker-Harris, middle-aged. Both are masters. Taplow is a boy of sixteen who has come in to do extra work for Crocker-Harris. But the latter has not yet arrived, and Frank finds Taplow waiting.

Word Meaning
Excerpt Part, Extract, Section
Masters Teachers

This play is a part taken from the ‘The Browning Version’ which is a translation of Greek play ‘Agamemnon’. The scene is of a school. Frank and Crocker-Harris are two teachers of the school. Taplow is a student who is 16 yrs. He had come to the school to do some extra work assigned by Crocker-Harris. But this teacher had not yet come to the school. Another teacher Frank notices that Taplow is waiting.

 

FRANK: Do I know you?

TAPLOW: No, sir.

FRANK: What’s your name?

TAPLOW: Taplow.

FRANK: Taplow! No, I don’t. You’re not a scientist I gather?

Frank asks Taplow if he knows Taplow. He denies it. Taplow tells him his name. Frank says that he does not know Taplow. Frank asks Taplow if he is a student of science stream.

 

TAPLOW: No, sir, I’m still in the lower fifth. I can’t specialize until next term — that’s to say, if I’ve got my remove all right.

FRANK: Don’t you know if you’ve got your remove?

TAPLOW: No sir, Mr Crocker-Harris doesn’t tell us the results like the other masters.

FRANK: Why not?

Word Meaning
Remove Division or grade in school exam.

Taplow explains that he is still in lower fifth standard. He can take the specialized stream next year if he gets good grade in the exam. Frank asks him what grade he had got. Taplow replies that his teacher Crocker-Harris has not informed the grade. The teacher has not declared result while other teachers have announced. Frank asks why result has not been announced.

 

TAPLOW: Well, you know what he’s like, sir.

FRANK: I believe there is a rule that form results should only be announced by the headmaster on the last day of term.

TAPLOW: Yes — but who else pays attention to it — except Mr Crocker-Harris?

Taplow replies that it the habit of Crocker-Harris. Frank explains that it is rule that only the headmaster can announce the result. And it should be announced on the last day of the session. Taplow replies only Crocker-Harris follows this rule. All other teachers have announced the result.

 

FRANK: I don’t, I admit — but that’s no criterion. So you’ve got to wait until tomorrow to know your fate, have you?

TAPLOW: Yes, sir.

FRANK: Supposing the answer is favourable — what then?

TAPLOW: Oh — science, sir, of course.

Word Meaning
Admit Accept
Criterion Standard, Basis

Frank says he does not follow this rule. He accepts that this is not a strict rule. So Taplow needs to wait till tomorrow to know his result. Franks asks if Taplow gets good marks, which stream he will select. Taplow replies that he would certainly select science.

 

FRANK: (sadly) Yes. We get all the slackers.

TAPLOW: (protestingly) I’m extremely interested in science, sir.

FRANK: Are you? I’m not. Not, at least, in the science I have to teach.

Word Meaning
Slackers Students getting less marks, Lazy students
Protestingly With objections

With sorrow, Frank says that he gets student who get less marks. Taplow says with some objection that he is very much interested in science. Franks says that he is not interested in teaching science.

 

TAPLOW: Well, anyway, sir, it’s a good deal more exciting than this muck (indicating his book).

FRANK: What is this muck?

TAPLOW: Aeschylus, sir. The Agamemnon.

Word Meaning
A good deal more Much better
Muck Boring, Dirty,
Aeschylus A writer of Greece
Agamemnon He was a king in Greece

Taplow says that science would certainly be better that this boring book. Taplow says that name of the book is The Agamemnon written by Aeschylus.

 

FRANK: And your considered view is that the Agamemnon is muck?

TAPLOW: Well, no, sir. I don’t think the play is muck — exactly. I suppose, in a way, it’s rather a good plot, really, a wife murdering her husband and all that. I only meant the way it’s taught to us — just a lot of Greek words strung together and fifty lines if you get them wrong.

Word Meaning
Considered view Thoughtful opinion
Strung together Combined together

Frank asks if it was a well thought opinion of Taplow about the book. Taplow clarifies that the play is not so bad – a wife murders her husband. The method of teaching is bad. Lot of Greek words are combined together. If we understand these words incorrectly, we are asked to write fifty times.

 

FRANK: You sound a little bitter, Taplow.

TAPLOW: I am rather, sir.

FRANK: Kept in, eh?

TAPLOW: No, sir. Extra work.

FRANK: Extra work — on the last day of school?

Word Meaning
Bitter Acerbic, Unhappy
Kept in Made to overstay in school as punishment

Franks say that Taplow is sounding a bit unhappy. Taplow agrees. Franks asks if Taplow has been given punishment to stay after school hours. Taplow clarifies that he is in the school to do some extra studies. Frank is surprised because it was the last day of the school.

 

TAPLOW: Yes, sir, and I might be playing golf. You’d think he’d have enough to do anyway himself, considering he’s leaving tomorrow for good — but oh no, I missed a day last week when I was ill — so here I am — and look at the weather, sir.

Taplow agrees that he would have liked to play golf in this time. Because Crocker-Harris is going out of station tomorrow, he too must be busy today. But I had missed one class last week because I was sick. So I am here to learn that lesson. Weather is really good today.

 

FRANK: Bad luck. Still there’s one comfort. You’re pretty well certain to get your remove tomorrow for being a good boy in taking extra work.

Frank considers it a bad luck for Taplow to do extra work. Frank thinks that Taplow is doing extra study, so he should be certain of getting good grades tomorrow.

 

TAPLOW: Well, I’m not so sure, sir. That would be true of the ordinary masters, all right. They just wouldn’t dare not to give a chap a remove after his taking extra work. But those sort of rules don’t apply to the Crock — Mr Crocker-Harris. I asked him yesterday outright if he’d given me a remove and do you know what he said, sir?

Taplow is not sure about it. He says that such rules apply to ordinary teachers. They will give good grades to a student for doing extra work. But this rule does not apply to Mr. Crocker-Harris. Yesterday I had directly asked him what grade he would me. Do you know what his answer was?

 

FRANK: No. What?

TAPLOW: (imitating a very gentle, rather throaty voice) “My dear Taplow, I have given you exactly what you deserve. No less; and certainly no more.” Do you know sir, I think he may have marked me down, rather than up, for taking extra work. I mean, the man’s hardly human. (He breaks off quickly.) Sorry, sir. Have I gone too far?

Word Meaning
Imitating Copying
Throaty voice A rough voice, A heavy voice
Breaks off quickly Suddenly stops
Gone too far To do something that is not allowed, Exceed limits

Frank asks what did the other teacher say? Taplove tries to copy the heavy voice of Mr. Crocker-Harris. Mr. Harris had informed Taplow that he had given Taplow as many marks as he deserved. He has not given more marks. He has not less marks either. Taplow thinks that Mr Harris has given him less marks. Taplow thinks that teacher is not a good human being. He suddenly stops speaking. He then says that probably he is not allowed to speak such things.

 

FRANK: Yes. Much too far.

TAPLOW: Sorry, sir. I got carried away.

FRANK: Evidently. (He picks up a newspaper and opens it) — Er Taplow.

TAPLOW: Yes, sir?

FRANK: What was that Crocker-Harris said to you? Just — er — repeat it, would you?

Word Meaning
Much too far Large extent
Got carried away To do or say without control
Evidently Clearly

Franks says that Taplow has exceeded his limits by a large extent. Taplow request to pardon him and says that he could not control himself. Franks asks Taplow to repeat what Mr. Harris had told him.

 

TAPLOW: (imitating again) “My dear Taplow, I have given you exactly what you deserve. No less; and certainly no more.”

FRANK: (looking severe) Not in the least like him. Read your nice Aeschylus and be quiet.

TAPLOW: (with dislike) Aeschylus.

Word Meaning
Severe Harsh

Taplow again repeats what Mr. Harris had told him. Frank harshly says that Mr. Harris normally does not utter such words. He advises Taplow to read Aeschylus and to remain silent. Taplow is surprised.

 

FRANK: Look, what time did Mr Crocker-Harris tell you to be here?

TAPLOW: Six-thirty, sir.

FRANK: Well, he’s ten minutes late. Why don’t you cut? You could still play golf before lock-up.

Word Meaning
Cut To end, To discontinue

Frank asks what time Mr. Harris was to come there. Taplow replies that he was to come at six-thirty. Frank says that Harris is already late by 10 minutes. He suggests Taplow to stop waiting for Mr. Harris and to go. He says Taplow may be able to play golf before the ground is closed.

 

TAPLOW: (really shocked) Oh, no, I couldn’t cut. Cut the Crock — Mr Crocker-Harris? I shouldn’t think it’s ever been done in the whole time he’s been here. God knows what would happen if I did. He’d probably follow me home, or something…

Taplow is shocked to listen to the advice of Frank. He says that he cannot even think of avoiding Mr. Crocker-Harris. He has never done it before. Anything may happen if he does now. Perhaps he will come to my house.

Taplow is really afraid of Mr. Harris.

 

FRANK: I must admit I envy him the effect he seems to have on you boys in the form. You all seem scared to death of him. What does he do — beat you all, or something?

Word Meaning
Admit Accept
Envy To be jealous
In the form In the class
Scared to death Highly scared

Frank accepts that he is jealous of the impact Mr. Harris has on students of his class. You all are perhaps highly scared of him. Does he beat you all students.

 

TAPLOW: Good Lord, no. He’s not a sadist, like one or two of the others.

FRANK: I beg your pardon?

TAPLOW: A sadist, sir, is someone who gets pleasure out of giving pain.

FRANK: Indeed? But I think you went on to say that some other masters…

Word Meaning
Sadist One who likes to trouble others

Taplow denies that Mr. Harris ever beats his students. He does not give trouble or pain to others. Frank is surprised. He says that Taplow had talked that some other teachers trouble students.

 

TAPLOW: Well, of course, they are, sir. I won’t mention names, but you know them as well as I do. Of course I know most masters think we boys don’t understand a thing — but, sir, you’re different. You’re young — well, comparatively, anyway — and you’re science. You must know what sadism is.

FRANK: (after a pause) Good Lord! What are our schools coming to?

Taplow says that some other teachers are certainly sadists. I do not want to name them. You also know their names. Most teachers think that students do not understand anything. But you are different. You are relatively young. You are a teacher of science so you know what sadism is.

Frank does not speak for a while. Then he says that our school is certainly changing.

 

TAPLOW: Anyway, the Crock isn’t a sadist. That’s what I’m saying. He wouldn’t be so frightening if he were — because at least it would show he had some feelings. But he hasn’t. He’s all shrivelled up inside like a nut and he seems to hate people to like him. It’s funny, that. I don’t know any other master who doesn’t like being liked —

Word Meaning
Frightening Fearful
Shrivelled up Dried, Not having any feelings

Taplow again confirms that in his opinion Mr. Crock is not a sadist. If he were a sadist, we would not be so afraid of him. We will know that he has some feelings. But he does not have any feelings. He does want that people should like him. Every other teacher wants being liked by people.

 

FRANK: And I don’t know any boy who doesn’t use that for his own purposes.

TAPLOW: Well, it’s natural sir. But not with the Crock —

FRANK: Mr Crocker-Harris.

TAPLOW: Mr Crocker-Harris. The funny thing is that in spite of everything, I do rather like him. I can’t help it. And sometimes I think he sees it and that seems to shrivel him up even more —

Frank says that it applied for each student also. Meaning that every student also wants beings liked. Taplow agrees. He says it is funny that he still likes Mr. Harris. He thinks that Mr. Harris also knows about it. This further reduces feelings of Mr. Harris. He becomes more dry.

 

FRANK: I’m sure you’re exaggerating.

TAPLOW: No, sir. I’m not. In form the other day he made one of his classical jokes. Of course nobody laughed because nobody understood it, myself included. Still, I knew he’d meant it as funny, so I laughed. Out of ordinary common politeness, and feeling a bit sorry for him for having made a poor joke. Now I can’t remember what the joke was, but suppose I make it. Now you laugh, sir. (Frank laughs.)

Word Meaning
Exaggerating Boasting, Represent disproportionately

Franks says that he is sure that Taplow is making it look larger. Taplow denies it. One day Mr. Harris cracked a joke in the class. Nobody understood it. But I knew that we were supposed to laugh. I was feeling sorry about him. So I laughed. I wanted to be polite to him. Suppose I tell the same joke will you laugh? Frank starts laughing.

 

TAPLOW: (in a gentle, throaty voice) “Taplow — you laughed at my little joke, I noticed. I must confess that I am pleased at the advance your Latin has made since you so readily have understood what the rest of the form did not. Perhaps, now, you would be good enough to explain it to them, so that they too can share your pleasure”.

Word Meaning
Gentle Polite, Slow
Confess Accept
Advance Progress

Taplow tries to copy the style of Mr. Crocker in a slow and heavy voice. You laughed at my joke. I am happy at the progress of your knowledge of Latin language. The class did not understand the joke but you quickly understood the joke. You should now explain to the class so that they can also become happy.

 

The door up right is pushed open and Millie Crocker-Harris enters. She is a thin woman in her late thirties, rather more smartly dressed than the general run of schoolmasters’ wives. She is wearing a cape and carries a shopping basket. She closes the door and then stands by the screen watching Taplow and Frank. It is a few seconds before they notice her.

Word Meaning
General run General trend
Cape A short coat, Ponchoo
Screen Notice board, Screen of a TV

The door towards right opens. Millie Crocker-Harris enters. She is a thin woman. She is smartly dressed. More smartly than wives of school teachers would generally be dressed. She is wearing a poncho and carrying a basket. She closes the door and stands near the notice board. She is watching Frank and Taplow. After few seconds they notice her.

 

FRANK: Come along, Taplow (moves slowly above the desk). Do not be so selfish as to keep a good joke to yourself. Tell the others… (He breaks off suddenly, noticing Millie.) Oh Lord!

Frank turns quickly, and seems infinitely relieved at seeing Millie.

Word Meaning
Come along An expression to motivate
Infinitely relieved Greatly happy

Franks slowly moves near the desk and tries to motivate Taplow to tell the joke. He suddenly stops speaking after noticing Millie. Frank turns back and appears to be very happy to see Millie.

 

FRANK: Oh, hullo.

MILLIE: (without expression) Hullo. (She comes down to the sideboard and puts her basket on it.)

TAPLOW: (moving up to left of Frank; whispering frantically) Do you think she heard?

Frank and Millie exchange greetings. Millie comes to side table and puts her basket on it. Taplow comes near Frank and asks if Millie could hear him.

 

FRANK: (shakes his head comfortingly. Millie takes off her cape and hangs it on the hall-stand.) I think she did. She was standing there quite a time.

TAPLOW: If she did and she tells him, there goes my remove.

FRANK: Nonsense. (He crosses to the fireplace.)

Word Meaning
Comfortingly Confidently, Not worrying about anything

Frank shakes his head confidently. Millie has removed her poncho. She hangs it on the stand. Frank says that she had heard their discussion. Because she had been standing there for some time. Taplow is now worried. If she tells their discussion to Mr. Crocker, he may lose his grade. Franks comes near the fireplace and says that Taplow is thinking wrong.

 

Millie takes the basket from the sideboard, moves above the table and puts the basket on it.

MILLIE: (to Taplow) Waiting for my husband?

TAPLOW: (moving down left of the table) Er-yes.

MILLIE: He’s at the Bursar’s and might be there quite a time. If I were you I’d go.

TAPLOW: (doubtfully) He said most particularly I was to come.

Millie shifts his basket from side table to the main table. Millie asks Taplow if he was waiting for her husband. Talpow agrees. Millie says that her husband is at the shop of Bursar and he will come after sometime. If I were in your place I would have gone home. Taplow has a doubt that his teacher would come late. He says that Mr. Crocker had asked him to come.

 

MILLIE: Well, why don’t you run away for a quarter of an hour and come back? (She unpacks some things from the basket.)

TAPLOW: Supposing he gets here before me?

Millie advises Taplow to go away from there for about 15 minutes and then come back. She removes something from the basket. Taplow asks what will happen if Mr. Crocker comes there before Taplow returns.

 

MILLIE: (smiling) I’ll take the blame. (She takes a prescription out of the basket.) I tell you what — you can do a job for him. Take this prescription to the chemist and get it made up.

TAPLOW: All right, Mrs Crocker-Harris. (He crosses towards the door up right.)

Word Meaning
Take the blame Become responsible
Chemist Person at medicine shop
Get it made Purchase

Millie smiles and says that she will be held responsible. She takes out a prescription from her basket. She requests  Taplow to do a work for Mr. Crocker. She asked him to go to a medical shop and buy medicines. Taplow agrees and goes out from the door of right side.

****

 

CHILDHOOD

(Explanation)

When did my childhood go?

Was it the day I ceased to be eleven,

Was it the time I realised that Hell and Heaven,

Could not be found in Geography,

And therefore could not be,

Was that the day!

Word Meaning
Ceased Stopped
Poetic Devices
Was it the time I realised that Hell and Heaven Alliteration
Was it the time I realised that Hell and Heaven Alliteration
Was that the day! Alliteration

The poet asks himself when I lost my childhood. Did I lose it when my age was more than 11 years. Or did I lose my childhood when I understood that hell and heaven existed. Meaning when I became mature. But I could not find Hell and Heaven in the books of geography. Therefore I understood that Hell and Heaven did not exist. Did I lose my childhood on that day?

Poet has realised that he has lost his childhood. During the hustle and bustle of life he is not able to recollect when he lost his childhood. He makes certain guess but he is not sure.

 

When did my childhood go?

Was it the time I realised that adults were not

all they seemed to be,

They talked of love and preached of love,

But did not act so lovingly,

Was that the day!

Word Meaning
Preached Supported, Advocated
Poetic Devices
They talked of love and preached of love Repetition

The poet asks himself when I lost my childhood. Did I lose when I understood that adults are not as truthful as they appear to be? They talk about love, affection and advise others to love each other. But they themselves do not act with love. Did I lose my childhood on that day?

The poet continues to make guess about loss of childhood. During his life he had understood that adults always do not speak truth. They may advocate something but may do otherwise. This realization is very painful to him.

When did my childhood go?

Was it when I found my mind was really mine,

To use whichever way I choose,

Producing thoughts that were not those of other people

But my own, and mine alone

Was that the day!

Poetic Devices
Was it when I found my mind was really mine, Alliteration
Was it when I found my mind was really mine, Repetition
To use whichever way I choose, Alliteration
But my own, and mine alone Alliteration

The poet asks himself when I lost my childhood. Did I lose my childhood when I realised that I could think on my own. I had the freedom to use my mind as per my wish. Thus thoughts of mind were different from that of others. These were my own thoughts. Did I lose my childhood on that day?

Poet is denoting generation of his own thoughts as a sign of maturity. He is wondering if having one’s own thoughts is equal to leaving one’s childhood. Is having a different thought process a sign of maturity. He is not able to find answer to his own question.

 

Where did my childhood go?

It went to some forgotten place,

That’s hidden in an infant’s face,

That’s all I know.

Word Meaning
Infant Very small child

The poet asks himself where I lost my childhood. He thinks it is lost at some place that he has forgotten. He thinks that his childhood is lost in the innocent face of an infant. This is all he can remember.

Poet wants to say that he has lost his childhood and it is not possible to find it again. He had the childhood till he was a small child and was innocent. As he grew and became more conscious and matured, he has lost his carefree days of childhood. He wants to regain his childhood days but he cannot.

 

****


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