Amalkanti Poem Analysis Essays

Reading Comprehension

Q. 1. Do you think that Amalkanti's desire to `become sunlight' is unrealistic or foolish?

Ans. 1. At first it does seem that Amalkanti's desire is unrealistic as well as foolish because we know that no one can become sunlight! Our disbelief however, results from a purely literal interpretation of this unique desire.If however we try to look at it metaphorically then Amalkanti's desire is neither unrealistic nor foolish because his desire is lo brighten up the world by doing something that would bring joy into the people's lives. He does achieve this desire partly by getting engaged in the business of printing books. Books too spread light in the metaphorical sense and also brighten up people's world.

Q. 2. How is Amalkanti's dream different from that of the other boys in the class? What does it tell us about him?

Ans. 2. Amalkanti's dream is a very unconventional one. Other boys in his class have the usual conventional desires of becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers. But Amalkanti wants to become none of these. He wants to become sunlight. He is different and he is special. Unlike other boys. Amalkanti's desired is so deep that he constantly dreams about it and is not ready to compromise with it.

Q. 3. What do you think is the speaker's attitude towards Amalkanti: full of pity, critical or sympathetic?

Ans. 3. The speaker's altitude towards Amalkanti is full of pity most of the time. At first he feels sorry for him when he is not able to perform well at school and is constantly day-dreaming. Later he feels sorry for him when he turns out to be a failure in conventional terms.

Q. 4. What do you think is the poet's attitude towards Amalkanti? What in the poem alerts us to the possibility that the attitude of the poet might be different from that of the speaker?

Ans. 4. The poet's attitude towards Amalkanti is very different from that of the speaker's. First of all the choice of name `Amalkanti' which means `pure radiance' itself indicates that the poet's attitude is not very critical. In fact it is sympathetic even full of wonder. As we read the poem

a change in tone occurs in stanza 2 lines 12-17. From being amused and condescending it now becomes soft, lyrical and almost wishful in describing how Amalkanti wants to become the `timid sunlight of late afternoon' and a sunlight that clings like a smile. In the last stanza we notice this change in tone once again when it becomes full of wonder at the depth of Amalkanti's desire in comparison with the shallowness of his classmates. Amalkanti is very clear in his head on what he wants to be. He may be an idealist but at least he does not compromise with his heart's desire and tries to spread light in the metaphorical sense by engaging in a task that spreads knowledge.

Q. 5. The tone of the speaker in the first three stanzas of the poem is confident and amused but the tone in lines 12-17 and the last stanza of the poem changes. Does it become:

(i) surprised/wonder

(ii) appreciation

(iii) lyrical

What effect do phrases like `now and then' `this and that' `more or less' have on our attitude towards the speaker?

Ans. 5. The tone in lines 12-17 is soft and lyrical while in the last stanza it is full of wonder at this boy who refuses to compromise with his heart's desire. In the eyes of the world he may be a failure but for himself he has been able to do what he most wanted to—to spread sunlight. By working for a printer he is engaged in the task of printing books which metaphorically spread light and cheer up people's world. In comparison to Amalkanti, the speaker's attitude towards life is very casual. Phrases like `.now and then' `this and that' `more or less' indicates that nothing matters to him very deeply.

Q. 6. In the first stanza we feel sorry for Amalkanti because he comes late to class, doesn't know his lessons and can't conjugate his verbs. Clearly, Amalkanti is a poor student. Do you think Amalkanti is a failure not only because he could not `become sunlight' but also because he is confined to a low paying job in a printing house where he has to work in a `poorly lit room' (in fact far from sunlight)? In `Go, Kiss the World' we looked at different definitions of success. Do you think that in this poem the poet is trying to give us yet another perspective on success and failure?

Ans. 6. In conventional terms Amalkanti is a failure because he has not been materially successful and is not making a future. In fact he is confined to a low paying job. But in another sense he is a success because he has been able to do what he most wanted to in life and that is to spread light. If we look at his desire literally then we are missing the point that the poet is trying to make. Metaphorically Amalkanti has been able to do what he most wanted to. Thus in this poem we are being given yet another definition of success. Success does not always mean to be rich. It also means to be able to join a profession of your choice. To be able to do what you most wanted to.

Q. 7. The poet says that it "wouldn't have made much difference to him' if the one who became a teacher had become a doctor or the one who became a doctor had become a lawyer. What does this tell us about Amalkanti's classmates.

Ans. 7. Amalkanti's classmates are materialistic people- For them any conventionally respectable profession would do as long as it brings money with it. They do not have any deep desire or goal or ambition as Amalkanti has.

Q. 8. What in the poem makes us feel that far from being a failure, Amalkanti is special and that

the work he does is creative and fulfilling, though low paid? (After all books are commonly associated with light—a diya or a candle—and are regularly seen as another means of creating light).

Ans. 8. Amalkanti may be a failure in the conventional sense. He may not have been able to get a well-paying job but this does not mean that he is a failure. In this poem we are being given yet another definition of success. If you are able to do what you want in life, if you are even able to join a profession of your choice which gives you satisfaction if not money then too you are successful. Amalkanti wanted to become sunlight. He wanted to brighten up people's lives. By working for a printer he is involved in the process of spreading the light of knowledge through the printed word in the form of books. His job gives him satisfaction even though it does not bring him much money and he has to work in a poorly lit room. Amalkanti has come very close to realizing his dream. He has finally become the means of spreading light therefore we can say that far from being a failure he has been successful.

Q. 9. Irony is a device through which the speaker or writer gives two meanings, one literal (what the words mean) and one hidden and at variance with the literal one, which we have to guess at. The most common way of signalling that one is being ironic is by a change of tone, when there appears to be something odd or wrong with the words. The tone is also at odds, with the literal meaning of the words. The contrast between getting `more or less what we wanted' and wanting something so badly that you willingly become a failure, is the difference between Amalkanti and the others in the class, who may be more successful in conventional terms. The irony in the poet's tone may have been more apparent to a Bangla or Hindi reader, to whom the connotations of the name `Amalkanti' may have been at once clear. Find out what `Amalkanti' means in Bangla and Hindi and discuss if it affects your understanding of the poem. Do you think poems lose their finer meanings through translations.

Ans. 9. Amalkanti means "pure radiance" in Bangla and Hindi. Knowing the meaning of the -word certainly affects our understanding of the poem for we are able to not only catch the irony in the poem but also the attitude of the poet towards the subject. Out of the group of boys in Amalkanti's class, it is only Amalkanli who has a clear focus and knows what he wants to become when grown up. It is as clear in his mind as his name itself suggests. Irony is working at two levels in the poem. For the speaker, it is ironical that a person who wanted to become sunlight is ultimately confined to a poorly-lit room in a low paying job. But because we have realized that there is a difference in the attitude of the speaker and the poet towards Amalkanti, we can see that the irony is working in the opposite direction too. From the poet's point of view it is ironical that the speaker cannot see that Amalkanti has infact been able to spread light metaphorically through books and has lived up to his name. These finer meanings are certainly affected in translations but a good translation can come very close to the original as this one has.

Q. 10. Try and attempt this question yourself.


!. Poets choose words and structures with great care and after much thought, for they can affect our response with their sound, connotations and subtle nuances of meaning. In groups of 3 examine the lines given below and list as many alternatives as you can find for the words and phrases underlined and then briefly state why the poet's formulation is the best in the given context.

[1] Amalkanti is a friend of mine [This is a solved example in the text]

(i) My best friend is Amalkanti.

(ii) A classmate named Amalkanti.

(iii) Amalkanti is my friend,

(iv) Amalkanti is an acquaintance.

The poet's choice is best because it combines intimacy with distance, neither too close nor too indifferent. This helps to define exactly the relationship between the speaker and the subject.

[2] he looked out of the window/in such puzzlement

(i) he looked out of the window in such confusion.

(ii) he looked out of the window in such bewilderment.

(iii) he looked out of the window in such a confused state

The poets choice is the best because the word `puzzlement' itself indicates Amalkanti's confused state of mind.

[3] He wanted to be...the timid sunlight of late afternoon.

(i) He wanted to be...the weak sunlight of the latter half of the day.

(ii) He wanted to be the waning sunlight of afternoon.

(iii) He wanted to be the fearful sunlight of noon.

The poet's choice is the best because the words clearly express that Amalkanti wants to become the kind of sunlight that brings warmth and yet is not harsh. It glows rather than burns.

[4] The sunlight that clings like a smile.

[5] He works in a poorly-lit room.

Try and attempt nos. 4 & 5 by yourself.


Letter of Recommendation

To Whomsoever It May Concern

I have known Mr. Amalkanti Guha for 30 years. Though never a high performer he has always been a meticulous worker. What is more, he truly enjoys the work he does and since he rose up to his position as Printing Press Supervisor with Ujwal Jyoti Prakashan from the workshop floor, he is familiar with every aspect of printing. He is also creative and hard working and therefore I would recommend him unreservedly to every reputed printer or publisher. Finally I would add that he would prove to be an asset for any company. I wish him all the very best in the new assignment.

Sudhir Kumar Das


Kolkata High Court.

The above answers give good insights, but as you can imagine, there is no one way to appreciate or analyze a poem. In other words, there are many ways in which to approach a poem. In light of this, let me give you a few different ways. 

First, if you focus on the mechanics of a poem by examining poetic devices, you should also ask yourself what these devices do for the meaning of the poem. For example, the meter of The Tyger by William Blake reminds the reader of the incessant pounding of a hammer on an anvil. In this way, the poetic elements add to the meaning of the work.

Second, you should also focus on the historical context. For example, the Roman poet Horace writes ode 1.2 in the context of the flooding of the Tiber River. This act can be seen as a bad omen of what is to follow, or he can interpret it as the signaling of a new age with the rise of Augustus. In this way, he is saying the poet has a lot of power to interpret events in poetry for the general populous. 

In conclusion, to analyze poetry, use as many tools and ways of reading as you can. That is critical.  

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