In Paths Untrodden: MBOSE Class 11 English Core notes

In Paths Untrodden
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Get summaries, questions, answers, solutions, notes, extras, PDF of Class 11 English Core textbook (Resonance), chapter 5 In Paths Untrodden by Walt Whitman, which is part of the syllabus of students studying under MBOSE (Meghalaya Board). These solutions, however, should only be treated as references and can be modified/changed. 

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“In Paths Untrodden” by Walt Whitman is a reflective poem where the poet expresses a desire to escape societal norms and embrace individuality. The speaker finds solace in untrodden paths by the pond, away from the life that society exhibits. He rejects established standards and material pursuits that he previously conformed to, realizing they did not nourish his soul.

In this secluded spot, free from the world’s noise, the speaker feels liberated to respond genuinely, without the embarrassment he would feel elsewhere. He celebrates a life that is authentic and rich, even if it is not outwardly displayed. The poet emphasizes the importance of true comradeship and expresses a desire to sing only of genuine human connections, particularly those of strong, affectionate friendships.

He acknowledges the significant shift in his perspective at the age of forty-one and commits to sharing his realizations with young men. The poet seeks to impart the value of authentic relationships and the fulfillment found in following one’s path, free from societal pressures. Whitman underscores the necessity of camaraderie and the profound joy it brings, marking a departure from materialism towards a more meaningful existence.

This soliloquy reflects the poet’s introspection and his decision to prioritize personal values over societal expectations, advocating for individual freedom and the celebration of genuine human bonds.

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Line-by-line explanation of the poem

In paths untrodden, / In the growth by margins of pond-waters,

The poet begins by describing paths that have not been walked on and are surrounded by plants growing along the edges of ponds. This imagery suggests a natural, untouched environment away from human interference.

Escaped from the life that exhibits itself, / From all the standards hitherto publish’d, from the pleasures, / profits, conformities,

The poet expresses a desire to break free from a life that is on display for others, adhering to societal norms, and focusing on materialistic pleasures and profits. He wants to escape the conformities that society imposes.

Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,

He reflects on how he has spent too long trying to satisfy his soul with these external standards and materialistic pursuits.

Clear to me now standards not yet publish’d, clear to me that my soul,

The poet now realizes that there are new, unpublished standards, ones that resonate more deeply with his soul, suggesting a personal set of values different from societal norms.

That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades,

He speaks on behalf of a man whose soul finds joy in true companionship and friendships.

Here by myself away from the clank of the world,

The poet is alone in a peaceful, secluded place, far from the noise and chaos of the outside world.

Tallying and talk’d to here by tongues aromatic,

In this quiet spot, he finds agreement and is metaphorically spoken to by the fragrant surroundings, indicating a harmonious interaction with nature.

No longer abash’d, (for in this secluded spot I can respond as I / would not dare elsewhere,)

He no longer feels shy or embarrassed, because in this secluded place, he feels free to express himself in ways he wouldn’t dare to in more public settings.

Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet contains all / the rest,

He feels a powerful connection to a life that isn’t outwardly visible but encompasses everything else, suggesting a deeper, more meaningful existence.

Resolv’d to sing no songs to-day but those of manly attachment,

He is determined to focus only on songs of strong, genuine friendships, avoiding superficial themes.

Projecting them along that substantial life,

He aims to incorporate these genuine attachments into a meaningful, substantive life.

Bequeathing hence types of athletic love,

He wants to leave behind examples of strong, energetic friendships for others to follow.

Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first year,

He notes that it is a pleasant afternoon in September, and he is reflecting on these thoughts at the age of forty-one.

I proceed for all who are or have been young men,

He moves forward with these reflections for the benefit of all young men, past and present.

To tell the secret my nights and days, / To celebrate the need of comrades.

He intends to share the insights gained from his experiences and emphasize the importance of true companionship and camaraderie.

Textual questions and answers

Answer these questions briefly

1. Even in the growth along the margins of a pond, if human beings walk along everyday, a mud-track forms. Does the poet want to walk on this?

Answer: No, he wants to walk in paths untrodden.

2. Is the poet happy with the standard behaviour that society expects from everyone?

Answer: No, he is not happy with the standard behaviour.

3. Which lines in the poem tell us that a secluded spot would allow someone to behave in a daring manner?

Answer: “For in this secluded spot I can respond as I would not dare elsewhere.”

4. Does Whitman believe that life would offer much more when he stops to bother about material pursuits? How different does he think it would be and why?

Answer: Yes, he believes life would offer much more. He thinks it would be substantial and full of athletic love because he would no longer conform to societal standards and pleasures.

Explain the following phrases in context

1. From all the standards hitherto publish’d

Answer: From all the norms and expectations previously established by society.

2. Away from the clank of the world

Answer: Removed from the noise and distractions of daily life and society.

3. As I would not dare elsewhere

Answer: In a manner that I would not feel confident or bold enough to do in other places.

4. But those of manly attachment

Answer: Only those songs that express strong, masculine bonds of friendship and camaraderie.

5. To celebrate the need of comrades

Answer: To honour and emphasise the importance of close friends and affectionate associations.

Appreciating the poem

1. Write about a hundred words on the point that the poet is to make. Do you perceive a message? Choose any one of the following ideas and substantiate it.

  • People should be allowed to freely make choices in life.
  • It is a burden to conform to the set rules of society.
  • Life is richer when you walk on the untrodden path.
  • The poet has written the whole poem as a soliloquy. He is talking to himself.

Answer: It is a burden to conform to the set rules of society. The poet, Walt Whitman, expresses his frustration with societal norms and standards that restrict individual freedom and self-expression. In the poem, he celebrates the liberation that comes from escaping these constraints and finding joy in the natural, untrodden paths. By distancing himself from societal expectations, he can connect more deeply with his own soul and the authentic experiences of life. This soliloquy reflects his desire for a life free from the pressures of conformity, allowing for true personal growth and happiness.

2. Is it teenage longing or adult thoughts that the poet is expressing? Is there any evidence in the poem to suggest how old he is?

Answer: It is adult thoughts that the poet is expressing. The poem reflects mature reflections on life, conformity, and self-identity. Evidence in the poem suggests that the poet is in his forties, specifically “Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first year.” This line indicates that the poet’s thoughts and feelings stem from his experiences and reflections as a mature adult, rather than the impetuous longings of a teenager.

Appreciating form and language

The poet is deep in thought and far from any outside disturbance as he ponders over his decision to make a change in his life. The poem is in the form of a soliloquy. In literature, a soliloquy is a speech, usually in a play, in which a character who is alone talks about his or her thoughts and feelings. Soliloquy is derived from a Latin word, soliloquium which literally means solus (alone), and loqui (to speak). Do you know of any piece of prose or poetry that is written in a similar style? Find and read at least one example of a soliloquy.

Do you know of any piece of prose or poetry that is written in a similar style? Find and read at least one example of a soliloquy.

Answer: One famous example of a soliloquy in literature is Hamlet’s soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The soliloquy, which begins with “To be, or not to be, that is the question,” explores deep existential themes and the internal conflict of the character Hamlet. He reflects on life, death, and the nature of existence, showcasing his thoughts and feelings while he is alone. This soliloquy is a powerful example of a character’s introspective speech, similar to the style used by Walt Whitman in “In Paths Untrodden.”

Extra fill in the blanks

1. In the growth by margins of ______? (pond-waters/trees)

Answer: pond-waters

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10. Escaped from the life that ______ itself? (exhibits/hides)

Answer: exhibits

Extra true or false

1. The poet walks on paths that are frequently travelled by others.

Answer: False

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10. Whitman feels abashed in the secluded spot described in the poem.

Answer: False

Extra question and answer

1. “In paths untrodden, In the growth by margins of pond-waters”

(i) Where is the speaker walking?

Answer: In paths untrodden and in the growth by margins of pond-waters.

(ii) What does “untrodden” mean in this context?

Answer: Untrodden means not stepped on or not travelled.

(iii) What natural feature is mentioned alongside the path?

Answer: The margins of pond-waters.

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13. What does Whitman mean by “standards not yet publish’d” and how does this reflect his views on individuality?

Answer: By “standards not yet publish’d,” Whitman means norms and behaviours that have not been established or accepted by society. This reflects his views on individuality as he seeks to define his own path and standards, rather than conforming to societal expectations. He believes in the importance of personal freedom and the joy of discovering one’s own values and standards. This is evident as he expresses happiness in the clarity of these unpublished standards and the rejoicing of the soul in finding comrades who share these values, away from the clank of the world.

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