Get notes, solutions, summary, textual questions and answers, extras, MCQs, and pdf of the poem On Killing a Tree by Gieve Patel which is part of (West Bengal Board) WBCHSE Class 12 English syllabus. However, the notes should only be treated for references and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
The poem “On Killing a Tree” by Gieve Patel describes the difficult process of killing a tree and the resilience of nature.
In the first stanza, the poet says that killing a tree is not easy – it takes a long time and effort. Just stabbing or hacking at it will not kill a full-grown tree.
The second stanza elaborates on how the tree has grown strong over many years – slowly taking in nutrients from the earth, sunlight, air and water. It is firmly rooted with the help of its anchoring roots.
Even after being hacked and chopped, the bleeding bark of the tree heals itself. New green twigs sprout from the remaining trunk near the ground. The miniature branches can potentially grow back to full size if left unchecked.
So in the third stanza, the poet says to kill a tree completely, the root has to be pulled out totally from the earth. The tree has to be uprooted by roping, tying and snapping it out of the ground. This exposes the life-giving roots.
In the fourth stanza, the exposed roots are left to dry and perish in the open sun and air. The root goes through the processes of scorching, choking, browning, hardening, twisting and withering. Only when the tree has completely dried up and died, the act of killing it is fully accomplished.
The poem uses vivid imagery of violence to depict man’s cruelty against nature. By personifying the tree, the poet highlights the resilience of nature. The deliberate destruction of the tree represents how modern man can thoughtlessly harm the very environment that sustains him. The poem conveys a powerful message about the wanton destruction of trees and urges respect for nature.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and answers
1. What does the poet say is not enough to kill a tree?
A. Hacking and chopping it B. Causing it bleeding bark C. Exposing its roots D. Starving it of sunlight
2. How does the poet describe the process of the tree’s growth?
A. Slow and steady B. Quick and easy C. Secretive and hidden D. Painful and wounded
3. What does the poet mean when he says the tree has ‘consumed’ the earth?
A. The tree has eaten the earth B. The tree has absorbed nourishment from the earth C. The tree has destroyed the earth D. The tree has digested the earth
4. What does the poet want to expose to kill the tree completely?
A. Its bark B. Its branches C. Its leaves D. Its roots
5. Where are the roots of the tree anchored?
A. In the mud B. In the air C. In the sun D. In the earth
6. How are the exposed roots described by the poet?
A. Dead and dry B. Soft and weak C. Hard and stringy D. White and wet
7. What might the ‘leperous hide’ of the tree refer to?
A. Its rough bark B. Its diseased leaves C. Its few fruits D. Its brittle branches
8. What does the poet say is needed after exposing the roots?
A. Applying medicines B. Burning the remains C. Scorching and choking it D. Burying the upside down tree
9. Where has the tree sourced its strength from?
A. The sun B. The air C. The earth D. The rain
10. How long does the poet say it takes to kill a tree?
A. A few minutes B. A few hours C. Many years D. Much time
11. What does the poet say will heal if the tree is simply hacked?
A. The leaves B. The branches C. The bark D. The roots
12. What does the poet mean when he says the twigs will ‘expand again to former size’?
A. They will grow bigger than the tree B. They will grow back to original tree size C. They will become deform D. They will not regrow
13. What does the poet compare the regrowing twigs to?
A. Death B. Miniature boughs C. Bleeding bark D. Anchoring earth
14. Why does the poet say the task of killing the tree is ‘not so simple’?
A. It requires complex tools B. It cannot be done alone C. It takes a long time D. It needs a permanent solution
15. What happens to the exposed tree from sun and air?
A. It gets nourished B. It starts flowering C. It begins rotting D. It undergoes browning, hardening and withering
16. What poetic device does the poet use to describe the roots as ‘white and wet’?
A. Simile B. Metaphor C. Personification D. Alliteration
17. Why does the poet describe the jab of the knife as ‘not a simple’ one?
A. It is a complex process B. It requires multiple attempts C. It is emotionally draining D. It does not completely kill the tree
18. What does the poet want to convey through the vivid description of killing the tree?
A. That trees need to be preserved B. The futility of violence against nature C. That ending any life is a complex process D. The importance of protecting forests
19. Which literary device does the poet use through the repetition of ‘No,’ in the fifth stanza?
A. Alliteration B. Rhyme scheme C. Anaphora D. Enjambment
20. What tone does the poet adopt for most of the poem?
A. Ironic B. Nostalgic C. Didactic D. Reflective
21. What happens if the regrowing twigs are ‘unchecked’?
A. They will bear more fruits B. They will spread disease C. They will attract insects D. They will expand to former size
22. Why does the poet describe the tree’s hide as ‘leperous’?
A. It is diseased and decaying B. It is rough and scarred C. It is bloated and swollen D. It is numb and insensitive
23. What does the poet want to emphasize through the vivid imagery?
A. The beauty of trees B. The brutality of killing C. The joy of chopping trees D. The thickness of bark
24. What happens if the exposed roots are not ‘scorched and choked’?
A. They will decay on their own B. They can regrow the tree C. They will attract pests D. Nothing can make them revive
25. Which literary device does the poet use by personifying the tree?
A. Simile B. Apostrophe C. Euphemism D. Synecdoche
26. To kill a tree, the poet says its roots must be _________.
A. buried deep B. starved of water C. snapped out of the earth D. consumed by termites
27. What does the poet want to capture through the tree’s experience?
A. Life’s inevitability B. Nature’s power C. Death’s complexity D. Survival’s fragility
28. Why does the poet say ‘No,’ repeatedly in stanza five?
A. To show certainty B. To indicate dissent C. To depict continuity D. To highlight doubt
29. Which literary device does the poet employ through the vivid imagery of the tree?
A. Euphemism B. Personification C. Hyperbole D. Simile
30. What is the tone of the poem?
A. Bleak and bitter B. Hopeful and optimistic C. Humorous and ironic D. Reflective and philosophical
Short/very short answer type questions and answers
1. What is the main idea of the poem?
Answer: The difficulty and deliberateness required to destroy nature/a tree.
2. What does the tree symbolize in the poem?
Answer: The tree symbolizes nature’s resilience.
3. How does the poet describe the growth of the tree?
Answer: The poet describes the tree slowly consuming the earth, rising out of it, feeding on its crust over years.
4. What imagery does the poet use to describe the tree?
Answer: Imagery like “leperous hide”, “bleeding bark”, “curled green twigs”.
5. How does the poet personify the tree?
Answer: The poet personifies the tree by giving it life-like qualities of healing, bleeding, feeding etc.
6. What does the poet mean by “leperous hide”?
Answer: The rough, infected outer bark of the tree.
7. According to the poet, why is it difficult to kill a tree?
Answer: Because it has strong regenerative powers and simply hacking or chopping it won’t kill it.
8. What happens when you just stab or hack at the tree?
Answer: The bleeding bark heals and new twigs sprout from the ground.
9. What does the poet mean by “The bleeding bark will heal”?
Answer: That the outer damage inflicted on the tree will heal with time.
10. What will grow if the hacking is “unchecked”?
Answer: Miniature branches which will expand to the tree’s former size.
11. Why must the root be pulled out to kill the tree?
Answer: Because the root is the source of the tree’s strength and regeneration.
12. How does the poet describe the process of uprooting the tree?
Answer: As a deliberate act of roping, tying and snapping the root out of the anchoring earth.
13. What is revealed when the tree is pulled out from the “earth-cave”?
Answer: The most sensitive and hidden part of the tree – its roots.
14. How does the poet describe the exposed roots of the tree?
Answer: As white, wet and the most sensitive part hidden for years.
15. What must be done after uprooting the tree?
Answer: It must be scorched, choked and withered in sun and air.
16. How does the poet describe the process of scorching and choking the tree?
Answer: As browning, hardening, twisting and withering the uprooted tree.
17. What happens to the tree after it has been uprooted and choked?
Answer: It withers, twists and dies.
18. What is the rhythm/rhyme scheme of the poem?
Answer: No fixed rhyme scheme. Free verse.
19. How does the poet show that killing a tree is a difficult process?
Answer: By detailing the various unsuccessful attempts before the roots are uprooted.
20. What is the symbolic significance of uprooting the tree?
Answer: It signifies destroying nature at its very core for civilization.
21. How does the poem highlight man’s destructive capabilities?
Answer: By detailing the violent process of uprooting and choking a tree to death.
22. Why does the poet capitalize words like Pain, Bark, Root in the poem?
Answer: For emphasis and to highlight their symbolic importance.
23. What is the meaning of the line ” Years of sunlight, air, water”?
Answer: It refers to the natural elements that helped the tree grow over years.
24. What does the tree’s “leperous hide” symbolize in the poem?
Answer: The rough, infected outer exterior that hides the tree’s inner strength.
25. Why does the poet call the roots “the most sensitive, hidden”?
Answer: Because they are the most delicate, vulnerable and concealed part of the tree.
26. What is the meaning of “anchoring earth” in the poem?
Answer: The ground/soil that provides nourishment and support to the tree.
27. How does the poet highlight the resilience of the tree?
Answer: By showing how it can regenerate despite damage.
28. Why does the poet say “this alone won’t do it” about hacking the tree?
Answer: Because just hacking the exterior won’t kill the tree due to its resilience.
29. What does “former size” refer to in the poem?
Answer: The original mature size of the tree before it was hacked.
30. Why does the poet say the roots must be “scorched and choked”?
Answer: To fully kill the uprooted tree by depriving it of air/sunlight.
31. What does “twisting, withering” refer to in the poem?
Answer: The process of the uprooted tree dying after being choked/scorched.
32. What is the meaning of the line “the strength of the tree exposed”?
Answer: Uprooting the tree reveals its hidden source of power – the roots.
33. How does the tree feed upon the “crust” of the earth?
Answer: By absorbing nutrients from the soil/ground.
34. Why does the poet call the roots “white and wet”?
Answer: To emphasize their raw, freshly exposed state when uprooted.
35. What does the poet mean by the root being “roped, tied”?
Answer: That it is forcibly bound and pulled out of the earth.
36. What is the meaning of the metaphor “earth-cave” in the poem?
Answer: It refers to the underground space occupied by the roots anchoring the tree.
37. What happens when a tree is pulled from the earth?
Answer: When the roots of a tree are pulled from the anchoring earth, a gaping hole remains known as the “earth cave.”
38. What is the final act done to the tree to kill it?
Answer: The final act done to kill a tree is uprooting it completely.
39. What are the steps involved in uprooting a tree?
Answer: The steps involved in uprooting a tree are roping, tying and pulling out entirely.
40. What does the word ‘source’ refer to in the poem?
Answer: In the poem, the word ‘source’ refers to the root of the tree.
41. Why can’t a simple jab of the knife kill a tree?
Answer: A simple jab of the knife cannot kill a tree because it has grown by consuming nutrients from the earth and it is deep-rooted.
42. How does the poet highlight the suffering of a tree?
Answer: The poet uses the term ‘bleeding’ to highlight the suffering of the tree.
43. What rises from close to the ground?
Answer: Curled green twigs rise from close to the ground.
44. How does the poet point out the resilience of nature?
Answer: The poet points out the resilience of nature by showing how the bleeding bark of the tree heals its wound and bounces back to its former size.
45. What remains hidden for years inside the earth?
Answer: The roots of a tree remain hidden for years inside the earth.
46. What does the poet describe by ‘The source, white and wet’?
Answer: By using the expression ‘The source, white and wet’, the poet describes the roots of a tree.
Analytical/descriptive/long questions and answers
1. Critically analyze how the poem “On Killing a Tree” uses the symbol of the tree to comment on the resilience of nature.
Answer: The tree in the poem symbolizes nature and its resilience. The poet uses vivid imagery related to the tree’s growth like “slowly consuming the earth”, “rising out of it”, “feeding upon its crust” to show how deeply rooted it is, metaphorically and literally. EVEN hacking and chopping the tree does not entirely destroy it as “the bleeding bark will heal”. The use of resilient elements like bark and twigs regenerating depicts nature’s perseverance. Uprooting the tree is violent – “roped, tied, pulled out, snapped out” – conveying that destroying nature completely takes deliberate cruelty. The tree’s hidden root, its “sensitive” core resource, represents nature’s essence. By symbolizing nature as a tree that requires brutal uprooting to fully destroy, the poem comments on nature’s sturdiness against human destruction.
2. Discuss the central theme of man’s destructive capabilities brought out in the poem “On Killing a Tree”.
Answer: The poem explores man’s potential for destruction through the extended metaphor of killing a tree. The step-by-step process to uproot the tree conveys the deliberateness of destroying nature for civilization. The violent imagery of “bleeding bark”, “leperous hide” shows man’s infliction of pain on nature. The capitalized words like “Pain”, “Hack”, “Chop” underscore this cruelty. The gradual workaround from hacking the branches to choking the uprooted trunk shows man’s persistence in destruction. The personification of the healing, regenerating tree highlights the ruthlessness in crushing nature’s resilience. The deliberate “scorching and choking” of the exposed roots is symbolic of destroying nature’s core for human ends. Overall, the detailed description of uprooting the anchored tree serves as an allegory for man’s destructive capability when pursuing progress.
3. Comment on the tone and mood of the poem “On Killing a Tree” and how the poet creates this through poetic devices.
Answer: The tone of the poem is reflective, sinister and deliberative. Themood is somber, ominous and meditative. The slow, structured progression of ideas creates a contemplative mood. Imagery like “leperous hide”, “bleeding bark” generates an ominous atmosphere. The metaphor of choking the tree and vivid root imagery create a sense of violence. The repetition of “No” and “So” gives the tone a meditative, musing quality. The use of enjambment maintains this reflective tone. The capitalized words stress the somber deliberation in destroying nature. Overall, through ominous imageries, deliberate repetition and disruptive enjambment, the poet creates a grim, contemplative mood and tone regarding man’s violence against nature.
4. Analyze how the poet uses vivid imagery related to nature in the poem “On Killing a Tree” to highlight the difficulty of destroying it.
Answer: Natural imagery in the poem underlines how deeply entrenched the tree is in nature, emphasizing the difficulty in uprooting it completely. The tree “consum[ing] the earth”, “feeding/Upon its crust” shows its intricate anchoring within the earth. Bark healing, new twigs sprouting from the ground depict the regenerative nature of its damaged exterior. Delicate imagery like “bleeding bark”, “leperous hide” reveals that harming the tree inflicts pain upon nature. Extracting the “white and wet” root which was “hidden for years” highlights destroying the core, concealed essence of the tree. Through such vivid and visceral natural imagery, the poem demonstrates that the difficulty in killing a tree reflects the challenge of overcoming nature’s life-force and resilience.
5. Discuss the symbolism of the tree and its roots in the poem “On Killing a Tree”. What could they represent?
Answer: The tree is a symbol of nature and its resilience against human destruction. Its roots anchored in the earth represent how deeply nature is entrenched in the world. The ‘bleeding bark’ and ‘leperous hide’ symbolize the external protections around nature’s core. The imagery of new twigs sprouting depicts nature’s cycles of regeneration. The root hidden within the ‘earth-cave’ signifies the concealed essence or soul of nature. Its description as ‘white and wet’ stands for the purity and freshness of this essence. The process of choking the exposed roots represents destroying nature’s core life-giving force for civilization. Overall, the tree and roots symbolize nature, its layered defenses, its resilience and how uprooting it entirely necessitates attacking its innermost core.
6. Critically examine the poet’s use of capitalization, structure and syntax in the poem “On Killing a Tree” and what effects this creates.
Answer: The capitalization of words like “Pain”, “Hack”, “Chop”, “Bark”, “Root” emphasizes each violent action against the tree. The structured, sequential stanzas mimic the logical progression of attempting to destroy the tree. The enjambment across stanzas unifies the process described. Repetition of “So” and “No” lends a contemplative, meditative syntax. The harsh verbs “hack”, “chop”, “scorch”, “choke” reinforce the violence. The slowed down, instructive tone created by the syntax highlights the deliberateness of destroying nature. Overall, through capitalization, purposeful structure, repetition and disruptive syntax, the poem reflects on the cruelty in uprooting nature’s resilience in a contemplative yet sinister manner.
7. Analyze how the step-by-step process to uproot the tree brings out the central idea of the poem “On Killing a Tree”.
Answer: The poem methodically describes the meticulous efforts taken to fully uproot the tree. First it details unsuccessful attempts like “hack[ing]” or “chop[ping]” at exterior bark and branches. Then it states uprooting the entire tree is required, using imagery like “roped”, “tied”, “pulled out” to convey the brute force needed. It notes “scorching and choking” the exposed roots to kill the tree. This vivid, violen step-by-step process underscores the central idea – that destroying nature requires deliberate, cruel efforts attacking its core, even as nature persistently regenerates. The sequential process highlights man’s persistence in using force to overcome nature’s defenses for civilizational goals, bringing out the ominous central idea of man’s destructive potential.
8. Examine the poet’s use of personification and nature imagery in the poem “On Killing a Tree”. How does this help to convey the core message?
Answer: The poet uses personification to lend the tree lifelike qualities of resilience. The tree is depicted as “healing”, having “leperous hide”, “feeding” upon the earth and “sprouting leaves”. This highlights nature’s lifecycle and defense mechanisms. Nature imagery like “anchoring earth”, “earth-cave” emphasizes the tree’s deep roots within the planet. Vivid descriptions like “bleeding bark”, exposed “white and wet” roots make nature seem vivid and alive. The core message is that destroying nature involves overcoming its life-spirit deliberately. The personification and organic imagery lend nature this life-spirit, conveying that annihilating it completely involves violence against the planet itself.
9. Comment on the changing tone and mood of the poem “On Killing a Tree” as it progresses. What is the overall impact created?
Answer: The initial tone is instructional, matter-of-factly listing unsuccessful attempts to fell the tree. The mood is of contemplating a task. As the efforts turn violent like “roping”, “tying”, “snapping” the roots, the tone becomes more sinister. The mood turns ominous when choking the exposed roots is described. However, the tone remains meditative, bolstered by repetition and enjambment. The overall impact is an unsettling, reflective examination of the cruelty and persistence required in destroying nature – highlighted by the shift from a pondering mood to darker, more sinister tone. The meditative style lends this examination a somber thoughtfulness.
10. Discuss the poetic techniques like enjambment, metaphor, repetition used in “On Killing a Tree” and their effectiveness.
Answer: Enjambment across stanzas makes the process of destroying the tree seem unbroken, elevating the visual impact. The extended metaphor of the tree for nature examines man’s violence against nature. Repetition of “No” and “So” lends a contemplative rhythm to the brutal acts described. Metaphors like “leperous hide” and “earth-cave” generate vivid imagery. The alternating long and short lines create an uneven poetic structure that mirrors the erratic efforts to uproot the tree. These techniques effectively evoke a meditative yet uneasy tone, reinforce the central metaphor and create vivid sensory images – all heightening the poem’s examination of man’s destruction of nature.
11. Critically analyze how the poem “On Killing a Tree” explores man’s complicated relationship with nature.
Answer: The poem reveals the multilayered relationship between man and nature. First it depicts nature’s nurturing aspect – the tree grew consuming “sunlight, air, water”. But this deep-rooted anchoring also makes destroying nature difficult as seen through the vivid uprooting process. The regenerative “bleeding”, “healing” tree represents nature’s resilience against human destruction. But man persists as seen in the relentless “scorching”, “choking”. The “sensitive”, concealed root implies nature’s vulnerability at its core. The brutal uprooting process reveals man’s cruelty towards nature. Yet the meditative tone indicates a touch of remorse. Overall the poem explores how nature nurtures man yet also obstructs his civilizational goals. And while man can systematically destroy nature, doing so requires violence that hints of guilt. The relationship comes across as multilayered – codependent yet destructive.
12. Examine how the difficulty of destroying the tree acts as an extended metaphor for nature’s resilience in the face of human destruction.
Answer: The poem utilizes the difficulty in uprooting the tree as a metaphor for nature’s tenacity. The tree’s bark “healing” after being hacked and new “twigs” sprouting depicts nature regenerating despite external damage – much like the tenacious tree. The progressive efforts from hacking to tying and snapping the roots represents man’s persistent violence to overcome nature’s defenses – the way the robust tree must be uprooted through brutal force. The concealed but “sensitive” root, the tree’s essence destroyed only through deliberate “scorching” and “choking”, stands for destroying the core of nature. Just as the anchored tree cannot be easily felled, the metaphor suggests that nature too perseveres and resurges against systematic destruction – highlighting its formidable resilience.
13. Analyze how the step-by-step process to destroy the tree creates a sense of deliberation and cruelty in the poem “On Killing a Tree”.
Answer: The detailed, logical sequence of actions to destroy the tree underline the intentionally cruel nature of the act. First the poem describes unsuccessful efforts like hacking the exterior bark. Then it highlights “tying” and “snapping out” the roots – severe means depicting calculated cruelty. The progression from chopping branches to choking the uprooted trunk conveys a deliberate workaround to target and annihilate the tree’s anchoring life-force. Using words like “scorching”, “choking” for the exposed roots, the most sensitive part, escalates the intentional violence. The tone remains contemplative, meditative through this harsh process. This deliberative step-by-step structure thereby accentuates the premeditated, increasingly cruel efforts taken to overcome the tree’s defenses – creating an unsettling yet thoughtful tone.
14. Discuss the significance of the vivid root imagery in the poem “On Killing a Tree” and what it represents symbolically.
Answer: The root imagery stands out through vivid descriptions. It is depicted as “the source” of the tree’s strength, its most “sensitive” part “hidden for years” underscoring its core life-giving force. Terms like “roped”, “tied”, “snapped out” convey the violence of extracting this root from the nourishing earth. Calling it “white and wet” captures its raw, freshly mangled state when exposed. This root symbolizes the essential, delicate core of nature concealed under protection. The imagery of deliberately destroying this fragile core represents man’s attack on the very foundation of nature for progress. Thus the root serves as a vivid symbol of nature’s innermost essence, whose exposure and destruction represents man’s ultimate conquest over nature’s life-spirit.
15. Comment on how the poem “On Killing a Tree” acts as an allegory for the wanton destruction of nature by man in pursuit of civilization.
Answer: The poem can be seen as an allegorical representation of man’s violence towards nature for civilizational goals. The tree is an allegorical device representing nature and its ecosystem. Its deep roots signify how nature is inextricably anchored to the planet. The “healing” and regenerative bark/twigs represent nature’s resilience. The process of progressively uprooting the tree mirrors man’s escalating destruction of nature for development. The brutal force used to extract the sensitive root depicts destroying the very core of nature. The meditative structure indicates man’s reflective cruelty – aware yet unrelenting. Overall, the deliberate, violent uprooting of the anchored allegorical tree reflects man’s relentless destruction of nature in his pursuit of civilization, aware of his devastating capabilities yet undeterred.
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