Where the Mind is Without Fear: Notes


Extract 1; Page 20 of the workbook

Where the mind is without fear and head is held high

Where knowledge is free

1. What is meant by ‘mind is without fear’?

Tagore in his poem Where the mind is without fear, a part of his Gitanjali, talks about an ideal nation he wants his country to become. In this context he says that people should be free from fear of everything. Here he means not only that the men of his country should be brave and courageous but also that they should possess a mind free of unnecessary anxiety and superstitions.

2. What is meant be ‘the head is held high’?

We hold our head high when we are proud of ourselves. In this poem what Tagore means is that people should have good self esteem and feel good about themselves. Unless our thoughts, deeds and actions are good, we will never be able to hold our head high. So, in essence, the poet means that people should be good.

3. What does the poet mean by ‘where knowledge is free‘? What are the restrictions imposed on the spread of knowledge?

By ‘where knowledge is free‘ Tagore means that the pursuit of knowledge should not be restricted by dogmas of any kind. The world is full of dogmas which prevent people from questioning and finding out the answers on their own. Women and the underprivileged are kept away from education, books get banned, facts get hidden and experiments get blocked. Tagore says that he is against any of these impositions.

4. What according to the poet were the effects of the restrictions imposed on the spread of knowledge?

When the spread of knowledge is restricted, people become dogmatic and narrow minded. This leads to hating each other and results in a fragmented world divided by walls of all kinds such as religion, caste, wealth, citizenship, skin colour and the like. People will stop being logical and honest.

5. What is a sonnet? How is the poem part of a sonnet?

A sonnet is a song-like poem which has a good musical quality and a cohesive structure. It is usually fourteen lines long and a change in thought appears after the first eight lines. The division is sometimes marked by a change in the rhyme scheme also. This poem is three lines short of a sonnet in length. But after the eighth line there is a change in thought, just like in a sonnet.

Extract 2; page 21

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

1. What, according to the poet, breaks up the world into fragments?

The world is broken into fragments by narrow mindedness. People who are narrow minded do not get along with others, especially those who are different from them. They form a group of their own and put walls of caste, creed, wealth, colour and citizenship around them.

2. What are the narrow domestic walls that the poet speaks about in the poem? Why are they called narrow by the poet?

The phrase ‘narrow domestic walls refers’ to the ways and reasons for segregation among human beings. They include such concepts like caste, creed, region, colour, wealth, citizenship and the like which are all meaningless in life. They are called narrow walls because they all come from the narrow minds of people who create them.

3. In what way can the narrow domestic walls be harmful to a nation?

We all know that unity is strength. A nation or the world itself will definitely do better if all the people get along well with one another. But narrow minded concepts such as caste, creed, region, colour, wealth, citizenship and the like shatter this dream. When this happens in a nations, it disintegrates and the units segregates and make themselves weak.

4. Give two examples of alliteration from the above extract?

Head held high (h)

where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection (r)

dready desert sand of dead habit (d)

5. How does the poet show in the poem that he has religious outlook?

At the end of the poem the poets says that the mind of the people should be lead by God in the right direction. Furthermore, the poet addressed God as Father and prays to Him to awaken his country to a heavenly state of mind.

Extract 3; page 23

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

1. What does the poet mean by saying tireless striving? What does the poet want his country men to achieve by tireless striving?

By ‘tireless striving’ the poet refers to the hard work done by the people of his ideal country. They strive and struggle to progress and they never get tired of it. Tagore wants his countrymen achieve perfect through tireless striving. He wants people to work hard and more in order to take their work to perfection.

2. Explain why reason has been compared to a clear stream?

Reason or logic is a language everyone understands. The opposite of this irrational and illogical thought leads to muddled thinking. So, it is proper to compare the flow of logical thought or rational thought to a clear stream. In a clear stream, everything is visible and nothing is hidden. Furthermore it is not deceptive at all by hiding its depth like a muddled stream.

3. What is meant by ‘dreary desert sand of dead habit’?

In these lines Tagore uses an extended metaphor. After having referred to rational thinking as a clear stream, he tells us where this stream usually gets lost into. Traditions and conventions are against logical and rational thoughts and they often suppress reasonable thinking. So the clear stream of reason, says the poet, disappears into the dreary (uninteresting) sand of dead habit (conventional and blind beliefs)

4. What according to the poet are the hurdles in achieving perfection?

Getting tired and lack of effort are the hurdles in achieving perfection. He wants his country men to be tireless and striving so that they can achieve perfection. Practice makes perfect and one should not get tired of hard work at all.


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