Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Poetry Analysis: Nissim Ezekiel’s “The Professor”


The poem “The Professor” by Nissim Ezekiel is essentially a satire on Indian English. The poem is presented in the form of a dialogue between the professor and his student. Since the listener is silent throughout it can be aptly termed as a monologue. Just as in “Goodbye Party for Miss.Pushpa T.S,” the poet mocks at Indianisms in English, and adaptation of the language to adopt to the native language structure. It caricatures the geography professor,Mr.Sheth, as he converses in English with one of his former students. A professor is the one who teaches, and should be in proper command of the medium he utilizes. Therefore, it is indeed ironical.

Far from pertaining to any academic subject, the Professor showcases his family achievements. He is indeed boastful as he poses his sons as social showpieces to be displayed, as he asserts:

Are well settled in life. One is Sales Manager, One is Bank Manager, Both have cars He states that though he is healthy, he is retired. Therefore he projects retirement (generally) not as personal choice but something born of compulsion. He shows himself to be an exception. The poet also mocks the Indian tradition that makes use of rhyming names for their kids. ‘Sarala and Tarala,’ he says as are married. He puts this forth with an air of satisfaction. In Indian society, the end-point for girls is (considered) to get married. Boys, on the other hand, are meant to have (or rather project) high-paying jobs. Thus both the sexes are victims of society. The poet yet again jibes at Indian English when he says:

You won’t believe but I have eleven grandchildren.

How many issues you have? Three?

 

He makes a string of mistakes in grammar and usage as he states:

 

Other also doing well, though not so well.

Every family must have black sheep.

 

Though he advocates family planning, he does not seem to adopt it. Indians are so obsessed with the use of the present continuous tense instead of simple present tense:

 

We are keeping up. Our progress is progressing.

Old values are going, new values are coming.

Everything is happening with leaps and bounds.

I am going out rarely, now and then.

 

His language appears to be quite hilarious. It appears to be a direct translation of the native language, with the same structure and tone. At the same time the poem is stuffed with clichés and insipidity. The tone is serious, though subject is trivial as with the mock-heroic style. Indian English does have its stock usages as the speaker earlier asks: “No issues?” Their conversation does not even verge on academic topics. Though the poet utilizes a number of figures of speech, the language is ineffectual, ungrammatical and unidiomatic. The professor that he professes to be neither proves to be a good one academically nor a morally supportive one, as he is an incorrigible egocentric obsessed with his own matters. The tendency of Indians to exaggerate (or use hyperbole) idiomatically for emphasis is apparent in :

-Now you are man of weight and consequence.

-Everything is happening with leaps and bounds.

-Our progress is progressing.

-This year I am sixty-nine.”

-You were s

o thin, like stick.

 

He resorts to the Indian mania of comparing people to objects:

 

You were so thin, like stick,

Now you are man of weight and consequence.

That is good joke.

 

And ofcourse, it is a good joke.  Indians resort to vulgarisms unknowingly in their endeavor to sound sophisticated:

 

If you are coming again this side by chance,

Visit please my humble residence also.

I am living just on opposite house’s backside.

© Rukhaya MK 2008

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13 Comments

  1. I have an essay due on the professor, and i hope it’s okay to use some of your points. I will, of course, put your website in the bibliography page.

  2. and I think this is brilliantly written.

  3. Priyanshu sarda

    July 23, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I have an assingnment and this website has helped me a lot .thanks for the help

  4. Well it’s a really nice poem but, the writer also mocks the Old India which in my eyes is little insulting

    • Yes.. i understand .. But Indians were narrow-minded. However, our progress is progressing :)
      People have widened their thoughts..
      Many orthodox people have started going with the flow, which in my opinion is Great.
      Indians in the past believed in baseless superstitions.. So we need to accept the truth.

  5. Great analysis. Aptly quoted from the text to highlight the analysis.

  6. This is a really good analysis ….it helped me a lot in my assignment..thanks😀

  7. Its really nice written

  8. This note helped me understanding this plan clearly for my exams.
    Thanks a lot☺

  9. This note helped me understanding this poem clearly for my exams.
    Thanks a lot☺

  10. Dear Rukhaya,

    I made my way through your analysis of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Tulips”. In most parts I happily agree with you. Only if it comes to the meaning/metaphor of the last words of the poem “… from a country far away as health”, I could imagine that this other country is Greece and the historical site is the Hades, since the entrance – still visible when sailing the Peloponnese today – is just a few meters above sea level. So the speaker of the poem is visualizing the Hades while she is tasting the salty sea water.
    With warm regards
    Konstanze

  11. This synopsis helped me out a lot while doing my English project. Thanks a ton 😀

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