How has the poet Nissim Ezekiel employed humour and irony in his poem ‘The professor’?
or, Bring out the elements of humour and irony in the poem The Professor.
The Urban Thinking Pattern:
The Professor revolves around the typical urban mentality of
people in India. The speaker here is a professor whose academic
excellence is far above from that of a common man. Instead of having
a broad thinking, the professor has a narrow, stereotyped thinking.
His views are confined to his family, children and their material
achievements in life. He talks about his daughters who are happily
married and about his two sons who are sales and bank managers
respectively. Like a typical urban mentality, he thinks women should
be happily married and confined to their homes only
The poet has ridiculed the typical Indian mentality which
measures a person’s success based on monetary gains. Ezekiel has
intertwined satire, irony, humor with Indianism, urbanity and academic
excellence to draw the picture of a bereaved professor who meets one
of his former students.
This satirical poem can be aptly termed as a monologue, as the
professor speaks and the listener does not say a word. 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 trophies 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 of having rhyming names for their kids.
‘Sarala and Tarala,’ he says, 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
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 also 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 choice of words is quite humorous. 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 cliches 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
incorrigibly egocentric, obsessed with his own matters. The tendency
of Indians to exaggerate (or use hyperbole) idiomatically for emphasis
is also apparent:
-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 so 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 of course, 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