This is an essay written by Robert Lynd. He was one of the leading British essayists of the twentieth century. We usually praise silence. The writer says that silence is against man’s nature. He begins his life with a cry and ends in silence. Hence silence is a sign of death and not of life. We talk because we are afraid of silence. It is seldom that we have to communicate any ideas to others. Motto of the human conversation is no more than the buzzing of a fly. We like to join the buzz just to keep the buzzing sound. This buzz is as tiresome as the ping of a mosquito, but at dinner parties, we like to become mosquitoes rather than be mute.
Some people feel proud if they are just allowed to go on making this noise. The writer recalls a party where a very good talker was present. A young man held up the conversation talk for more than half an hour. Nobody expect himself enjoyed his talk. Talking on, without letting others join in, is a vice in conversation. But we go on talking merely because we are worried that if we stop talking a general silence would follow. This vice is therefore born of the fear of silence.
This young man had, however, failed as talker because he never realized that conversation is not just a buzz, but a sympathetic buzz. It is interesting when there is a harmony of sympathies. Most people start talking about weather, because the experience is shared by others and rouses sympathy. Starting with this note, one goes on to discover some further note, not of common sympathy.
Conversation of a party of three is often failure because in it two personal may find a note mutual sympathy like the sweet memory of the days when they might have been together at the college. In such a case the third person has to sit silent and bear this torture while the other two go on talking so enthusiastically. It is not a good conversation in which we ignore others.
We are afraid of silence not only in our social lie but also our individual life. We are afraid of silence even when we are alone. We may pretend that we go to the country in search of silence but the fact of the matter is that we go there from the towns in search of a different type of noise. We love to hear the noise of birds there because they are no less talkative than women.
We like noise because it is a sign of companionship. When the author was a child, he loved to hear ever the ticking of the clock in his bedroom. There is no doubt that the certain sounds are seen fearful at night. This is not because there anything bad in them, but because they break to the stillness that reigns all round. In fact darkness of the night would lose half of its terror if nature could manage to fill it will all the daytime noises.
Complete silence produces a feeling of awe even in tread daylight. Even an immortal person would be afraid to live in the world if it were full of silence. He would be afraid of his own footfall. There must be at least the noise of a few birds or animals. We speak of the silence of grave, and it is a fact that without noise, the world would be no better than a grave.
Occasionally, however, we enjoy the awfulness of silence. It is majestic. The view of London in the comparative silence of dawn had moved Wordsworth with its majesty. We enjoy the silence of a Cathedral for the same reason.
Some religious bodies have recognized the effort of silence. Mystics have claimed that mankind can know the secret of life through silence. England and certain other countries observe “Two minutes” silence on the Armistice Day. The writer once witnessed the scene in a London Street. There was a mysterious silence when the traffic suddenly came to a standstill and there was perfect stillness. Only one old man continued to walk. Perhaps he had never heard of the Armistice Day and terrible war at the end of which I came. The squaking of his boots only served to increase the awe-inspiring effect of this profound silence.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Q.1 Only one paragraph in the essay does not begin with a key sentence. Which is it?
Ans. Only the third paragraph does not begin with a key sentence.
Q.2 In not more than three sentences explain how one can tell the writer’s background is England.
Ans. We can know the writer’s background from the second paragraph in which is speaks of two persons talking about their reminiscences as an English academic institution. Another hint is dropped in the last paragraph where he talks of the Armistice Day ceremonies in London.
Q.3 How can one tell that the essay was written between 1919 and 1939?
Ans. The writer talks of “Two Minutes” silence observed in connection with Armistice Day in commemoration of the cease-fire after the First World War in 1918. The celebration of ceremony ceased with the beginning of the Second World War in 1939. Since the first anniversary the first global war came off in 1911, it may easily be concluded that this essay was written between 1919 and 1939.
Q.4 On what grounds does Robert Lynd defend conversation about the weather?
Ans. Robert Lynd defends conversation about the weather on the ground that a conversation must be based on mutual sympathy. A common note of sympathy is struck by talking about experiences, which are shared by both. Weather is one experience and so there is no reason why one should avoid making it the topic of one’s talk.
Q.5 According to this essay, what kind of topic should be avoided in a conversation?
Ans. Such topics should be avoided in conversation as are not found in interesting to everyone.
Q.6 What is one reason, in the writer’s opinion for people’s fear of the dark?
Ans. People’s fear of the dark, according to Robert Lynd, mainly bases on their fear of silence. Half of these fears would vanish if the daytime noise could be heard in the dark of the night.
Q.7 If the paragraph beginning ‘For complete silence producers feelings of awe in us….’ had to be divided into two, where would you make the division?
Ans. If this paragraph had to be divided into two, I would begin the new paragraph with the sentences. This is not said that we never enjoy the awfulness of silence.
Q.8 Explain the meaning of ‘moves’ in the sentences. “The Cathedral moves us most deeply in perfect silence.”
Ans. Moves hear means effects or arouses the feelings of.
Q.9 What is the purpose of the “Two Minutes” silence?
Ans. The purpose of the Two Minutes silence was to commemorate the large number of the First World War casualities.
Q.10 The men and women had suddenly become statues. Is this literally true? If not, what does it mean?
Ans. Everybody stood to attention to honour those killed in the war. To describe them as having become statues is not true literally. The phrase used here metaphorically means motionless.