Q.1. What was the doctor’s opinion about himself? How did this opinion change after his encounter with the snake?
How did the doctor lose his pride after the snake landed on his shoulder?
Ans. The doctor had a very high opinion of himself regarding both his appearance and profession. He was conscious of his looks and wanted to look even more handsome. He repeatedly looked at himself in the mirror to admire his handsomeness. He wanted to be attractive to women because he was an eligible bachelor. He was also proud of being a doctor and was arrogant because of his professional qualifications.
But a short encounter with a snake, a full-blooded cobra, cured him of his pride. When the snake reached his shoulder and coiled itself around his arm, the doctor lost all arrogance and was reminded of the existence of God. Face to face with death, he realised what a weak and foolish man he was. When he recalled that there were no medicines in his room to cure him of a snake-bite, he humbly and meekly regarded himself to be a stupid and helpless person.
Thus, the encounter with the snake transformed the doctor from a vain and foolish person into a humble and God-fearing man.
Q.2. What kind of room was the doctor living in and why did he decide to leave that room?
Ans. The room that the doctor was living in was a small, poor, uncomfortable and unhygienic one. Since his medical practice was yet not well-established, he did not earn much and could not afford a better place. This room was without the facility of electricity and he had to depend on a kerosene lamp for studying. The room was on the outer side of the house and one of its walls opened into the yard. It had two windows; its roof was tiled and had long supporting gables which rested on a beam over the wait The room did not have any ceiling and it was infested with rats that kept squeaking all the time.
The doctor’s description of the room shows that he was not happy with this poor accommodation. But he decided to leave it only after his encounter with the snake. It was such a horrifying experience that he had to run to a friend’s house to save his life. Therefore he decided not to live in the room any longer.
Q.3. What kind of woman did the doctor want to marry? What does it show about his character? What kind of a wife did he eventually get?
Ans. The doctor took pride in his handsome looks and his medical profession. Therefore, he wanted to marry a rich lady-doctor with good medical practice. He also wanted his future wife to be a fat
woman. His reason behind this desire was rather funny. He said that if he made a silly mistake and had to run away, a fat wife would not be able to chase and catch him.
The doctor’s ambition about his marriage shows that he was a status-conscious, money-minded person. He did not think much about the appearance and other qualities of his wife and thought only of her riches. His desire to marry a fat wife shows that he had a sense of humour and could laugh at himself.
However, the doctor’s real wife was unlike what he had desired. It is not clear whether she was a doctor or not but she was certainly a thin woman with the physique of a sprinter.
Q.4. What are the similarities between the behaviour of the doctor and of the snake?
Do you think both the doctor and the snake had some common qualities? Why/Why not?
Ans. The behaviour of the doctor and the snake did have certain similarities. Both of them were enamored by their reflection in the mirror and stood looking longingly at it. However, the similarity ended at this aspect of their respective behaviour since the doctor could not ascertain confidently the reason behind the snake getting charmed by its own image. The doctor was certainly compelled by his vanity to repeatedly look at his image. So, when he notices the snake looking into the mirror, he thinks that perhaps it too was admiring its beauty or was trying to make some ‘important’ decisions just like him. But these two were as frivolous as the doctor’s decision to shave daily and keep a thin mustache.
Just like the doctor’s obsession with his looks landed him in trouble, the snake too seemed to be “taken with its beauty.” It releases its victim to have a better look at itself in the mirror. Thus both the doctor and the snake display narcissistic tendency.
Q.5. Why did the snake not strike the doctor although it was so near his face?
Which qualities and values of the doctor saved his life?
Ans. The snake did not strike the doctor although it was so near his face because the doctor remained motionless even when his life was in danger. Displaying great presence of mind, the doctor stayed still like a stone which assured the snake that there was no danger to it. Snakes strike only in self-defense and the doctor patiently let the snake go. He remained calm and didn’t jump, or tremble or cry out.
He did not try to either catch the snake to throw it away or to loosen its hold on his arm. Fear had gripped him but he kept his cool. Thus the snake left the doctor unharmed and got busy admiring its image in the mirror.
The doctor’s qualities of patience, presence of mind, courage, and calmness helped him ward off the danger posed by the deadly snake, and saved his life.
Q.6. Write a note on the element of humour in the story.
This story about a frightening incident is narrated in a humorous way. What makes it humorous?
Ans. Although the story “The Snake and the Mirror” by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer is the narration of a serious incident, it is not devoid of the element of humour. This humour is generated by way of contrasts employed by the writer. The doctor reveals his pride and arrogance by telling us how highly he rated his looks and his profession as a doctor. This pride and arrogance stand in contrast to his admittance that he felt feeble and foolish when encountered by the snake. Again, his desire to marry a fat and u wealthy lady-doctor who cannot run after him when he commits some silly mistake stands in contrast to the thin and agile lady, with the physique of a sprinter, whom he finally marries. Further, the doctor pokes fun at himself when he tells that the thief did not take away his dirty vest because he had a sense of cleanliness. His remark about the snake that perhaps it was making some decision about growing a mustache or using eyeshadow and mascara or wearing a vermilion spot on its head is also very witty and humorous.
Thus, even a serious incident is made interesting by the doctor’s witty treatment of a very dangerous situation.
Q.7. “I looked into the mirror and smiled”, says the doctor. A little later he says, “I forgot my danger and smiled feebly at myself”. What is the doctor’s opinion about himself when he smiles first and then later? In what way do his thoughts change in between, and why?
Ans. The doctor rated his looks quite high and smiled at his image whenever he looked into the large mirror on his table. He tells the listeners that the first time he looked into the mirror and smiled, his opinion about himself was marked by self-adulation. He thought that he was very handsome and deserved to stay well-groomed. However, these thoughts changed by the time he tells the listeners that he forgot his danger and smiled feebly at himself. On the second occasion, his opinion about himself was marked by humility. By then he had realised that he had been vain, foolish and stupid. His encounter with the deadly snake had exposed his shortcomings to him. In spite of being a doctor, he did not have any medicine in his room even for an emergency like a snake-bite. His good looks became immaterial when he came face to face with death and the only thoughts that came to his mind then were about God. The feeble smile indicated his acceptance of the folly and vanity that had so far governed his life.