A Little Distance by Vikram Seth | Questions and Answers

A Little Distance by Vikram Seth | Questions and Answers

A Little Distance Questions and Answers

  1. What idea is conveyed by ‘A Little Distance’?

A Little Distance” is testimony to the idea that poetry can be innovative despite being familiar. This poem is included in the first section of the anthology entitled “The Humble Administrator’s Garden” The three sections of the volume are “Wutong”, “Neem” and “Live-Oak” symbolic of the three realms that forms the ethos of the work namely China, India and the United States. Although it is basically a love poem, the nature of the ‘love-ethic’ is quite unconventional. Yet, unconventional does not mean that its relevance as a love-poem diminishes. On the contrary, it is perhaps accentuated further.

  1. What does the poem describe about?

The poem describes the pleasant yet uneasy contentment with the present state of things, as a pair of lovers sunbathes semi-naked beside a waterfall in “a secluded valley”. The pleasantness comes from the presentness of the present moment. The unease comes from the apprehension that such a state of togetherness might eventually demand the social sanction of commitment and settling down. In such a case, the insistence would be more on the nature of the relationship than on the relationship itself. It speaks out the Ulyssean sensibility of the traveller-persona who values the condition of the moment’s togetherness, accepting the fact of its momentariness because he has to move on, yet valuing the moment itself as pristine. This is the aesthetic-philosophic mentality that values the ‘state’ rather than the ‘status of mutuality’.

  1. What is the nature of the love-ethic in Seth?

The nature of the love-ethic in Seth is a problematic issue in Seth’s oeuvre not merely because of his self confessed bisexuality but also because of his almost Wildean appraisal of it. Neither the gender of the two lovers, nor their sexual orientation is explicitly mentioned in the poem. What is curiously appropriate however is that the stance of detached involvement applicably makes sense in the case of both heterosexual as well as same sex love. The predominant issue of the poem is not the gender or sexual orientations of the lovers as it is left open-ended. Significant, however, is the stance adopted by the lover / speaker / poetic persona and the resultant doubts harboured by the former.

  1. What picture is painted in the first part of the poem, “A Little Distance”?

The first section of the poem is really noteworthy. On a long warm rock, a yellow beach towel lies by a small pool which is at a little distance from the waterfall. Azaleas grow near it. The shadow of thin fish fall across the speckled stones. A light breeze blows rippling the skin of the pool, first this way, then that. A blue-tailed lizard suns itself as the sun burns through a cloud into the secluded valley, onto the pool, onto the rocks and into the lovers’ cold bones.

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