Poem 8 – Whatif
By Shel Silverstein
Are there times when your mind fills with fear? Have you ever thought, “What if something dangerous happens to me or the people around me?” “What if the world stops revolving around the sun?” “What if the sun does not rise in the morning?” Here is a poem which talks about some more such “Whatif”.
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow taller?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems swell, and then
The nighttime Whatifs strike again!
This poem is written in a child’s voice and point of view. The narrator worries about whether his teeth will grow straight, whether green hairs might grow on his chest. The narrator’s wild imagination shows that he is still a child and his way of thinking is very limited. Personification is used to show the ‘what ifs’ of the narrator as small creatures that plants wild ideas into his head while he was asleep. Due to this, he starts thinking and worrying about what might happen to him. Hence, he dislikes his imagination. This is showed in the last line of the poem: where the narrator says that ‘the nighttime Whatifs strike again’.
Textual Questions and Exercises
Q1. What do you mean by ‘What ifs’?
Ans. ‘Whatifs’ mean that what would happen if this or that happens.
Q2. Can words crawl into one’s ears?
Ans. No, words can’t crawl into ears. It is just a poet’s imagination..
Q3. Give two fears that haunt him?
Ans. “If his pants are torn ‘and ‘if he never learns to dance’ are the two fears.
Q4. What does the poet want to learn?
Ans. The poet wants to learn to dance.
Q5. What is he most afraid of?
Ans. He is most afraid of ‘whatifs‘at night.