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A Few Kind Words For Superstitions: [Humor and Satire] Summary and Exercise: [NEB English: Grade - 12]

A Few Kind Words For Superstitions: Summary and Exercise: [NEB English: Grade - 12]

Main Summary of the Text

In the essay “A Few Kind Words for Superstition,” Robertson Davies defines superstition and its four kinds which he describes as Vain Observance, Divination or consulting oracles, Idolatry and Improper Worship of the True God. Davies claims that he has lived in the middle of a large university and he has seen superstition in any and each corner of the university and among the people who were rational and educated. Similarly, superstition does not belong to just a certain kind of society or a certain group of people.


A. Match the following.

A Few Kind Words For Superstitions [Humor and Satire] Summary and Exercise [NEB English Grade - 12]

B. Find the contextual meaning of the following words from the text and then use them in sentences of your own.

condemn - to express disapproval

The prime minister condemned the terrorists.

We condemn that useless violence in our country.

Don’t condemn her before you hear the evidence.

terror -  feeling extreme fear

She lived in terror of being caught.

They lived their lives in intense terror. 

We found anger and terror on her face.

unbidden - without being asked, invited, or expected

She shook her head to remove the unbidden thoughts.

He came to the party unbidden.

persist - continue to exist

If the problem persists, try to meet her.

Rupa rejected his proposal for dating, but he persisted and asked her again.

Alcohol and tobacco consumption by young people is especially worrisome because habits formed early are likely to persist.

devout - deeply religious

His father is a devout Buddhist.

He is devout but his manners aren't good.

We are very devout.

banish - expel from a community or group

He was determined to banish all people of his village.

He was banished from his state for his activities.

You must try to banish all thoughts of revenge from your mind. 

creed - any system of principles or beliefs

I live by a certain creed, one that runs in our family.

Other countries have adopted this political creed enthusiastically.

Their creeds will surely help them to settle an ideal state.

hasten -  move faster or act quickly

I hasten to add that I knew nothing of the fraud at the time.

The edge in his voice made her hasten her step.

He hastened his servant to go away from his house.

sober -  become more realistic/lacking brightness or colour

He was as sober as a policeman.

If we try, we will find a sober solution.

He talked to us in a sober friendly fashion.

scorn - lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike

She felt scorn for her working-class parents.

She scorned people of slum areas.

Many women scorn the use of make-up.

yearning - the prolonged unfulfilled desire or need

They had a deep yearning for their homeland.

He had a deep yearning for his homeland.

He found himself yearning for friends again. 

aloof - remote in a manner/distant

She stood aloof from the crowd.

His aloof response made her lookup.

She seems quite aloof at the party.

Swarthy -naturally having the skin of a dark colour/dark-skinned

My friend is skinny, with a swarthy complexion.

He has a swarthy complexion.

He had a broad swarthy face.

humbler - low or inferior in quality/low/

The leader of a third troop took a humbler tone.

He has shown his humbler qualities to his master.


a. According to the author, what are the four types of superstition?

Ans: According to the author, the four types of superstition are as follows:

▪Vain Observances



▪Improper Worship of the True God.

b) Which language is the word ‘superstition’ derived from? What does it mean?

Ans: Superstition comes from the Latin supersisto, meaning to stand in terror of the Deity.

c. How do psychologists understand superstition?

Ans: Psychologists understand superstition as a compulsion that neurosis does not banish.

d) How does superstition differ from religion?

Ans: Religion depends on God but superstition depends on supernatural things.

e. What is the belief of some people in Middle Europe about sneezing?

Ans: Some people of Middle Europe believe that when a person sneezes, his/her soul is absent from the body for a moment and they hasten to bless him.

f) In the author’s view, why are people so fascinated by superstition?

Ans: People are so fascinated about superstition because it is in general linked to man’s yearning to know his fate, and to have some hand in deciding it.

Critical thinking

a. What is the key takeaway of this essay? Do you think that this essay is satirical? Why?

Yes, this essay is satirical because it satirizes those educated and uneducated people who are the victim of it. It satirizes the tendency of people to follow whatever they listen unknowingly.

The essay aims to convey the message that we are following superstition knowingly and unknowingly. Every individual no matter how logical or rational he/she is carries superstitions. The essayist believes that many superstitions are widespread and too old that must have risen from a depth of human mind that is indifferent to any race or creed.

B) Can education bring change in the belief of superstition? Present your arguments to support your answer.

Education may bring change in the belief of superstition. Education can make people less superstitious. At least educated people are more likely to send the sick to the hospital than to call priests to cast out demons in order to cure the sick. Education provides an understanding of the diseases, the cause and the cure of the diseases.

Quality education can bring change in the belief of superstition. A good education will make people aware of the bad impacts of it on their lives. So, this essay is indirectly suggesting to us the message that proper education can stop the influence of superstition. We live in the modern world but our beliefs are superstitious. It is destroying our healthy life.


A) Write an essay on superstitions that exists in your community in about 250 words.

Superstitions are widespread. They are found throughout the world among people in some form or the other. The more prevalent among illiterate and uneducated people. With the advancement of knowledge, learning and science, they are gradually losing ground, yet they hold their sway even among educated people of the society.

Superstitions are as old as man. The earliest men who had no scientific knowledge fell on easy prey to superstition. Thus, illiteracy and lack of knowledge and capacity to reason out are the hotbeds that generate and perpetuate superstition.

Mahatma Buddha was probably the first great man to expound and explain the value and significance of reason which eliminated superstition altogether. He emphasized that everything should be thoroughly studied, judged and tested before being believed. Later, many other great men like Guru Nanak and Kabir exhorted the people to shun superstitions. Many people may believe that faith is also a form of superstition. But, as we can see if we think deeply, there is a difference. Faith is a positive factor whereas superstition is a negative factor.

Earlier, superstition was rampant in villages. The belief in ghosts was common. It was believed that these ghosts operated at night and that they were visible to some people and invisible to others. Taking advantage of this many clever men burned into tan tricks and controllers of ghosts. They cheated the gullible villagers. Unfortunately, even at present, such clever men are at work. There are many kinds of superstitions that are observed by common people. The throbbing of eyes, a cat crossing our way, coming across a Brahmin-all these are believed to be inauspicious. The cawing of a crow indicated the possibility of a guest visiting our house that day. Similarly, if we come across a sweeper early in the morning, it is considered to be auspicious.

We should try to develop a scientific spirit of mind and judge everything on the basis of reason.

B) “Superstition is prevalent in every walk of life.” Argue for or against this statement.

Yes, Superstition is prevalent in every walk of life. We are knowingly or unknowingly following it. Most of the people are victims of it in every walk of life. Our society is following it blindly. It will hinder the development process of our society. We live in the modern world but our beliefs are superstitious. It is destroying our healthy life.

In fact, ever since a long time till date, people still consider the number 13 to be unlucky. Similarly, salt spilling over the dinner table is also an ill-omen. In Nepal, people consider the black cat crossing the way to be unlucky. Similar is the case of an owl hooting or a dog wailing.

If we look at it closely, there is no logic as such behind the beliefs in superstitions. However, they have grown age-old and despite all the scientific advancement, they are not going anywhere soon and hence they are prevalent in every walk of life.


B. Put the verb into the correct form, present simple or present continuous.

a. Nisha..........(speak) English very well.

Ans: Nisha speaks English very well.

b. Hurry up! We.......(wait) for you.

Ans: Hurry up! We are waiting for you.

C. Excuse me!.......(you/speak) English?

Ans:  Excuse me! Do you speak English?

d. She.......(have) a shower in the bathroom.

Ans: She is having a shower in the bathroom.

e. How often.......(you/read) a newspaper?

Ans: How often do you read a newspaper?

f. I'm sorry, I.........(not/understand). Can you speak more slowly?

Ans: I'm sorry, I don’t understand. Can you speak more slowly?

g. You can turn off the radio. I......(not/listen) to it.

Ans:  You can turn off the radio. I am not listening to it.

h. I usually.........(get up) at 5 o'clock every morning.

Ans: I usually get up at 5 o'clock every morning.

i. Look! The river.........(flow) very fast.

Ans: Look! The river is flowing very fast.

j. Amrita.......(not/seem) very happy at the moment.

Ans: Amrita does not seem very happy at the moment.

C. Are the underlined verbs in the correct form? Correct them where necessary.

a. Water boils at 100° C.

Ans: Water boils at 100° C.

b. The water boils. Can you turn it off?

Ans: The water is boiling. Can you turn it off?

c. I must go now. It gets late.

Ans: I must go now. It is getting late.

d. This sauce's tasting really good.

Ans: This sauce tastes really good.

e. I'm thinking this is your key.

Ans: I think this is your key.

f. Are you believing in God?

Ans: Do you believe in God?

g. I usually go to school on foot.

Ans: I usually go to school on foot.

h. Look! That man tries to open the door of her car.

Ans: Look! That man is trying to open the door of her car.

i. The moon is going around the earth.

Ans: The moon goes around the sun.

j. I'm getting hungry. Let's go and eat.

Ans: I'm getting hungry. Let's go and eat.

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