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What I Require from Life Summary and Exercise [Grade - 11 English - NEB]

“What I require from life” is an essay written by John Burdon Sanderson Haldane. He was a British-Indian Scientist known for his work in the study.
What I Require from Life Summary and Exercise [Grade - 11 English - NEB]

Summary & Exercise of What I Require from Life

What I Require From Life is a compilation of J.B.S. Haldane’s popular scientific essays written from the 1940s to the last years of his life reflect not only his masterful ability to communicate scientific understanding but also his deep commitment to socialism.


“What I require from life” is an essay written by John Burdon Sanderson Haldane. He was a British-Indian Scientist known for his work in the study of physiology, genetics, evolutionary biology, and mathematics. After M.A graduated in 1914; he enlisted in British Army and served during world war I. After the war, Haldane began his teaching career at university. In 1940, his essay “what I require from life” was published in the daily worker”. This essay reflects socialistic convictions demanding democratic activities in workplaces.

J.B.S. Haldane is a social critic who has presented his idea about socialism. He used the mode of narrative writing to present his personal opinion with his personal story of his life and the heroic age. According to him, although he was born in peaceful age during his youth, due to the outbreak of the first world war, he had to involve himself in a heroic age of war. Later, he put forward his opinion related to his requirement to make his living best. According to him, his major requirements are described below.

Summary of What I Require from Life 

What I Require From Life by JBS Haldane Class 11 English JBS Haldane, a British-Indian Scientist wrote this personal essay titled "What I Require From Life." This essay was first published in 1940 in the newspaper "The Daily Worker." This essay has included a variety of political and philosophical viewpoints on the necessities of people's lives. It has primarily focused on socialistic convictions demanding democratic workplace activities. This essay has discussed the various needs of working-class people who are living their lives in various circumstances while trying to make ends meet. 

In this essay, the writer has used very simple and clear language in his writing style to discuss his needs and life experiences. His needs in life are similar to those of the majority of the world's working-class people. The author begins with his thoughts on his acceptance of the concept of the world as it is. He believes that he should not require the impossible in his life. He claims that imagining perfect beings in a perfect world will cause him to do more harm than good to others.  He was born in a peaceful era, according to the author. During his youth, he desired to live a peaceful life, but due to the outbreak of devastating World War I in 1914, he became involved in his heroic age. 

The devastation of World War I altered his outlook on peaceful living. In that critical situation in which he found himself, he desired to make the most of his time by attending to his basic needs such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. The writer has discussed four general human needs that are quite important in this essay. These four general needs, which the writer and others require, are freedom, health, work, and friendship. 


Freedom is his second requirement. He wants more freedom of speech because the state’s law stops him from speaking a lot. As a socialist, he has to speak more than others and he has to speak more than others and he needs to advocate equality and criticize the drawbacks of the present situation. The writer needs to be able to work freely. Everyone requires freedom. The writer values freedom of expression the most. He wishes to say and write about various poisonous aspects, but the law of libel forbids him. 


Health is the third requirement because he believes that a healthy citizen can bring a remarkable change in society. So he wants to be healthy enough to be fit for work and it is possible only with the fulfilment of food, housing, and medical attendance to everyone. In order to work in his life, the writer must be in good health. People who are in good health are able to obtain all of the necessities in life. Good health brings happiness and success in life. 


The writer needs work with a decent salary, which is essential for everyone. He considers himself fortunate to have been able to choose his desired work to a large extent. He claims that, aside from his scientific work, he could easily be a war correspondent, write children's stories, or deliver political speeches. 

It is Haldane’s first requirement. He wants every healthy people at work in the entire world with a decent wage. Capitalism provides unemployment in the time of depression. Here, he represents the time frame of war when there are economic crises, and it’s the time people need work and money. Similarly, he wants industries to be controlled by workers so that they can see the fruits of their work not profit for others but in friends well being.


The writer then requires the friendship of his coworkers and comrades. He prefers equality in society, where criticism can be freely expressed. His friendship must be free of the concept of obeying and ordering without question. Friendship should be formed with people of equal standing. Aside from these basic needs, the writer has a number of desires in his life. He craves adventure in his life, even if it comes with risk. According to him, the satisfaction of adventure is far more substantial than a thrill. He wishes to have his own room with books, a car, a daily bath, and easy access to a beach or a river. He wishes for all of these things but does not make demands for them. 

The writer considers himself fortunate to be able to enjoy his basic needs, but his pleasures are rendered ineffective if his friends do not find happiness in these necessities. He wants to see healthy people working on the planet. All workers at work must find fruits that are appropriate for their abilities. They should work hard for their own profits as well as the well-being of their friends, but not for the profits of others. The author wishes to see workers in control of their working conditions. As a socialist, he wishes to see a situation in which workers play critical roles and control the industry. 

He wishes to see the end of class and sex subjection. In order to achieve fraternity, people must be treated equally. There should be an economic revolution to end class and sexual oppression. The writer would rather die happy than see capitalism is overthrown and workers take control of most of Europe. He wishes to see the end of fascism, which caused the First World War and the breakdown of the peace. The author wishes to see education and scientific methods used in all aspects of life spread. Finally, he wishes to die if he can fulfil only two of Aristotle's death conditions

Some Minor Requirements

Adventure and Thrill

It also belongs to writers’ needs. According to him the adventure of life will be useless without the risk factors. He means to describe it as he wants to involve himself in such adventurous work which can bring change in the life of people.

Desire and demands

Here, according to the writer demand is something that we desire for or it must have. So desire is not the requirement but demand is more essential. Although he was fulfilled with all his desire but still unhappy with lacking essential things.

Peace and security

Peace and security are also part of his requirements; which is not present in this modern life. World War has destroyed peace, harmony, and security. Everythings were destroyed by fascism by Hitler and Mussolini. There is no fraternity, equality, and development without peace and security.

So by presenting all these requirements at last he wishes or desires to die as Socrates. Socrates dies at the age of 70 for his convictions. he willingly drank the cup of poison and died very happily. He desires the death of Socrates if not at least fulfilling his two conditions.


Understanding the Text

a. How does the writer distinguish between a peaceful age and a heroic age?

Answer: The writer distinguishes between a peaceful age and a heroic age by making a comparison between them. He recalls his birth time as a peaceful age and the time of 1914 when the First World War took place as heroic age.

b. Why does the writer want more freedom of speech than most people?

Answer: The writer wants more freedom of speech than most people to express and explain what he feels about society. He wants freedom of speech to tell the public about the issues like medicines, newspapers and drinks that do not maintain quality.

c. According to the writer, what are the four general human needs?

Answer: According to the writer the four general human needs are work, freedom of speech, health and friendship.

d. What is the difference between desire and demand according to the writer?

Answer: According to the writer the difference between desire and demand is that the demand is related to the basic needs of life like food, clothes and shelter but desire includes things that improve living standards. The writer talks about cars, gardens, bathing pools and nearby beaches as desires.

e. Why does the writer demand security?

Answer: The writer demands security because it is an important need for a person to live a happy life. He lived in the age of war and chaos due to which the lives of many peoples were at risk. So he demands security.

Reference to the Context

Explain the following lines with reference to the context:

a. “The satisfaction of adventure is something much more solid than a thrill.”

Answer: The author believes that adventure is not only about emotions, but also about satisfaction in performing a creative activity. It enriches people with solid experience. He compares thrill with amusement he has got from reading Rimbaud’s poetry. He served on the war front in Madrid for six months and looked forward to reading a book of Rimbaud’s poetry for a thrill.

b. “I want the workers to see the fruit of their own work not in profits for others, but in their own and their friends’ well-being.”

Answer: The line shows the writer’s support for socialism. He asserts that hardworking should be rewarded directly to a considerable extent. He wants democracy within the working environment. He is a socialist who wants industry to be controlled by the workers. They should be free to work and share profit among themselves too. He compares the nature of industrial work with hunting and gardening like palaeolithic and neolithic. To create an even and pleasing working atmosphere the profits of work should remain among working people.

c. Why do you think the essayist has taken reference from the ancient philosophers?

Answer: I think the essayist has taken reference from the ancient philosopher like Aristotle, Lord Blan, Mr. Dash, and Sir John Asterisk to support his ideas and convince the readers about his idea of decent work and death.

d. Discuss the essay in terms of its language, purpose, subject, point of view and mode of writing.

Answer: The language is simple and lucid in the essay. Haldane’s style is typically straightforward and vigorous. As a science popularized, he is accustomed to writing about complex matters in a simple language so that any reader can understand. Here, when writing on a non-technical subject, he retains this simplicity, with short, forceful, declarative sentences and clear explanations.

His subject at first appears to be personal and thus made of writing descriptive. However, in the second part of his essay, it becomes clear that he is putting forward political argument freedom, for instance not merely a personal preference of Haldane’s but a universal requirement. This means that society should be structured in such a way as to maximize freedom for everyone.

His viewpoint is that of a social critic, setting forth a general program of the principles that should underlie a civilized society.

Reference Beyond the Text

a. What do you require from your life to be happy and satisfied?

Answer: I require good health, a job, friendship, freedom & security from my life to be happy and satisfied.

b. What is socialism? How is it different from capitalism?

Answer: Socialism is a system of social and economic equality in which private property and ownership are not prioritized. It differs from capitalism because capitalism does not provide economic equality. Unlike socialism, capitalism ignores people’s needs and does not promote equal opportunity.

c. Write an essay about your dream house.


My Dream House

My dream house is an ideal house that I have always imagined. House becomes home when we pour love to our family members. It is a place where different generations live together in a single bond. So, my dream house will be full of love and happiness.
I always dream of a mountainous wooden home. My ideal home should be facing a river. Through the windows, I could watch the mountains sunset and vanish. It should be facing the East direction because I want to enjoy the cool air as well as the rising sun view. My ideal home would include a little garden with my own veggies and fruits.
I would like to maintain my house neat and clean. There will be a meditation room for me to do Yoga and meditation. I will also make one library room for my family and visitors. I will make a special room for my parents and visitors. I won’t add too many amenities to my dream house because it creates laziness. I believe that physical exercises are necessary to be healthy and fit.
There will be a solar panel in my house to maintain regular light and warm water for regular use in winter. I will also add a big smart TV for my parents and visitors. My house’s wall will be decorated with beautiful wall paintings capturing nature’s true beauty. I also have a 1-year-old pet dog named Puppy. I also want a modest but cosy area in Puppy’s home where he may sleep and rest when he gets old.
My dream home is a place of joy, peace and beauty. Right now it exists only in my dreams. But someday, it will become a reality.

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