The Frog and the Nightingale

by Vikram Seth

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Analysis of Characters and Dialogue in Vikram Seth's "The Frog and the Nightingale"


"The Frog and the Nightingale" by Vikram Seth features characters that symbolize different human traits. The frog represents arrogance and manipulation, while the nightingale embodies innocence and naivety. Dialogue between the characters highlights these traits, as the frog exploits the nightingale's talent for personal gain, ultimately leading to her downfall. This interaction underscores themes of exploitation and the dangers of blind trust.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the meaning of the conversation between the frog and nightingale in Vikram Seth's poem?

I assume that the "conversation" you refer to is the talk that the frog has with the nightingale during their first and subsequent meetings, and what these conversations reveal about the characters and their intent.

When the frog first approaches the nightingale, he says:

 " ... You see,
I'm the frog who owns this tree
In this bog I've long been known
For my splendid baritone
And, of course, I wield my pen
For Bog Trumpet now and then"

He asserts his possession of the tree and stresses his authority, thus making the nightingale feel like an invader, an outsider who has illegitimately laid claim to his dominion. Furthermore, since he's "long been known", he is the one everyone in the bog is familiar with and "of course," he is a skilful master of his craft with his "splendid baritone". The fact that he "wields" his pen "now and then" further emphasises his authority.

These statements obviously put the nightingale at a distinct disadvantage. The frog makes her feel uncomfortable for invading his space and makes her immediately feel inferior. The frog's assertions illustrate his pomposity and supercilious nature. He is arrogant and boastful. Added to this, he is also sly, because he realises that the nightingale is much more talented than he and therefore, not only must he put her in her place, but that he could also exploit her talent to his benefit.

The next few lines illustrate that the nightingale lacks self-confidence. she is flustered as shown by her stammer. The frog recognises this and pounces. He criticizes her singing, saying that it's "not too bad", when he knows that it is excellent. Her singing lacks a "certain force". The frog manipulates her into believing that she's not good enough.

These lines not only illustrate the nightingale's lack of self-esteem, but also that she is quite naïve and gullible. She deems the frog's appraisal as a compliment, when it is far from that. When she states that the song is at least her own, the frog heartlessly dismisses even that as, "not much to boast about". In doing this, he does not allow the nightingale to reclaim at least some dignity. He insults her to substantiate his later claim that, "with me you'll be a winner."

The foolish nightingale takes the frog's word for it and unquestioningly accepts his invitation to instruct her for payment. It is ironic that she deems him a "Mozart" and believes that his offer is "a fairy tale", when it is everything but. She will soon realize what a nightmare it actually is. The lines reveal how extraordinarily manipulative and ruthless the frog is and how unbelievably naïve the nightingale. 

The frog says:

""Well I charge a modest fee."
"Oh! " "But it won't hurt, you'll see"

These words are tragically ironic since his 'fee' turns out to be far from 'modest'. And, as far as the 'hurt' is concerned, the nightingale eventually pays with her life.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the meaning of the conversation between the frog and nightingale in Vikram Seth's poem?

If the creatures in "The Frog and the Nightingale" had a conversation after the poem, provided, of course, that the nightingale had not died, I would have relished the opportunity to see the nightingale address the frog's pretentious behavior.  For this conversation to occur, the nightingale would have to have some sort of epiphany that the frog's behavior was inexcusable, but from the way Seth has drawn the characters in the poem, I do not believe that the frog would ever admit to any wrong doing on his part.  The nightingale could talk to him until she burst a vein in her head (like in the poem), and the frog would still stubbornly hold to the belief that he was the better singer and acted altruistically on the bird's behalf.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Describe the characters of the frog and the nightingale in Vikram Seth's poem.

The frog is portrayed as a talentless, deceitful opportunist throughout the poem "The Frog and The Nightingale." Although the frog lacks the talent and support from other animals, he finds a way to criticize the nightingale's beautiful melodies. He wisely recognizes the nightingale's talent and begins to manipulate her to his advantage. The frog is depicted as an opportunist for his ability to capitalize on the nightingale's talent by charging the other animals admission fees to listen to her perform. The frog also displays his unsympathetic, malevolent personality by forcing the nightingale to exhaust herself each night. He psychologically abuses the nightingale by making her seem worthless and disregards her well-being throughout the poem.

The nightingale is portrayed as a naive, talented creature with an extraordinary ability to sing. However, she lacks self-confidence and discernment. She is easily manipulated by the frog and allows him to profit from her performances. The nightingale's timid disposition is also evident in the fact that she continues to overexert herself each night. Unfortunately, the nightingale dies of exhaustion after being manipulated by the frog.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Describe the characters of the frog and the nightingale in Vikram Seth's poem.

In the poem The Frog and the Nightingale by Vikram Seth, the character of the frog is portrayed as diametrically opposite to that of the nightingale. The frog is shown to be irritating, proud and disdainful. As we see, he is boastful of a talent he doesn’t possess. He sings loudly in a coarse, harsh voice that disturbs everyone. Everyone in the jungle hates him. But all this doesn’t affect him. The frog also feels jealous of nightingale’s popularity. He is also very cruel and greedy as he forces the poor nightingale to sing day and night without taking rest in order to make more money. In this way, he is not a likeable character.

On the other hand, the nightingale is unconfident, timid and shy. But she has a beautiful, melodious voice that makes her very likeable. When she sings for the first time, she impresses everyone instantaneously. Visitors from far off places come to listen to her voice. But she is not proud of all this at all. In fact, she lacks confidence and faith in herself. Not only is she unaware of her own talent, she makes a big mistake by believing strongly in the frog’s judgment of her song. Of course, one should accept criticism positively and try to improve, but not without a careful self-reflection. She bursts her vain in the end and dies. In this way, she can be called as a gullible, tragic character. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Explain the poem "The Frog and the Nightingale" by Vikram Seth.

Basically, the above answer is a good summary.  I will add a few observations to it.  The poem is a type of fable, a tale that uses animals to develop a moral lesson.  You can tell by the examples of alliteration, such as "Bingle Bog" and the rhyming nature of the poem that it is intended to move swiftly and to draw in children.

However, the moral is one for all ages.  The frog is the evil villain.  He is rude, manipulative, greedy and without emotion.  The nightingale is the innocent and naive victim.  Villains hate beauty, and the frog is no different.  He hates the beauty of her singing and is jealous of the attention her singing brings to the bog.  He decides to capitalize on the situation by pretending to befriend the nightingale, who has never been subjected to this kind of manipulation.  He charges admission and continually scolds the poor bird, pushing her until she dies.

Notice the animals have no names.  The nightingale can represent anyone with a true talent and love for something.  The frog is the person who uses this talent for his own means.  Think of a parent whose child is gifted in a sport.  How many times can that parent scold and push that child to hate a sport he once loved? 

This is the moral of the poem

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Posted on