PAPER | Catherine Lim Poh Imm | Question and Answers

question and answers of the short story paper by catherine lim poh imm
DR Gurung
The short story "PAPER"s important Question and Answers. The story "PAPER" is written by Catherine Lim Poh Imm. Catherine Lim Poh Imm (Birth 21 March 1942, Penang, Malaysia) is the doyenne of Singapore stories having written more than nine collections of short stories, five novels and a poetry book. She began as a teacher; then project director with the Ministry of Education; specialist lecturer with the Regional Language Centre (RELC); and finally became a full-time writer in 1992. She has won national and regional book prizes for her literary contributions. Her works are studied in local and foreign schools and universities, and have been published in various languages in several countries.

Quotes by Catherine Lim Poh Imm:

“I draw my inspiration and material from life around me; from people I’ve known”.

“I write because I enjoy it. I write about things that interest me – human behaviour, human relationships, the not-so-pleasant abilities people possess to deceive one another, seek revenge, inflict pain. And their capacity to bear it all as well”.

“I’m so sensitive to irony that if I see a situation, I witness something, I hear something, I read a report in the newspaper about something, and I see it as potential for a short story, my ironic sense immediately creates a narrative and then I sit down and write”.


  1. Little Ironies: Stories of Singapore (1978)
  2. Or Else, The Lightning God and Other Stories (1980)
  3. The Serpent's Tooth (1982)
  4. They Do Return...but Gently Lead Them Back (1983)
  5. Kampong Amber (1994)
  6. The Bondmaid (1997–1998 international editions) (1995)
  7. The Shadow of a Shadow of a Dream: Love Stories of Singapore (1987)
  8. O Singapore! : Stories in Celebration (1989)
  9. Deadline for Love and Other Stories (1992)
  10. Love's Lonely Impulses (1992)
  11. The Best of Catherine Lim (1993)
  12. Meet Me on the Queen Elizabeth 2! (1993)
  13. The Woman's Book of Superlatives (1993)
  14. The Teardrop Story Woman (1998)
  15. The Howling Silence: Tales of the Dead and Their Return (1999)
  16. A Leap of Love (print publication in 2003) (2000)
  17. Following the Wrong God Home (2001)
  18. The Song of Silver Frond (2003)
  19. Unhurried Thoughts at My Funeral (2005)
  20. Humoresque (2006)
  21. The Catherine Lim Collection (an anthology of stories first published in the 80s and 90s) (2009)
  22. The Mother (2010)
  23. Miss Seetoh in the World (2011)
  24. Roll Out the Champagne, Singapore!: An Exuberant Celebration of the Nation's 50th Birthday (2014)


  1. National Book Council Development (Fiction) (Commendation), for Or Else, the Lightning God and Other Stories. (1982)
  2. National Book Council Development (Fiction) (Commendation), for The Shadow of a Shadow of a Dream. (1988)
  3. National Book Council Development (Fiction) (Commendation), for O Singapore! Stories in Celebration. (1990)
  4. Montblanc-NUS Centre for the Arts Literary Award. (1998)
  5. Southeast Asia Write Award, Thailand. (1999)
  6. Honorary Doctorate in Literature, Murdoch University, Australia, for contributions to education and literature. (2000)
  7. Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), Ministry for Culture and Communication, France. (2003)
  8. Appointed Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador, Hans Christian Andersen Foundation in Copenhagen. (2005)
The story "PAPER" is extracted from the collections of seventeen short stories "Little Ironies: Stories of Singapore (1978)". In the story "Paper" written by Catherine Lim Poh Imm, Catherine describes the greed of people for easy money and its consequences. She narrates in this story that the lure of easy money leads a middle class couple to the tragic situation in Singapore. Once the value of shares in Singapore stock exchange was very high. At that time the greed of people increased and they started dreaming of the impossible.When the prices of share market crashed, their dreams of being millionaire went in vain and leads with tragic end.

Question and Answers of "PAPER"

Question No. 1: To what extent are Tay Soon and his wife and the children caught up in the idea of buying a magnificent dream house? How does the elaborate nature of the house symbolize the peak of Tay Soon's achievement?
Answer: Tay Soon and his family members are caught up in the idea of buying a magnificent dream house. Tay Soon had an intense passion of owing the beautiful dream house. He talked very much about it and his wife and children equally liked it too. In his mind, there is nothing except the idea of buying dream house and he directed all his energies and passions towards his dream. He and his family were thinking that the dream house was more real than the mother's house where they were living. When there was a downfall of share price, his dream was proved to be false. Thus he became mad and finally died. His wife and children were equally involved in that idea which they described with their friends and family.
Tay Soon's dream house was very elaborate and splendid and his ambition is also very great. Though he had saved 40,000 dollar, it was not enough amount to buy the house. Hence, the elaborate nature of the house symbolizes the peak of this achievement.

#magnificent meaning in Nepali language is भव्य.
#intense meaning in Nepali language is तीव्र.
#passion meaning in Nepali language is आवेग, जुनून.
#elaborate meaning in Nepali language is विस्तृत.
#splendid meaning in Nepali language is शानदार.
#ambition meaning in Nepali language is अभिलाषा.
#symbolize meaning in Nepali language is प्रतीक.
#achievement meaning in Nepali language is उपलब्धि.

Question No. 2: How does Catherine Lim establish that Tay Soon's mother is indifferent to and even critical of their dream house?
Answer: In this story 'Paper', Catherine Lim describes that the Tay Soon's mother was a very busy woman. She was running her own business of selling bottled curries and vegetable jam. Actually she had no time for dreams and she would make sarcastic remarks about the ambition of young people. Tay Soon's wife was very conscious the fact that her mother-in-law would know about their dreams while talking with her sister. Tay Soon's mother wanted to know what was wrong with the house they were staying in. Also she did not accept their fact that marble flooring and swimming pool were the great things and she considered those all things were only show off.
#sarcastic meaning in Nepali language is व्यंग्यात्मक.
#conscious meaning in Nepali language is सचेत.

Question No. 3: How does Catherine Lim feel towards her characters?
Answer: Catherine Lim presents three main characters in the story "Paper". Tay Soon, Tay Soon's Wife Yee Lain and his mother. Catherine's attitudes towards Tay Soon and his wife Yee Lain is a very sarcastic because she presents them as the prey of their own passion for easy money. They are not practical people and always run after their magnificent dream of buying a beautiful house. They are happy and excited when they progress when the consequences are contrary to their thought, they can't control themselves. So the writer Catherine Lim presents that the tragic ends of such ambitious people.
In another side, Catherine Lim wanted to convey her message through the character Tay Soon's mother. So, we can say she is the mouthpiece of writer. She is very busy in her own business and does not run after the flowery dreams. She is not over ambitious and is satisfied with what she has. She finally fulfills her son's desire of dream house in his funeral.
#attitude meaning in Nepali language is मनोवृत्ति.
#excited meaning in Nepali language is उत्साहित.
#progress meaning in Nepali language is प्रगति.
#consequences meaning in Nepali language is नतिजा.
#contrary meaning in Nepali language is विपरित.
#convey meaning in Nepali language is व्यक्त.
#tragic meaning in Nepali language is दु:खद.
#ambitious meaning in Nepali language is घमण्डी.
#satisfy meaning in Nepali language is सन्तुष्ट गर्नु.
#desire meaning in Nepali language is इच्छा.
#funeral meaning in Nepali language is अन्त्येस्टि.  

Question No. 4: Why doesn't Tay Soon sell his shares and capitalize on his first remarkable gains instead of staying in the market? What is Tay Soon's nature makes him his own worst enemy?
Answer: Tay Soon was extremely passionate for the easy money to buy a magnificent/beautiful house of his dream. He did not have enough money to afford the cost of such big house. He could buy a dream house and take benefit of his first gain after he earned lot of money in the share markets. But his greed prevented him to do so. He heard the rumours of double and triple benefit in the share market and ran after the rumours only. He was trapped in the maze of his own greed and became his worst enemy. If he had sold the shares and capitalized his gain instead of staying in the market, he wouldn't have faced the tragic end.
#extremely meaning in Nepali language is अति.

#afford meaning in Nepali language is किन्न सक्नु.
#rumours meaning in Nepali language is अफवाहहरू.
#benefit meaning in Nepali language is लाभ, फाईदा.
#greed meaning in Nepali language is लोभ.
#capitalized meaning in Nepali language is पूँजीकृत. 

Question No. 5: What role does Tay Soon's wife play in contributing to the entire disaster?
Answer: Tay Soon's wife Yee Lian plays very great role bringing the entire disaster in the family. Tay Soon had only dreamt of owing a beautiful house but his wife tempted him to invest money in the share markets. He invested huge sum of money because of his wife suggestions and earned a lot till the share market was popular. Suddenly, share market price went down slowly. At that time Tay Soon wanted to sell the shares but his wife did not let him sell thinking that the fall was technical and the price would soon be recovered. Finally, he sold the shares when the price was decreased to the lowest point. According to his wife's advice, he put the money in OTHE and West Parks. OTHE and West Parks also failed shortly and Tay Soon went mad. At last, he died of shock.
tempted means to allure or entice someone into an unwise, wrong, or wicked action.

Question No. 6: How does the recurrent mention of the word paper focus the reader's attention to one of the story's central themes?
Answer: Well, shares in Stock Exchange Companies are sometimes called PAPER. People say they have money on paper when they have shares but not cash. The frequent use of word PAPER focuses the reader's attention in realizing the fact that money in paper is merely PAPER, not CASH. The value of paper is just the supposed value which cannot be obtained in reality.
merely means just; only.

Question No. 7: Analyze the structure of the story, and follow its development through the four separate scenes of ever-rising tension and final resolution.
Answer: The story "PAPER" can be divided into four separate parts. The first part of the story exposes the problem. Tay Soon is not satisfied with his mother's house where he is staying and dreams of a magnificent house. Finally, this insatiable dream becomes the cause of his own destruction.
In the second part, Tay Soon stands with the idea of earning easy money from share market. He earns a lot from share market but the more he earns the more he wants to earn which we can say the main cause of development of his problem.
In third part, the story reaches it's climax. Tay Soon's condition become worse when the share market starts to go down. He cannot take firm decision at this point and follows the false hope continuously. The ambitious dream and false hope leads the tragic end of Tay Soon's family.
The fourth part provides the solution of Tay Soon's problem. His dream buying a big house is not fulfilled and faced a tragic end. At last, after Tay Soon's death, his mother fulfilled his dream by constructing a miniature paper house that looked exactly the same as his dream house.
insatiable means impossible to satisfy.

Question No. 8: How does the miniature paper house that Tay Soon's mother has constructed for him after death contrast ironically to the magnificent dream house Tay Soon had envisioned? How does the contrast of these two houses dramatize the story's central theme?
Answer: Tay Soon and his family except his mother had a dream of having magnificent beautiful house with kidney shaped swimming pool and timbered ceiling. Initially he was not able to afford the dream house but later when he earned a lot from share market, his dream house became more magnificent than the usual one. And again it became beyond his reach. This is the great irony of fate that the hope is never fulfilled. 
On the other hand, his dream is fulfilled after his death when his mother constructed a miniature paper house that looked exactly the same as his dream house. Ironically, there is a great contrast between these two houses. The dream house is very magnificent but the paper house is miniature in size though it looked exactly the same.
The contrast of these two houses dramatizes the central theme of the story. The magnificence of the dream house symbolizes the dream while miniature size of the paper house clearly symbolizes the achievement. The desires can be fulfilled only in the lowest level.

Question No. 9: Describe the characters of (a) Tay Soon and (b) Tay Soon's mother.
(a) Tay Soon :- Tay Soon is a person obsessed with the idea of money. He has a dream of buying a big house, which in reality, he cannot buy. He is an obstinate person and firm in his decision. He is victim of his own insatiable desire for easy money. He is very impractical man and does not think of the consequences before doing something. He has a great material thirst which is not appeased till the end of his life. Finally he died of the dream unfulfilled.
(b) Tay Soon's mother :- Tay Soon's mother is a very practical woman. She runs a small business of selling bottled curries and vegetable jam which she made herself. She had no dream of buying the big house like that of Toy Soon and his wife Yee Lain. She would make sarcastic remarks on their ambition. She was satisfied with the house she was living in.
DR Gurung
A Learner (अज्ञान जस्तो ठूलो शत्रु अरु केही छैन।) 🙏🙏
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