Texte d'Alexander McCall Smith

Énoncé

« The world might have changed for the worse in some respects, but in others it was a much better place, and it was important to remember this. Lights went off in some places, but went on in others. Look at Africa – there had been so much to shake one's head over – corruption, civil wars, and the rest – but there was also so much which was now much better. There had been slavery in the past, and all the suffering which that had brought, and there had been all the cruelties of apartheid just those few miles away over the border, but all that was now over. There had been ignorance, but now more and more people were learning to write, and were graduating from universities. Women had been held in such servitude, and now they could vote and express themselves and claim lives for themselves, even if there were still many men who did not want such things to be. These were the good things that happened and one had to remember them. Mma(1) Ramotswe raised her tea cup to her lips and looked out over the brim. At the edge of the car park, immediately in front of the café, a small market had been set up, with traders' stalls and trays of colourful goods. She watched as a man attempted to persuade a customer to buy a pair of sunglasses. The woman tried on several pairs, but was not satisfied, and moved on to the next stall. There she pointed to a small piece of silver jewellery, a bangle(2), and the trader, a short man wearing a wide-brimmed felt hat, passed it across to her to try on. Mma Ramotswe watched as the woman held out her wrist to be admired by the trader, who nodded encouragement. But the woman seemed not to agree with his verdict, and handed the bangle back, pointing to another item at the back of the stall. And at that moment, while the trader turned round to stretch for whatever it was that she had singled out(3), the woman quickly slipped another bangle into the pocket of the jacket she was wearing. Mma Ramotswe gasped. This time, she could not sit back and allow a crime to be committed before her very eyes. If people did nothing, then no wonder that things were getting worse. So she stood up, and began to walk firmly towards the stall where the woman had now engaged the trader in earnest discussion about the merits of the merchandise which he was showing her. "Excuse me, Mma." The voice came from behind her, and Mma Ramotswe turned round to see who had addressed her. It was the waitress, a young woman whom Mma Ramotswe had not seen at the café before. "Yes, Mma, what is it?" The waitress pointed an accusing finger at her. "You cannot run away like that," she said. "I saw you. You're trying to go away without paying the bill. I saw you." For a moment Mma Ramotswe was unable to speak. The accusation was a terrible one, and so unwarranted. Of course she had not been trying to get away without paying the bill – she would never do such a thing; all she was doing was trying to stop a crime being committed before her eyes. She recovered herself sufficiently to reply. "I am not trying to go away, Mma," she said. "I am just trying to stop that person over there from stealing from that man. Then I would have come back to pay." The waitress smiled knowingly. "They all find some excuse," she said. "Every day there are people like you. They come and eat our food and then they run away and hide. You people are all the same." Mma Ramotswe looked over towards the stall. The woman had begun to walk away, presumably with the bangle still firmly in her pocket. It would now be too late to do anything about it, and all because of this silly young woman who had misunderstood what she was doing. She went back to her table and sat down. "Bring me the bill," she said. "I will pay it straightaway." The waitress stared at her. "I will bring you the bill," she said. "But I shall have to add something for myself. I will have to add this if you do not want me to call the police and tell them about how you tried to run away." As the waitress went off to fetch the bill, Mma Ramotswe glanced around her to see if people at the neighbouring tables had witnessed the scene. At the table next to hers, a woman sat with her two young children, who were sipping with evident pleasure at large milkshakes. The woman smiled at Mma Ramotswe, and then turned her attention back to the children. She had not seen anything, thought Mma Ramotswe, but then the woman leaned across the table and addressed a remark to her. "Bad luck, Mma," she said. "They are too quick in this place. It is easier to run away at the hotels." »
Alexander McCall Smith, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, 2005

Compréhension
1. The main character, Mma Ramotswe, is in Africa. Where exactly?
  • at a café
  • at a hotel
  • at a police station
  • at a university
Justify your answer by a quotation from the text.
Focus on the passage from "Mma Ramotswe raised her tea cup…" to "Yes Mma, what is it ?"
2. "Mma Ramotswe gasped" Explain why she was so shocked. (20 words)
3. What did she intend to do?
4. Explain in your own words whether she was successful or not.
5. 
a) Two female characters are referred to as "Mma". One of them is Mma Ramotswe. Who is the other lady?
b) Who is speaking in each of the following lines?
"Excuse me, Mma." "Yes, Mma, what is it?"
Focus on the passage from "The waitress pointed…" to "You people are all the same."
6. 
True or False. Justify your answers with a quotation from the text.
a) The other lady thought Mma Ramotswe was dishonest.
b) It would have been very unlike Mma Ramotswe to do anything dishonest.
c) Mma Ramotswe pleaded guilty.
7. Choose the adjective that characterises the other lady:
  • cynical
  • naïve
  • nervous
  • sympathetic
  • understanding
Justify your choice by a quotation from the text.
8. How can the other lady's attitude be accounted for? (20 words)
9. 
a) "It would now be too late to do anything about it…"
What does "it" refer to ? Explain why it was "too late".
b) What did Mma Ramotswe decide to do at that point?
10. 
a) "But I shall have to add something for myself."
What did the other lady mean ?
b) "I will have to add this if you do not want me to call the police and tell them about how you tried to run away."
Say in your own words what choice Mma Ramotswe was faced with.
Focus on the passage from "As the waitress…" to the end.
11. Why was Mma Ramotswe so anxious to know if someone "had witnessed the scene"  ?
12. 
a) How do you understand the last two lines of the text? (30 words)
b) What impact do you think these words will have on Mma Ramotswe?
13. To what extent do the last two lines correct the vision of Africa given in the first paragraph of the text? (30 words)
Expression
Choose either subject 1 or subject 2.
1. The text begins : "The world might have changed for the worse in some respects, but in others it was a much better place,…". Is this how you see the world in which you live ? Develop your arguments and illustrate them with a few examples. (300 words)
2. "Bad luck" Write a letter to a friend telling him/her of an incident in which you were most unlucky. (300 words)
(1)Mma : polite term equivalent of Madam or Mrs.
(2)Bangle : sort of bracelet.
(3)Single out : indicate (in this context).

Corrigé

Compréhension
1. The main character, Mma Ramotswe, is in Africa at a café:
–"… immediately in front of the café…"
–"It was the waitress,… Mma Ramotswe had not seen at the café before.";
–"She went back to her table and sat down. "Bring me the bill," she said. "I will pay it straightaway."
2. "Mma Ramotswe gasped:
  • She was shocked because she saw a woman steal a piece of jewellery from a stall in broad daylight.
3. She intended to intervene by apprehending the thief or denouncing her to the stall-holder.
4. She was prevented from doing so by the waitress who wanted to talk to her.
5. 
a) The other lady is the waitress: "It was the waitress…".
b) The waitress speaks in the first line; Mma Ramotswe in the second.
6. 
a) True:
–"The waitress pointed an accusing finger at her."
–"You cannot run away like that," she said. "I saw you. You're trying to go away without paying the bill, I saw you."
–"Every day there are people like you. They come and eat our food and then they run away and hide. You people are all the same."
b) True:
–"The accusation was a terrible one and so unwarranted."
–"Of course she had not been trying to get away without paying the bill…"
–"… she would never do such a thing."
c) False:
–"I am not trying to go away, Mma," she said.
–"I am just trying to stop that person over there from stealing from that man."
–"Then I would have come back to pay"
7. The other lady is cynical.
–"The waitress smiled knowingly. They all find some excuse."
– "… there are people like you… You people are all the same."
8. She is used to seeing people behaving dishonestly. Many times before she has had to deal with customers running away without paying.
9. 
a) It refers to the theft.
– It was too late because the thief had had time to slip away.
b) Mma Ramotswe decided to give up all hope of catching the thief and go back to her table to pay her bill.
10. 
a) The waitress is clearly demanding a bribe / She is blackmailing / She wants extra money for herself.
b) Mma Ramotswe could either decide to pay the bribe or be reported to the police.
11. As the scene had been humiliating for her she either hoped that no one had seen or heard anything; or that she would find some help. She was self-conscious / embarrassed.
12. 
a) The woman at the neighbouring table had witnessed the scene and had no doubt Mma Ramotswe had been dishonest. Moreover she told Mma she would be better off trying her luck elsewhere in hotels, for instance. She feels sympathetic.
b) Not only does she feel ashamed but she is also likely to be outraged.
13. The beginning of the text expresses a more positive vision of Africa whereas the last two lines seem to suggest that dishonesty, corruption and bribery are still widespread in Africa.
Expression
1. In the past decades, it is obvious that the world has changed, sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst.
In some parts of the world, the economic and political conditions have improved for many people. For instance a better economic situation, a change in the political regimes of South Africa, Eastern Europe or of the Eastern world have had a beneficial impact on people's lives.
After decades of Apartheid in South Africa, in the mid 90s, the abolition of that authoritarian, repressive and unfair political regime was a boon for the majority of the South African people who are mostly black whereas white people are only a minority.
But in Rwanda, another country of Africa, there has been a genocide with ethnic groups fighting each other and a lot of discrimination and racism. Moreover, people suffer from hunger and are deprived of their fundamental rights in Ethiopia (Darfur), for example, due to a worsening religious authority who wants to control the lives of people and not only their religious beliefs.
The collapse of the communist regime in Eastern Europe has enabled many states to become independent and to improve people's lives and it has also allowed them to open up to fairer values and to offer their peoples much more balanced and egalitarian living conditions although some take advantage of the new political regime and corruption still exists.
It seems that whenever a country in the world opens up and when there is progress and improvement for the population, somewhere else it is exactly the opposite.
In a nutshell, it seems difficult to improve everybody's life around the world. Sometimes there are breakthroughs, but in other places regression or decline can't be avoided. Needless to say it will take time for people to live in harmony in fair societies.
2. Pensez à bien présenter le travail sous la forme d'une lettre (en-tête, date, formule de politesse au début et à la fin). Vous ferez une narration de ce qui s'est passé (utilisation des temps du passé et notamment du prétérit) mais vous n'oublierez pas d'enrichir l'ensemble en exprimant vos sentiments et réactions.