Colm Toibin, Brooklyn


« Father Flood was tall; his accent was a mixture of Irish and American. Nothing he said could convince Eilis's mother that she had known him or his family. His mother, he said, had been a Rochford. "I don't think I knew her," her mother said. "The only Rochford we knew was old Hatchethead." Father Flood looked at her solemnly. "Hatchethead was my uncle," he said. "Was he?" her mother asked. Eilis saw how close she was to nervous laughter. "But of course we didn't call him that," Father Flood said. "His real name was Seamus." "Well, he was very nice," her mother said. "Weren't we awful to call him that?" Rose poured more tea as Eilis quietly left the room, afraid that if she stayed she would be unable to disguise an urge to begin laughing. When she returned she realized that Father Flood had heard about her job at Miss Kelly's, had found out about her pay and had expressed shock at how low it was. He inquired about her qualifications. "In the United States." he said, "there would be plenty of work for someone like you and with good pay." "She thought of going to England," her mother said, "but the boys said to wait, that it wasn't the best time there, and she might only get factory work." "In Brooklyn, where my parish(1) is, there would be office work for someone who was hard-working and educated and honest." "It's very far away, though," her mother said. "That's the only thing." "Parts of Brooklyn," Father Flood replied, "are just like Ireland. They're full of Irish." He crossed his legs and sipped his tea from the china cup and said nothing for a while. The silence that descended made it clear to Eilis what the others were thinking. She looked across at her mother, who deliberately, it seemed to her, did not return her glance, but kept her gaze fixed on the floor. Rose, normally so good at moving the conversation along if they had a visitor, also said nothing. She twisted her ring and then her bracelet. "It would be a great opportunity, especially if you were young," Father Flood said finally. "It might be very dangerous," her mother said, her eyes still fixed on the floor. "Not in my parish," Father Flood said. "It's full of lovely people. A lot of life centres round the parish, even more than in Ireland. And there's work for anyone who's willing to work." Eilis felt like a child when the doctor would come to the house, her mother listening with cowed respect. It was Rose's silence that was new to her; she looked at her now, wanting her sister to ask a question or make a comment, but Rose appeared to be in a sort of dream. As Eilis watched her, it struck her that she had never seen Rose look so beautiful. And then it occurred to her that she was already feeling that she would need to remember this room, her sister, this scene, as though from a distance. In the silence that had lingered, she realized it had somehow been tacitly arranged that Eilis would go to America. Father Flood, she believed, had been invited to the house because Rose knew that he could arrange it. Her mother had been so opposed to her going to England that this new realization came to Eilis as a shock. She wondered if she had not taken the job in the shop and had not told them about her weekly humiliation at Miss Kelly's hands, might they have been so ready to let this conversation happen. She regretted having told them so much; she had done so mostly because it had made Rose and her mother laugh, brightened a number of meals that they had had with each other, made eating together nicer and easier than anytime since her father had died and the boys had left. […] In the days that followed no mention was made of Father Flood's visit or his raising the possibility of her going to Brooklyn, and it was the silence itself that led Eilis to believe that Rose and her mother had discussed it and were in favour of it. She had never considered going to America. Many she knew had gone to England and often came back at Christmas or in the summer. It was part of the life of the town. Although she knew friends who regularly received presents of dollars or clothes from America, it was always from their aunts and uncles, people who had emigrated long before the war. She could not remember any of these people ever appearing in the town on holidays. It was a long journey across the Atlantic, she knew, at least a week on a ship, and it must be expensive. She had a sense too, she did not know from where, that, while the boys and girls from the town who had gone to England did ordinary work for ordinary money, people who went to America could become rich. She tried to work out how she had come to believe also that, while people from the town who lived in England missed Enniscorthy(2) no one who went to America missed home. Instead, they were happy there and proud. She wondered if that could be true. »
Colm Toibin, Brooklyn, 2009

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. Name the characters who are present.
2. What character is mentioned at the beginning of the document, what was his real name and what's his relationship with Father Flood?
3. Where do the three women live? In what country? (justify by quoting the text)
4. What is the main topic of the conversation? (15-20 words)
a) What is Eilis's present situation? (15-20 words)
b) What had she intended to do before Father Flood's visit?
c) Why didn't she carry out her plans? (25-30 words). List 3 reasons.
6. Why was Eilis close to nervous laughter and what did she do to prevent it?
a) What is the reason for Father Flood's visit to Eilis's house?
b) What suggestions did he make as far as her future is concerned? Give his arguments. (30-40 words)
c) Explain what Father Flood's general mission consists in? (15-20 words)
"The silence that descended made it clear to Eilis what the others were thinking."
a) In your own words explain what Rose and her mother are thinking. Add two quotes to justify your answer. (40-50 words)
b) Describe Eilis's attitude during the scene. Add two quotes to justify your answer. (40-50 words)
9. What vision does Eilis give of England and America at the end of the text? (40-50 words)
Expression écrite
Imagine the conversation between Eilis and her mother before she leaves to go abroad. (250 mots)
(1)Parish : name given to the Christian community attached to a church.
(2)Enniscorthy : a town in Ireland.


Compréhension de l'écrit
1. Father Flood, Eilis, Eilis's mother and Rose (Eilis's sister).
2. Old Hatchethead is mentioned, he is Father Flood's uncle, his real name was Seamus Rochford.
3. They live in Ireland .
4. The main topic of the conversation is Eilis's future and her possible emigration to the United States.
a) She is working in a shop/ at Miss Kelly's and is being humiliated on a regular basis. She is not well paid.
b) She had intended to go to England before Father Flood's visit.
c) Her brothers told her not to come, they told her that she would only get factory work. They also said that these weren't good times. Her mother had been opposed to her going to England.
6. She was close to nervous laughter because her mother used a nickname to call Father Flood's uncle then she preferred to leave the room in order to calm down/ in order not to laugh.
a) He wants to convince Eilis to emigrate to the United States.
b) He told her that her future would be brighter in the United States. He told her that if she came to Brooklyn she would get an office job easily and that she would be well paid.
c) He has a parish in Brooklyn and he wants Irish people to emigrate to the United States.
a) Both Rose and Eilis's mother think that Eilis should go to the United States.They are therefore in favour of Father Flood's suggestion and believe that Eilis's future will be much brighter in America. They want Father Flood to convince Eilis to go and live in Brooklyn: "In the silence that had lingered, she realized it had somehow been tacitly arranged that Eilis would go to America" and: "[…] it was the silence itself that led Eilis to believe that Rose and her mother had discussed it and were in favour of it."
b) She is surprised by her mother's attitude and by her sister's silence. "It was Rose's silence that was new to her.". She is shocked when she understands that they have decided that she would go to America: "Her mother had been so opposed to her going to England that this new realization came to Eilis as a shock.". She regrets having told them about the reality of her job.
9. England is a country where you go to find a job but you can never become rich there and you cannot possibly be happy either. On the other hand, when you go and live in America, you may become rich and you are very likely to be happy there. When you emigrate to England you want to return to Ireland whereas once you've emigrated to the US you don't miss your home country and you don't feel like returning. There is a lot of mystery attached to the US as it is so far away.
Expression écrite
"Have you packed everything you need? "Eilis's mother asked.
"I think I have. I don't want to forget anything," Eilis replied.
"You'll be careful, won't you?"
"Of course, mum."
"Try to make friends with people at Father Flood's parish. There will be nice people there. You should contact Father Flood as soon as you arrive in Brooklyn. He said he would find you a job and somewhere to live."
"I know mum. I've got the address of his parish and I'll go straight there."
"You should also pay attention to what you eat once you're there."
"Don't worry mum."
"I can't help worrying Eilis. I was worried when your brothers left but they are boys and they only went to England. But you're a girl and America is so far from here. I'm worried not to see you ever again."
"I'll come back for Christmas if I've managed to save enough money by then. And I'll write to you every week."
"You're such a sweet girl. I'm scared of what may happen to you but at the same time I'm sure that you'll be successful in America whereas if you stay in Ireland you may end up working in that shop for the rest of your life. And I'm sure Father Flood will take good care of you."
"I'll do my best to get a good job and I'll work hard. I want you to be proud of me."