Texte de Douglas Kennedy

Énoncé

« When I announced – around three weeks before my graduation – that I had been offered a trainee job at Life, they were horrified. I was home for the weekend in Hartford (a trip I made deliberately to break the job news to them, and also to inform them that I wouldn't be accepting Horace's marriage proposal). Ten minutes into the conversation, the emotional temperature within our household quickly hit boiling point. "I am not having any daughter of mine living by herself in that venal, indecent city", my father pronounced. "New York is hardly indecent – and Life isn't exactly Confidential", I said, mentioning a well-known scandal sheet of the time. "Anyway I thought you'd be thrilled with my news. Life only accepts ten trainees a year. It's an incredibly prestigious offer." "Father's still right", my mother said. "New York is no place for a young woman without family." "Eric's not family?" "Your brother is not the most moral of men", my father said. "And what does that mean?" I said angrily. My father was suddenly flustered, but he covered up his embarrassment by saying. "It doesn't matter what it means. What matters is the simple fact that I will not permit you to live in Manhattan." "I am twenty-two years old, Father." "That's not the issue." "You have no legal right to tell me what I can or cannot do." "Don't hector(1) your father", my mother said. "And I must tell you that you are making a dreadful mistake by not marrying Horace." "I knew you'd say that." "Horace is a splendid young man", my father said. "Horace is a very nice young man – with a very nice, dull future ahead of him." "You are being arrogant", he said. "No –  I will not be pushed into a life I don't want." "I am not pushing you into any life…" my father said. "By forbidding me from going to New York, you are stopping me from taking control of my own destiny." "Your destiny" my father said, with cruel irony. […] I stormed out of the room. I ran upstairs and fell on the bed, sobbing. Neither of my parents came up to comfort me. Nor did I expect them to. That wasn't their style. […] On Sunday he drove me to the train station. When we arrived there he patted my arm. "Sara, dear – I really don't like fighting with you. Though we are disappointed that you won't be marrying Horace, we do respect your decision. And if you really are that keen on journalism, I do have several contacts on the Hartford Courant. I don't think it would be too difficult to find you something there…" "I am accepting the job offer at Life, Father." He actually turned white – something Father never did. "If you do accept that job, I will have no choice but to cut you off." "That will be your loss." And I left the car. I felt shaky all the way to New York – and more than a little scared. After all, I had directly defied my father – something I had never attempted before. Though I was trying to be dauntless and self-confident, I was suddenly terrified of the thought that I might just lose my parents. Just as I was also terrified by the thought that – if I heeded Father's wish – I would end up writing the "Church Notes" column in the Hartford Courant, and ruing(2) the fact that I had allowed my parents to force me into a small life. And yes, I did believe I had a destiny. I know that probably sounds vainglorious and absurdly romantic… but at this early juncture in so-called adult life, I had reached one simple conclusion about the future : it had possibilities… but only if you allowed yourself the chance to explore those possibilities. However, most of my contemporaries were falling into line, doing what was expected of them. At least fifty per cent of my class at Bryn Mawr had weddings planned for the summer after they graduated. All those boys trickling home from the war were, by and large, just thinking about getting jobs, settling down. Here we were – the generation who was about to inherit all that post-war plenty, who (compared to our parents) had infinite opportunities. But instead of running with those opportunities, what did most of us do? We became good company men, good housewives, good consumers. We narrowed our horizons, and trapped ourselves into small lives. »
Douglas Kennedy, The Pursuit of Happiness, Arrow Books, 2002

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. Draw a portrait of the narrator (name, sex, age, family, hometown).
2. When does the story take place? Choose the right answer. Justify your answer with one quotation from the last paragraph.
– in the late 1940s.
– in the late 1960s.
– in the late 1990s.
3. Why does the narrator come back home? Give two different reasons in your own words. (20 words)
4. How do her parents react to these decisions? Say why in your own words. (40 words)
5. What do you learn about her personality in the dialogue? Use your own words (25 words) and justify with two quotations.
6. 
a) "If you do accept that job, I will have no choice but to cut you off". Explain that sentence in your own words. (15 words)
b) What sort of a father is he (20 words)? Support your answer with two quotations.
7. Read from "I felt shaky […]" to "[…] a small life." and explain, in your own words, the inner conflict the narrator is experiencing. (30-40 words)
8. "However, most of my contemporaries were falling into line, doing what was expected of them." Explain in your own words what young people were expected to do at that time. (30 words)
Expression écrite
Choose one of the following subjects. (300 words +/ -10 %)
1. Imagine the conversation Sara has with her brother, Eric, when she arrives in New York.
2. Would you be ready to rebel against your parents to fulfil your dream?
(1)To hector : to speak to someone, in an angry way.
(2)Ruing : regretting.

Corrigé

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. The narrator's first name is Sara, she is a 22 year old female, she has a mother and a father and a brother named Eric and she lives in Hartford.
2. The story could take place in the late 1940s (post WW2) or in the late 1960s (back from Vietnam war).
"All those boys trickling home from the war were, by and large, just thinking about getting jobs, settling down. Here we were the generation who was about to inherit all that post-war plenty, who (compared to our parents) had infinite opportunities."
3. The narrator comes back home for two reasons: first, she wants to tell her parents about her plans to work for Life and then to tell them that she won't marry Horace.
4. Her parents are totally disappointed. They are appalled and even furious. They totally disagree with both of her decisions. They are not understanding and seem even distant. They think that what she wants to do is not a good thing at all for a girl.
5. In the dialogue, we learn that the narrator is strong-willed and determined but she is not self-assured at all, we may say she even doubts, she is a bit scared and frightened but has made up her mind.
"I ran upstairs and fell on the bed, sobbing."
"That will be your loss."
"I felt shaky all the way to New York – and more than a little scared."
"Though I was trying to be dauntless and self-confident, I was suddenly terrified of the thought that I might just lose my parents."
6. 
a) When her father says "If you do accept that job, I will have no choice but to cut you off." he blackmails her trying to talk her into changing her plans and her mind so that she won't go to New York and won't work for Life. He plays with her feelings for her parents so as to make her accept their view. He appeals to her emotions thinking that she will give up her plans and become more reasonable.
b) He is a very cold and authoritarian father, and he is not patient, not understanding.
"My father was suddenly flustered […]"
"Your destiny, my father said with cruel irony."
"If you do accept that job, I will have no choice but to cut you off."
7. The narrator is torn between her love for her parents and her wish to handle her life and make her choices for her future. She really has mixed feelings. Although she loves her parents, she is irritated about their reaction to her plans and at the same time she refuses to give up which makes her feel uncomfortable.
8. At that time, young people were expected to lead a quiet and secure life. They were expected to find a good job, to get married, to found a family, to have children and thus to become "good" citizens and as a consequence "good" consumers in that society of plenty.
Expression écrite
1. Eric: "Hi Sara, how are you? I'm glad to see you."
Sara: "Hi Eric, I'm glad to see you too, but I can't say I feel that well."
Eric: "Why is that? You are in New York now and you are going to work for Life, isn't that wonderful?"
Sara: "Yes, of course, but you know that, although I'm excited at the prospect of working for Life, I am also really disappointed by our parents' reaction to it."
Eric: "Tell me what happened, Sara?"
Sara: "Well, you know how our parents are. They are quite strict and stubborn sometimes and they often dictate what we have to do. That was alright when we were kids and teenagers, but now I'm 22, an adult and I don't understand why they still behave that way."
Eric: "Well, you know they have always been like that and they won't change behavior now, it is too late. So what we have to do is to cope with it even though it is not always easy."
Sara: "Of course I know that for sure, but making me feel guilty about my decision and blackmailing me makes me angry and I have some difficulties to forgive them, specially Dad who has tried everything to make me change my mind in such a way that I felt both guilty and revolted. We are not children any longer and we have the right to decide of our own life and future I think and they behave as if they had the right to control our lives, I can't stand that."
Eric: "You have to keep aloof. You perfectly know how they are and you are a grown-up now so you have the right to make your mind and decide for yourself."
Sara: "I know, I'm absolutely convince about that, but telling me that if I did what I had decided they would cut me off make me fly off the handle."
Eric: "Sara, I think Dad has done that and tried his luck to see if you were sure about what you had decided, it was his last possible argument since he didn't succeed in making you change your mind, but I'm sure they won't do it, they love you too much for that. He took a gamble because he had no other possibility but he won't cut you off I'm sure about it. Don't be afraid, you'll see."
Sara: "Well, you may be right Eric and I hope I am not going to lose them for good simply because I want to lead my life the way I want."
2. I would say that I would probably rebel against my parents to fulfill my dream.
For the moment, it is not so easy, because there are different stages in life and when you are a teenager, it seems quite difficult to go against one's parents' will. Parents have to bring up and educate their children and they want to give them the best education they can so as to make them good children and later good citizens. As a consequence, they have to impose on them a certain number of things and values children do not necessarily agree with (on account of their age and their thirst to do what they have decided).
During our childhood and teenage, we generally follow our parents' will even though we are more than often reluctant. Later, when we grow older and after, when we come of age, we often try to talk over with our parents to convince them we are right and should be given the right to do as we want when our decisions do not meet our parent's approval. Most parents want the best for their children so they often think that what they want or say is good for us and they tend to refuse the right to decide on our own.
This can still be true when children have become adults as we can see in the text. I think that there comes a time when children should make their own decisions and should go against their parents will because one has to stand on one's own two feet sooner or later. Parents can't always dictate to their children what they have to do. Parents had better give their children advice and tell them what they should think or shouldn't do but they must let them make the final decision.
That's why if it was necessary I would certainly rebel against my parents to fulfill my dream.