Texte de Ian McEwan


«  He had not been in a fight since January of 1961, in the second term of his final year. It was a one-sided affair, and unusual in that Edward had some cause, a degree of justice on his side. He was walking along Old Compton Street towards the French Pub in Dean Street with another third-year history student, Harold Mather. It was early evening and they had come straight from the library in Malet Street to meet up with friends. At Edward's grammar school, Mather would have been the perfect victim – he was short, barely five feet five, wore thick glasses over comically squashed features and was maddeningly talkative and clever. At university, however, he flourished, he was a high-status figure. He had an important jazz records collection, he edited a literary magazine, he had a short story accepted, though not yet published, by Encounter magazine, he was hilarious in formal Union debates and a good mimic. He was reckoned by far the best student in the history group. Edward counted it as progress in his own life, evidence of a new maturity, that he prized his friendship with a man he might once have taken trouble to avoid. At that time, on a weekday winter's evening, Soho was just coming to life. The pubs were full, but the clubs were not yet open, and the pavements were uncrowded. It was easy to notice the couple coming towards them along Old Compton Street. They were rockers – he was a big fellow in his mid-twenties, with long sideburns(1) studded leather jacket, tight jeans and boots, and his plump girlfriend, holding on to his arm, was identically dressed. As they passed, and without breaking stride, the man swung his arm out to deliver a hard, flat-handed smack to the back of Mather's head which caused him to stagger, and sent his glasses skidding across the road. It was an act of casual contempt for Mather's height and studious appearance. Perhaps it was intended to impress or amuse the girl. Edward did not stop to think about it. As he strode after the couple he heard Harold call out something like a "no" or a "don't", but that was just the kind of entreaty(2) he was now deaf to. He would have found it difficult to describe his state: his anger had lifted itself and spiralled into a kind of ecstasy. With his right hand he gripped the man's shoulder and spun him round, and with his left, took him by the throat and pushed him back against a wall. Still clenching his throat, Edward hit him in the face, just once, but very hard, with a closed fist. Then he went back to help Mather find his glasses, one lens of which was cracked. They walked on, leaving the fellow sitting on the pavement, both hands covering his face, while his girlfriend fussed over him. It took Edward some while into the evening to become aware of Harold Mather's lack of gratitude, and then of his silence, or silence towards him, and even longer, a day or two, to realise that his friend not only disapproved, but worse – he was embarrassed. In the pub neither man told their friends the story, and afterwards Mather never spoke about the incident to Edward. Rebuke(3) would have been a relief. Without making any great show of it, Mather withdrew from him. Though they saw each other in company, and he was never obviously distant towards Edward, the friendship was never the same. Edward was in agonies when he considered that Mather was actually repelled by his behaviour, but he did not have the courage to raise the subject. Besides, Mather made sure they were never alone together. At first Edward believed that his error was to have damaged Mather's pride by witnessing his humiliation, which Edward then compounded(4) by acting as his champion, demonstrating that he was tough while Mather was a vulnerable weakling. Later on, Edward realised that what he had done was simply not cool, and his shame was all the greater. Street fighting did not go with poetry and irony, bebop or history. He was guilty of a lapse of taste. He was not the person he had thought. He was a country boy, a provincial idiot who thought a bare-knuckle swipe could impress a friend. He was making one of the advances typical of early adulthood: the discovery that there were new values by which he preferred to be judged. Since then, Edward had stayed out of fights. »
Adapted (abridged) from Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach, 2007

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. What kind of document is this? (Give as many details as you can)
Read from "He had not been […]" to "[…] his girlfriend fussed over him"
The text introduces two characters named Edward and Harold Mather.
a) Whose point of view is given by the narrator? Explain! (30-40 mots)
b) When exactly did the scene take place?
c) Say what you learn about their current studies.
d) Deduce their probable age and say how they are connected.
a) Focus on Harold Mather. What do you know about his physical appearance, cultural tastes and academic performance?
b) Give 5 adjectives from the text showing that Edward admired Harold.
4. Where are the two characters in the passage? What are their plans for the evening?
An incident momentarily disturbs their plans.
a) How many people are involved in this incident? Who are they?
b) "[…] the man swung his arm out to deliver a hard, flat-handed smack to the back of Mather's head which caused him to stagger, and sent his glasses skidding across the road." In your own words, explain what happens.
c) Two reasons are given to explain the gesture. Using your own words, say what these reasons are. (20-30 words)
d) Describe Edward's and Harold Mather's reactions to this gesture. (20-30 words)
e) Focusing on "Edward did not stop […] into a kind of ecstasy", analyse Edward's reaction. (20-30 words)
Read from "It took Edward […]" to "[…] never alone together" .
a) What does Edward expect from Harold Mather immediately after the incident? Explain why.
b) Say how Harold Mather actually behaves (2 elements). Justify each element with a quotation from the text.
c) How does that attitude affect Edward? Find one quotation to support your answer.
Read from "At first Edward believed […]" to "[…] out of fights".
Edward tries to analyse Harold Mather's attitude. In your own words, show how his analysis evolves. (30-40 words)
8. From this analysis, Edward concludes that "he was not the person he had thought." Taking the whole text into account, say what kind of person he used to be, he thought he had become and what the incident made him realise. (40-50 words)
Expression écrite
Family, friends, celebrities…. To what extent does one need role models to build one's own personality? (250 words)
(1)Sideburns: hair that grows down the sides of a man's face in front of his ears.
(2)Entreaty: serious request.
(3)Rebuke: reprimand.
(4)Compound: make worse.


Compréhension de l'écrit
1. This document is an extract/ excerpt adapted from the novel On Chesil Beach written by Ian Mac Ewan in 2007.
a) The narrator gives us Edward's point of view because we learn what happens before and during the incident according to him, how he sees Harold and how he feels about the incident, I quote "Edward realised that what he had done was simply not cool, and his shame was all the greater" . What's more he doesn't understand Harold's reaction.
b) The scene took place in 1961, in the second term of their final year at university.
c) The two characters study history at university.
d) Since they are in the final year, they must be in their early twenties and they must be friends or classmates.
a) Harold Mather is not tall but rather short, he wears quite thick glasses, he has an interest in jazz and literature and is a very intelligent student as he is the best one in the group.
b) high-status, important, hilarious, good, best.
4. In the passage the two characters are in Old Compton Street in London in the district of Soho, they are going to the pub to meet friends.
a) Four people are invoved in the incident. They are Edward, Harold Mather and a couple, a man and a woman.
b) The man hit Harold very hard on the back of his head which made him lose his glasses.
c) One reason can be that the man found him ridiculous because of his thick glasses and maybe weak as well, so he did it to laugh at him and maybe also to make a strong impression on his girlfriend.
d) They have two opposite reactions, on the one hand Edward immediately hits the man in the face to avenge his friend and on the other hand Harold tries to prevent him from hitting the man.
e) Edward is unable to control himself, he reacts on the spur of the moment, he doesn't even hear or pay attention to what Harold tells him, he acts in a thoughtless and instinctive way.
a) He expects Harold to thank him for standing by and defending him.
b) Harold didn't say a word about it and he even felt embarrassed that he keeps his distance with Edward afterwards.
"his silence" , "silence towards him" , "Mather withdrew from him".
c) Edward is very disappointed by Harold's behaviour : "Edward was in agonies when he considered that Mather was actually repelled by his behaviour".
7. At first, Edward thinks that Harold was vexed and that Edward thought he was a coward and a weak man, a wimp. Then he realises that in acting the way he did he was not right, his behaviour was not the good one. He understands that Harold disapproves of it and that he would not have done the same thing.
8. Edward may have been a kind of stupid schoolboy, but when he went to university he thought he was more mature and that he had become more responsible and an adult, but the incident has made him realise that in fact he is still the same, that his stupid behaviour has not changed and that he is still stupid in the way he behaves.
Expression écrite
Friends, family and celebrities may be role models and account for the building of one's personality. Most of the time celebrities play that role and many teenagers are crazy about them. We can say that it seems that nowadays more and more of them are fascinated and wouldn't miss information or gossips about these celebrities. We can suppose that it is due to the numerous TV programmes on many channels devoted to these "idols" whoever they are more and more teenagers spend much of their time watching, listening or reading about these celebrities. The reasons can be numerous and among them we can infer that most of these teenagers aspire to be like them because they would like to do the things they do and they represent examples to be copied simply because teenagers may be bored or unsatisfied with their lives. Furthermore some of them may be fascinated by these celebrities because they feel close to them as far as the causes they fight for or the message they convey are concerned. Generally speaking this attitude can be explained by the gap between one's aspirations and the opportunities offered by today's society, specially when you are a teenager and you do not have all the possibilities or opportunities you would like to be given. They have high expectations but few opportunities since they have not come of age and can't provide for themselves. Consequently it is difficult to fulfil one's dream and one solution is to live one's life through somebody else, by proxy. Moreover, nowadays, there is a real dictatorship of fashion and for many the way people see us is important which explains why many want or need to be more handsome, slimmer, richer, etc. To conclude we can say that these personal reasons and external causes are push and pull factors which tend to make teenagers feel more and more interested and attracted by celebrities who play role models. This is generally just a phase they have to go through and which seems normal as long as it doesn't lead to the loss of one's own personality or dangerous behaviours.