Texte de Jhumpa Lahiri

Énonce

« After the engagement(1), Pranab Kaku and Deborah began drifting out of our lives. They moved in together, to an apartment in Boston, in the South End, a part of the city my parents considered unsafe. We moved as well, to a house in Natick. Though my parents had bought the house, they occupied it as if they were still tenants, touching up scuff marks with leftover paint and reluctant to put holes in the walls, and every afternoon when the sun shone through the living-room window my mother closed the blinds so that our new furniture would not fade. A few weeks before the wedding, my parents invited Pranab Kaku to the house alone, and my mother prepared a special meal to mark the end of his bachelorhood. It would be the only Bengali aspect of the wedding; the rest of it would be strictly American, with a cake and minister(2) and Deborah in a long white dress and veil. There is a photograph of the dinner, taken by my father, the only picture, to my knowledge, in which my mother and Pranab Kaku appear together. The picture is slightly blurry; I remember Pranab Kaku explaining to my father how to work the camera, and so he is captured looking up from the kitchen table and the elaborate array of food my mother had prepared in his honor, his mouth open, his long arm outstretched and his finger pointing, instructing my father how to read the light meter or some such thing. My mother stands beside him, one hand placed on top of his head in a gesture of blessing, the first and last time she was to touch him in her life. "She will leave him", my mother told her friends afterward. "He is throwing his life away." The wedding was at a church in Ipswich, with a reception at a country club. It was going to be a small ceremony, which my parents took to mean one or two hundred people as opposed to three or four hundred. My mother was shocked that fewer than thirty people had been invited, and she was more perplexed than honored that, of all the Bengalis Pranab Kaku knew by then, we were the only ones on the list. At the wedding, we sat, like the other guests, first on the hard wooden pews of the church and then at a long table that had been set up for lunch. Though we were the closest thing Pranab Kaku had to a family that day, we were not included in the group photographs that were taken on the grounds of the country club, with Deborah's parents and grandparents and her many siblings(3), and neither my mother nor my father got up to make a toast. My mother did not appreciate the fact that Deborah had made sure that my parents, who did not eat beef, were given fish instead of filet mignon like everyone else. She kept speaking in Bengali, complaining about the formality of the proceedings, and the fact that Pranab Kaku, wearing a tuxedo, barely said a word to us because he was too busy leaning over the shoulders of his new American in-laws as he circled the table. As usual, my father said nothing in response to my mother's commentary, quietly and methodically working through his meal, his fork and knife occasionally squeaking against the surface of the china, because he was accustomed to eating with his hands. He cleared his plate and then my mother's, for she had pronounced the food inedible, and then he announced that he had overeaten and had a stomachache. The only time my mother forced a smile was when Deborah appeared behind her chair, kissing her on the cheek and asking if we were enjoying ourselves. When the dancing started, my parents remained at the table, drinking tea, and after two or three songs they decided that it was time for us to go home, my mother shooting me looks to that effect across the room, where I was dancing in a circle with Pranab Kaku and Deborah and the other children at the wedding. I wanted to stay, and when, reluctantly, I walked over to where my parents sat Deborah followed me. "Boudi, let Usha stay. She's having such a good time", she said to my mother. "Lots of people will be heading back your way, someone can drop her off in a little while." But my mother said no, I had had plenty of fun already, and forced me to put on my coat over my long puff-sleeved dress. As we drove home from the wedding I told my mother, for the first but not the last time in my life, that I hated her. »
Jhumpa Lahiri, Hell-Heaven, 2004

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. In which country does the story take place? Justify with a quote from the text.
2. 
Pranab Kaku, Deborah, Boudi, Usha and one other person are the main characters.
a) Which one is the narrator?
b) Quote one element from the text to prove that the narrator is a child and another element to prove that she is a girl.
3. Identify the character who is not named.
4. Which two characters belong to the narrator's family?
5. 
a) Which two characters are not members of the narrator's family?
b) What major event in their lives is going to take place?
6. 
a) Say where Pranab Kaku is invited before this major event and on what special occasion.
b) What is the ethnic background of the people present?
7. What is Deborah's ethnic background? Read the whole text and find one element to justify your answer.
8. 
What does the passage from "My mother […]" to "[…] away.". Reveal about.
a) the mother's feelings towards Pranab Kaku?
b) the mother's attitude towards Pranab Kaku and Deborah's plan? (20 words)
9. 
Say whether the following statements are true or false. Justify with a quotation from the text.
a) Three or four hundred people are present at the ceremony.
b) Most of the guests are Bengalis.
c) At one point the narrator feels that her family is excluded.
10. Describe the mother's feelings and attitude at the church and country club. Give examples to illustrate your answer. (40 words)
11. Explain to what extent Deborah's attitude is different from the mother's. (30 words). Then quote the text to support your answer.
12. What is the narrator's vision of her parents? (40 words)
Expression écrite
Choose subject 1 (a+b) or subject 2.
1. 
a) "As we drove home from the wedding I told my mother, for the first but not the last time in my life, that I hated her." . Imagine the conversation in the car and write the dialogue. (150 words)
b) For you, is taking photos more about enjoying the present or remembering the past? (150 words)
2. To what extent is it necessary to make an effort to be tolerant? Illustrate your view with examples. (300 words)
(1)Engagement : a formal agreement to get married.
(2)Minister : a member of the clergy.
(3)Siblings : brothers and/ or sisters.

Corrigé

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. The story takes place in the USA: "Boston".
2. 
a) The narrator is Usha.
b) A child:
"I was dancing in a circle with […] the other children at the wedding."
A girl:
"someone can drop her off"
"and forced me to put my coat over my long puff-sleeved dress."
3. The character who is not named is Usha's father.
4. The two characters who belong to Usha's family are her mother named Boudi and her father.
5. 
a) The couple that is to say Pranab Kaku and Deborah are not members of the family.
b) They are going to get married
6. 
a) He is invited to Usha's parents for dinner for the end of his bachelorhood.
b) The people present are of Bengali origins.
7. Deborah is American
"the rest of it would be strictly American"
"Pranab Kaku […] leaning over the shoulders of his new American in-laws"
8. 
a) She is nice with Pranab Kaku and cares about him even though he is not her son she considers him as if he were her son.
b) She obviously doesn't like Deborah and thinks that this marriage won't last long, she is deeply sure that Deborah will leave Pranab Kaku one day or another.
9. 
a) False: "fewer than thirty people had been invited."
b) False: "of all the Bengalis Pranab Kaku knew by then, we were the only one on the list."
c) True: "we were not included in the group photographs."
10. She disapproves of the wedding and is shocked to see only a few people invited for such a ceremony: "and neither my mother nor my father got up to make a toast", even during the reception and meal she refuses to make an effort and doesn't try to be nice even though she is not happy with that wedding: "she kept speaking in Bengali, complaining about the formality of the proceedings", "the only time my mother forced a smile", eventually she left quite early which is not really what people are used to doing on such an occasion: "When the dancing started, my parents remained at the table, drinking tea, and after two or three songs they decided that it was time for us to go home".
11. Deborah's attitude is the opposite of the one of the mother since she tries to make sure everything is alright and everybody is at ease. She is nice, kind, she cares about the people who are invited and pays attention to everybody. "Deborah had made sure that my parents, who do not eat beef, were given fish instead", "Deborah appeared behind her chair, kissing her on the cheek and asking if we were enjoying ourselves", "I was dancing in a circle with Pranab Kaku and Deborah", ""Boudi, let Usha stay. She's having such a good time", she said to my mother."
12. The narrator doesn't feel at ease because of her parents' behavior, she is resentful. Her father is subdued and seems lenient compared to her mother who doesn't make the least effort to be nice and who seems to be reluctant, even narrow-minded and quite authoritarian. She is reproachful towards her mother for not letting her stay at the wedding party.
Expression écrite
1. 
a) Usha: "Why haven't you let me stay at the wedding party? I was having a great time and enjoying myself."
Boudi: "It was high time we went home Usha. Moreover you are too young to stay alone."
Usha: "I hate you. You have been impossible during the whole ceremony and have not made any effort to fit in."
Boudi: "How dare you say that to me, you can't understand, you are too young."
Usha: "I perfectly understand that you don't like Deborah, but is it a reason to behave the way you did? She was nice with you and was caring. You haven't even made the slightest effort to be kind with her."
Boudi: "That marriage is doomed, I'm sure she will leave him one day or another. We have done what our duty was, that is to say be present for the wedding but no need to rejoice that much."
Usha: "You are not understanding at all. Pranab Kaku loves her and Deborah loves him and they have the right to be happy. He is not your son and even if he was, would you behave the same way? I really think you are stupid and narrow-minded and I really hate you. "
b) Since the invention of photography, people have always taken pictures either of themselves or their family, ceremonies or more recently of their holidays.
To me, taking photos is much more about remembering the past than enjoying the present.
We can say that photographs are a means of stopping, mastering or even capturing time. In that way people feel they are immortal or at least that they leave a testimony of their life. This is particularly true when we look at pictures of our ancestors, namely our grandparents or great-grandparents. These photos are a means of discovering who they were and how they looked – as quite often we haven't known them. Thus, they are an evidence of our roots.
Pictures are a way to cling to the past, not to feel alone, and to feel the relationship we have with our forefathers. For parents, they can be means of passing on a sort of heritage to children.
Most often, photos enable people to recall good events, pleasant moments, and to feel once again the memories related to them – indeed, we generally never take pictures of sad or bad moments but only of happy ones.
Photos can also represent a sort of narrative of somebody's life; they enable people to keep a chronology of their life.
So, we can say that pictures are often unconsciously meant to express the desire not to fall into oblivion.
2. I think it is absolutely necessary to make an effort to be tolerant.
It is true that if we look back into the past we can see that men have never been tolerant. Nowadays, many people try to remedy to intolerance which is deeply rooted in human nature.
In some countries, racism is less important than in the past thanks to people who study much longer and to the mixing of cultures which brings open-mindedness.
But in other countries it is increasing, which is quite worrying. We can probably say that it is due to fundamentalism which quite too often means preservation of certain long-lived traditions and narrow-mindedness.
At the same time, improvements have been made for women's rights for instance.
We can also notice that our society is becoming more tolerant than it used to be towards marginals, minorities, unmarried mothers, homosexuals.
On the one hand, there are better situations for some people or groups and on the other hand we sometimes get the impression that we step back.
To conclude, we can say that the impression we get is mixed and that there is still progress to be made to reach tolerance in many fields and places throughout the world.