Texte de Larissa Behrendt


The story is set in Australia. The main character is an Aborigine. (The Aborigenes are the native colored inhabitants of Australia)
«  "You are a lucky girl, Elizabeth. You have been given a chance, a chance for a better life." The train clicked on. Mrs Carlyle stared out the window again for a moment before returning to stare at the teenage girl whose head was bent down towards her shiny new shoes. "Look at me when I speak to you, Elizabeth." Garibooli lifted her face and looked across into the blue eyes. She had been taught to look away when an older person addressed her. But then, she realised, Mrs Carlyle was not Eualeyai or Kamillaroi so it must be different for her. She looked at Mrs Carlyle's sky-coloured eyes, noticed the wrinkles that danced around her tightly wound(1) mouth and the thin layer of powder that dung to her skin. "You must do exactly as you are told in the house and do everything that the housekeeper tells you. Without complaint. And as best you can. The Howards are very kind to let you stay with them and earn your keep so you must do everything you're asked. Do you understand? And from now on, your name is Elizabeth, and Elizabeth only". Elizabeth – once Garibooli, now Elizabeth, and Elizabeth only – nodded, too fearful to ask the one question, the only question, that mattered to her: when was she going home? It was mid-morning when Elizabeth arrived in the country town whose trees were bursting with pink and white blossoms. The name was written on the station building, in big black letters: PARKES. They were met by a warm-looking, fleshy young woman in a brown felt hat. Elizabeth felt a surge of relief at the sight of the butter-coloured woman, a contrast to the steeliness of Mrs Carlyle. This was Miss Grainger, the housekeeper. Mrs Carlyle peered sternly into the young girl's face, "Remember what we spoke about on the train, about you behaving and doing your best. Miss Grainger will look after you but you must be obedient and respectful to both Miss Grainger and Mrs Howard. Do you understand, Elizabeth?" Elizabeth nodded, even though there was very little she understood about why she was here, sent so far away, to be with Miss Grainger in the home of Mr and Mrs Howard. The house, with its white Federation(2) accents, was dark against the morning sky as it shielded the rising sun. Massive and ornate, even in shadow it looked mythical. Elizabeth and Miss Grainger entered through the back door and Elizabeth was shown to her room, just off from the kitchen. "You will sleep in here." Miss Grainger pointed to a thin mattress on a wooden bed frame with a blanket on the end. "We'll make some curtains and things and fix this little nook(3) up, and it'll look much more horney then." Elizabeth didn't quite know what Miss Grainger was talking about but recognised kindness, somewhere in her soft, chubby flesh and her subtle scent of lilac and flour. Elizabeth's "Thank you, Miss Grainger" was for the tone in her voice and the tenderness in her eyes. Miss Grainger showed Elizabeth the clothes hanging in the closet – two black dresses, two white aprons, two white caps, and a calico nightdress – then left her to settle in. Elizabeth had cried so much she did not think she could cry again. She lay on the bed and tried to get comfortable. She looked at the sloping ceiling and thought about everything that had just happened to her. It was only two nights since she listened to old Kooradgie's stories and looked up at Mea-Mei, her head in her mother's lap. She closed her eyes and tears slid down her face. She imagined the world as it looked from up in her tree and saw the figure of her baina(4) tending the campfire. She heard her brother calling her name. She saw his face, getting smaller and smaller as she was carried faster and faster, further and further away. Then she saw Euroke's face again, this time larger, it was still distorted, but with laughter as she tickled him, teasing him that he would be eaten by a big fish. My name is Garibooli. Whisper it over and over again. »
Larissa Behrendt, "Behind the Front Fence", 30 modern Australian short stories, 2004

Compréhension de l'écrit
Where exactly does the scene take place
a) from "You are a lucky girl…" to "…Elizabeth only."?
b) from "The house, with…" to the end?
a) Replace each letter with the name of a character from the text.
The main character, whose real name is a) ...... but who is called b) ...... by c) ...... the person with whom she is travelling, is on her way to d) ......'s house. On arrival, she meets e) ...... , their housekeeper.
b) What age group does the main character belong to?
c) Which of the following best describes her situation? (only one answer)
  • She does not know who her parents are.
  • She has been taken away from her parents.
  • She has come to meet her parent.
3. Why has the main character come to this house? Support your answer with one quote from the text.
4. Write a paragraph in which you describe the evolution of her feelings throughout the text. Draw from the list of adjectives below. (70 words)
aggressive/ confused/ delighted/ frightened/ hopeful/ indifferent/ reassured/ upset
5. Compare the ways the other two female characters behave towards the main character. (25-30 words)
6. To what extent will the main character's new life contrast with her former life? (70-80 words)
7. What does the sentence "you have been given a chance, a chance for a better life" and the change of names reveal about the way she is considered by Mrs Carlyle? (50 words)
8. What is your interpretation of the last two line? "My name is Garibooli. Whisper it. Whisper it over and over again." (30 words)
Expression écrite
Choose one of the following subjects (250 words + or − 10 %)
1. After a few weeks, Miss Grainger asks Elizabeth how she feels about her new life. Elizabeth confides in her (difficulties, nostalgia, etc.). Imagine the conversation.
2. "There's no place like home." Discuss this proverb.
(1)Tightly wound: stern, severe looking.
(2)White Federation : first Australian government after independence.
(3)A nook : a small room to sleep in.
(4)Baina : daddy.


Compréhension de l'écrit
a) First, the scene takes place on a train that Mrs. Carlyle and Elizabeth (Garibboli) take to go to a town called Parkes.
b) Then, the scene takes place at the Howards, in Elizabeth room.
a) The main character, whose real name is a) Garibooli but who is called b) Elizabeth by c) Mrs. Carlyle, the person with whom she is travelling, is on her way to the d) Howards' house. On arrival, she meets e)Miss Grainger, their housekeeper.
b) Elizabeth is a young teenager girl.
c) She has been taken away from her parents.
3. The main character has come to this house in order to be a servant/ maid, to work for the Howards'.
  • "you must do exactly what you are told in the house and do everything that the housekeeper tells you.",
  • "Miss Grainger showed Elizabeth the clothes hanging in the closet – two black dresses, two white aprons, two white caps".
4. Throughout the passage we clearly see that Elizabeth was frightened at first since she is described as "too fearful" due to the rigid and authoritarian attitude of Mrs. Carlyle: "the steeliness of Mrs. Carlyle" and of course to the fact that she has been taken away from her parents. As a consequence, she is all the more confused and fearful. Then when they meet Miss Grainger at the station, she feels reassured – "Elizabeth felt a surge of relief" – by the look of the housekeeper who is warm-looking and fleshy. She feels more at ease with Miss Grainger: "the tone of her voice and the tenderness in her eyes". However we also know that she was upset since she "had cried so much" and doesn't feel so much better as she still cries – "She closed her eyes and tears slid down her face" – while thinking of her family and previous life.
5. The two other female characters have a totally opposite attitude towards Elizabeth. On the one hand Mrs. Carlyle is strict, unfriendly and authoritative whereas on the other hand Miss Grainger is welcoming and adopts a friendly attitude towards Elizabeth.
6. The main character's new life will clearly contrast with her former one. Before being taken away from her parents, she lived in her Aborigine community, close to her family and to the other members of the tribe, most probably in a settlement in the outback. Life was much easier for her and her relatives. There were no real constraints whereas in her new life she will be in another environment that she doesn't know. She will have to work and obey Miss Grainger as well as Mrs. Howard. She won't have her relatives nearby and will probably not see them very often – not to say maybe never again. For her, this new life is being uprooted and disorientated and she will have to adapt to a totally different way of life and culture.
7. The sentence reveals that Mrs. Carlyle looks down on Aborigines and their way of life. She disapproves of their way of life and may consider them as second class citizens. We can say she is scornful and contemptuous. To her, a better life is the one white people lead and not the one Aborigines have. She has given the girl a new name because she wants her to be "whiter" and to adapt – not to say fit in – the white society and forget her origins.
8. The last two lines reveal that the girl clearly clings to her origins and will probably still do in the future. She rejects her new name and is resentful towards what happens to her. As a consequence, she will always keep her family, her former life and her real name in mind. Although she will be called Elizabeth, she will always remember that she is in fact Garibooli, an Aboriginal girl.
Expression écrite
1. Miss Grainger: "Well Elizabeth, you have spent a few weeks with me and Mr. and Mrs. Howard − so, how do you feel?"
Elizabeth: "I must confess I don't feel very well in fact. I am not used to that kind of life. I was born in the outback and lived with my parents in a settlement so this life is so different from mine. I really have difficulties to adapt here. It is so different from the way of life I had."
Miss Grainger: "Yes Elizabeth, I can perfectly understand how you feel. It is not easy to change place and to start a new life. When I started working for the Howards, I had to move and at first it was not easy for me either."
Elizabeth: "Yes, but you are white and you are more used to living that kind of life. For me, it is radically different. Moreover I miss my parents and my relatives a lot. I feel totally uprooted, lost. I have mixed feelings. I often cry in the evening or at night when I think of them. I would like to see them so much. I really feel homesick."
Miss Grainger: "Elizabeth, you have to think that it is normal and that it will take some time for you to adapt to that new life. But you will get accustomed to it, I am sure about it. You will feel better. It is a normal phase you are going through but soon everything will be alright."
Elizabeth: "I am not sure I will manage with this new life. To me it is like refusing or betraying my family, my people and my origins and I feel so brokenhearted. For the moment, I have no choice but to stay but I deeply resent being here against my will."
2. There's no denying that there is no place like home. We can feel that particularly when we are away from home for a long time.
How can we forget the place where we were born and brought up and where our parents, relatives and friends are? That's why so many people feel homesick when they are away from their home for quite a while. You miss the place and the people who love you and the scenery and landscape you are used to.
Nothing can prevent us from recalling the pleasant moments spent with these people. We are tied to our home by bonds of affection and love. Our mother is always ready to accede to our wishes and to looks after our daily needs, and our father willing to sacrifice everything to make us happy and comfortable.
Everybody is looking forward to sharing and enjoying life with the people they like. Home is linked to so many feelings that it is impossible to replace it. For everyone it represents a cradle, a nursery, a school and so many others things that have had a deep impact on our personality and memories. Moreover it is so difficult, hard and painful to abandon the familiar surrounding where you have your roots.
All this goes to show that home is a privileged place and that as the saying goes "there is really no place like home".