P.D. James, The Lighthouse

Énoncé

«  He had moved into the flat six months after joining the police and it could not be more different than his parents' home in the leafy street in South Kensington: the white steps up to the pillared front door, the gleaming paint and immaculate stucco. He had decided to leave the small self-contained flat at the top of the house, partly because he felt it demeaning to be still living at home after the age of eighteen, but chiefly because he couldn't imagine inviting a colleague to his flat. Even to walk through the main door of the house was to know what it represented: money, privilege, the cultural assurance of the prosperous liberal upper-middle-class. But he knew that his present apparent independence was spurious; the flat and its contents had been paid for by his parents – on his salary he couldn't otherwise have afforded to move. And he had made himself comfortable. He told himself wryly that only a visitor knowledgeable about modem furniture would have guessed how much the deceptively simple pieces had cost. But there had been no visitors among his colleagues. As a new recruit he had trodden carefully at first, knowing that he was on a probation more rigorous and protracted than any provisional assessment from senior officers. He had hoped, if not for friendship, for tolerance, respect and acceptance, and to an extent he had earned them. But he was aware that he was still regarded with wary circumspection. He accepted that the problem was partly of his making, a reserve that was deeper and less forgivable than shyness and which inhibited intimacy. They didn't know who he was; he didn't know who he was. It wasn't, he thought, only the result of being mixed-race. The London world he knew and worked in was peopled with men and women of mixed racial, religious and national backgrounds. They seemed to manage. His mother was Indian, his father English, she a paediatrician, he the headmaster of a London comprehensive school. They had fallen in love and married when she was seventeen, his father twelve years older. They had been passionately in love and they still were. He knew from the wedding photographs that she had been exquisitely beautiful; she still was. She had brought money as well as beauty to the marriage. From childhood he had felt an intruder into that private self-sufficient world. They were both over-busy and he had learned early that their time together was precious. He knew that he was loved, that his welfare was their concern, but coming quietly and unexpectedly into a room where they were alone, he would see the cloud of disappointment on their faces quickly change into smiles of welcome – but not quickly enough. Their difference in religious belief seemed never to worry them. His father was an atheist, his mother a Roman Catholic and Francis had been brought up and schooled in that faith. But when in adolescence he gradually let it go as he might relinquish a part of childhood, neither parent appeared to notice, or if they did, felt that they were justified in questioning him. They had taken him with them on their annual visits to Delhi, and there too he had felt an alien. It was as if his legs, painfully stretched across a spinning globe, could find no secure footing in either continent. His father loved to revisit India, was at home there, was greeted with loud exclamations of delight, laughed, teased and was teased, wore Indian clothes, performed the salaam with more ease than he shook hands at home, left after tearful goodbyes. As a child and adolescent, Benton was made a great fuss of, exclaimed over, praised for his beauty, his intelligence, but he would stand there ill at ease, politely exchanging compliments, knowing that he didn't belong. »
P.D. James, The Lighthouse, 2005

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. Give the main character's full name.
2. In which country does he live?
3. Quote two elements from the text to justify your answer.
4. What is the parents' social status? Pick out three elements to support your answer.
Focus on the passage from "He had moved […]" to "[…] had cost" .
5. The main character moved out. In your own words explain the reason why.
6. Explain in your own words the main character's apparent independence .
7. 
a) How does he feel when he starts working in the police? (justify by quoting the text)
b) How do his colleagues see him according to him? (justify by quoting the text)
c) Does he blame anyone for his uneasiness? (explain and justify by quoting the text)
d) What is the problem with being of mixed race according to him?
Focus on the passage from "His mother was […]" to "[…] quetioning him" .
8. In your own words describe the parents' relationship (40 words).
9. What were the main character's feelings towards his parents?
10. In your own words explain what evolution occurred in the main character's life as far as religion is concerned.
Focus on the passage from "They had taken him […]" to the end.
11. What does the main character mean when he says: "It was as if his legs, painfully stretched across a spinning globe, could find no secure footing in either continent"?
12. In your own words compare the father's attitude with his son's. (50 words).
Expression écrite
"He had decided to leave the small self-contained flat at the top of the house." .
When do you think is the best time to leave home? (250 words)

Corrigé

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. The character's full name is Francis Benton.
2. He lives in England.
3. "The London world he knew and worked in […]" .
"His father English […] the headmaster of a London comprehensive school" .
4. His parents have a high social status, they belong to the upper-middle class and are quite well-off.
"His parents' home in the leafy street in South Kensington" .
"[…] the flat and its contents had been paid for by his parents" .
"[…] she a pediatrician, he the headmaster of a London comprehensive school" .
"She had brought money […] to the marriage" .
5. The character moved out because he works, somehow he is now self-sufficient, he wants to be independent and to have his own place. Above all he wouldn't dare to invite a colleague at his parents' home. Moreover, he thinks that when somebody has come of age it is time to leave the family home.
6. His independence is spurious, because in fact he earns his living but without the help of his parents he wouldn't have been able to move into the flat where he now lives as he wouldn't have been able to afford it as well as the furniture.
7. 
a) He feels very cautious, he doesn't want to disappoint anyone and he hopes to make his best. I quote: "As a new recruit he had trodden carefully at first".
b) According to him he thinks his colleagues keep an eye on him, I quote "[…] he was aware that he was still regarded with wary circumspection".
c) No, he doesn't, I quote: "He accepted that the problem was partly of his making […]", he is aware of his faults: "a reserve that was deeper and less forgivable than shyness […]".
d) His problem is that he "doesn't know who he (is)". He seems uprooted or lost in-between.
8. His parents are deeply in love with one another, they form a kind of self-sufficient cell and although he is their son he has always felt he was a kind of stranger or intruder for them as they are intensely close.
9. He loved his parents but he was somehow resentful towards them as he felt he always disturbed them and he thought he was not well accepted although they love him.
10. He was brought up in the Roman Catholic religion. With time as he grew up he started to keep his distance towards that religion and gradually abandoned it.
11. The character feels ill at ease because he is the son of a mixed couple and he is torn between two cultures. He knows both of them and he can't find his own way. He is more used to living in England, as a consequence it feels easier there than when he is in India where he only goes once in a while and although he probably knows that culture thanks to his mother he feels like a stranger there. But even in England, he doesn't really feel English.
12. They behave in a total different way. The father is of English origin and consequently at first sight we may think that the Indian culture is not familiar for him. However when he is in India he is perfectly at ease whereas the son who was partly brought up in a mixed couple with an Indian mother should be more comfortable with the Indian culture as it must have been part of his upbringing, but in fact he is ill at ease and and doesn't feel he has anything to do with that culture.
Expression écrite
To me, it is necessary for people to leave their parents' home and to get their own accomodation.The sooner, the better. But they may face some problems since very often when they were at home they were taken care of by their parents and didn't really have to cope with many of the different chores you can't avoid when nobody is around to do them for you such as everything linked to the house, the washing up, tidying, etc. It clearly marks a transition between teenage and adulthood as they have to stand on their own two feet and they are all by themselves. This is an important phase people have to go through to learn to become independent. That can happen when people finish high school and have to go to college or when a person becomes or can be financially independent. However, the first problem may be a feeling of isolation because generally you leave your family behind as well as your friends even if you come back home regularly and can still see them. It may be quite scary at first. The most important thing seems to be independence. This is generally very new for them and it can sometimes become the cause of problems. If they are responsible enough, they will probably cope with it but quite often this independence means being free of doing what you want whenever you want and it can be dangerous as it is sometimes too much freedom at once. Some students may endanger their studies simply because they are unable to organize their time between work and leisure. So we can say that it is a good thing if they are mature. In any case, we can consider that it is a necessary rite of passage to really come of age and to become a grown-up and this must not be postponed because the later you leave it, the more difficult it can be.