Texte de Peter Cameron


«  The waiter came over for our order. My father ordered steak and I ordered penne with basil and heirloom tomatoes. "You should have ordered a steak or something," my father said. "You should never order pasta as a main course. It isn't manly." "I'll keep that in mind,"I said. […] We sat for a moment in silence, and then the waiter delivered our meals. […] My father attacked his steak with virility. I daintily ate my pasta. After a moment he said, "What do you mean, `I think'?" "What?" "You told Mr. Dupont that you're going to Brown, `I think'." "Oh, well, I'm not sure." "What do you mean you're not sure? Of course you're going to Brown. We've already sent them money. You can't switch schools now." "I wasn't thinking of switching schools," I said. "Good,"said my father. "I'm thinking of not going to college at all." My father put down his knife and fork. "What?" he said. "I'm not sure I want to go to college. In fact, I'm pretty sure I don't." "What do you mean, you don't want to go to college? Of course you want to go to college. What do you want to do, run away and join the circus?" "I don't know. Maybe. I just don't want to go to college." "Why? Why not?" "I think it would be a waste of time." "A waste of time! College?" "Yes," I said. "For me. I'm confident I can teach myself everything I want to know by reading books and seeking out the knowledge that interests me. I don't see the point of spending four years – four very expensive years – learning a lot of stuff I'm not particularly interested in and am bound to forget, just because it's the social norm. […] The point is I don't want to spend a huge amount of your money doing something that has no value or meaning to me. In fact, I think it's obscene to pay thousands of dollars for me to go to college when there are so many people living in poverty in the world." "James, the fact that poverty exists is not a good reason for you not to go to college. And the existence of poverty does not prevent you from doing other foolish and extravagant things, like eating an eighteen-dollar bowl of pasta." "This didn't cost eighteen dollars," I said. "It would if we were paying market rate." "Well, if that's foolish and extravagant, why isn't going to college foolish and extravagant?" "Because college is an investment in your future."[…] "Why must everyone go to college?" "Not everyone goes to college," my father said. "In fact, very few people go to college. It's a privilege to spend four years in the pursuit of knowledge. I would think it would be just the thing for someone like you." "I don't see it that way. I think I can learn all I need and want to know by reading Shakespeare and Trollope." "So what do you propose to do? Sit at home and read Trollope for four years?" "No," I said. "I want to buy a house." "A house? Are you crazy? Do you have any idea what houses cost?" "I don't mean in New York City. I mean in Indiana. Or Kansas. Or South Dakota. Someplace like that." "And where will you get this money to buy a house?" "If you gave me a third of the money you're going to spend sending me to Brown I could easily make a substantial down payment on a very nice home." "And what would you do in this very nice home in Kansas? Read Trollope?" "Yes," I said, "among other things. I'd also want to work." "At the local McDonald's, I presume?" "Maybe. Why not?" »
Abridged fromPeter Cameron, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, 2007

Compréhension de l'écrit
Among the following statements, choose the one that corresponds to the situation and justify by quoting three elements from the text.
a) A family is having lunch at home.
b) Two people are having lunch in a restaurant.
c) Two people are eating in a fast food restaurant.
a) What's the older character's main course?
b) What's the younger character's main course?
a) Say how these two protagonists are related.
b) Who is the narrator? Justify by quoting two elements from the text.
c) What is his name?
4. The younger character is about: 12 years old, 15 years old or 18 years old ? Justify in your own words? (15 words)
Choose the correct location for the scene and justify by quoting one element from the text.
a) The USA
b) India
c) The UK
"You told Mr. Dupont that you're going to Brown". Who's speaking? What is "Brown"?
a) a high school
b) a university
c) a secondary school
Focus on the older character. Answer in your own words. (30/ 40 words.)
a) Where does he want the younger character to go?
b) Why?
c) What are the financial consequences for the family?
Focus on the younger character. Answer in your own words. (20/ 30 words.)
a) Does he agree with the older character's decision?
b) Where would he rather go instead?
c) What would he do there?
9. Focus on the lines from "`Yes', I said" to "[…] bowl of pasta.". Pick out three different arguments the younger character uses to justify his refusal.
10. What authors does the younger character want to read? Why? (30 words)
11. This conversation marks a turning point in their relationship. What is changing? Explain. (40-50 words)
Expression écrite
Les candidats de la série S traiteront l'un des deux sujets au choix (200 mots).
Les candidats de la série L devront obligatoirement traiter les deux sujets (300 mots au total, soit environ 150 mots pour chaque sujet).
1. Four years later the two characters are eating in the same restaurant. Imagine their conversation.
2. What is for you a successful life?


Compréhension de l'écrit
1. b) Two people are having lunch in a restaurant:
  • "The waiter came […]",
  • "My father ordered steak and I ordered penne",
  • "We sat for a moment in silence",
  • "the waiter delivered our meals […]",
  • "My father attacked his steak […] I daintily ate my pasta".
a) The older character's main course is steak.
b) The younger character's main course is pasta (penne with basil and heirloom tomatoes).
a) These two protagonists are father and son.
b) The narrator is the son:
  • "My father ordered steak",
  • "[…] I ordered […]".
c) His name is James: "James, the fact that poverty exists is not a good reason for you not to go to college".
4. The younger character is about 18 years old since the topic of the discussion is about going or not to college.
5. The scene takes place in the USA: "I don't mean in New York City. I mean in Indiana. Or Kansas. Or South Dakota."
6. The father is speaking. Brown is b) a university.
a) The older character wants his son to attend college, to go to Brown college.
b) He thinks going to college is absolutely necessary, that it is important for one's future life. It is an investment in the future and a privilege to attend university and to learn, to get knowledge.
c) For the family, going to college means spending a lot of money since the amount can represent the price of a house in a state like Indiana, Kansas or Dakota.
a) The younger character doesn't agree with the elder's character wish. He thinks that it is a waste of time and that it is not necessary. He thinks he can learn by himself through books.
b) Instead of attending college, he would rather settle in Indiana, Kansas or Dakota.
c) There he would work in a Mc Donald's restaurant.
9. To justify his refusal, the younger character uses several arguments:
  • "I can teach myself everything",
  • "I don't see the point of spending four years […] learning a lot of stuff I'm not particularly interested in and I'm bound to forget",
  • "I don't want to spend a huge amount of your money doing something that has no value or meaning to me.",
  • "I thinks it's obscene to pay thousands of dollars for me to go to college when there are so many people living in poverty in the world".
10. The younger character wants to read Shakespeare or Trollope since they seem to represent what he is interested in, that is to say plays and literature. Those two writers may represent the most important writers and he is sure he can learn what he wants to know simply by reading their works.
11. This conversation obviously marks a turning point in their relationship since it seems to be the first time they do not agree and have radical opposite views on the narrator's future. We can clearly understand that the father is startled because of his son's decision and is maybe somehow caught unawares. He is worried and disappointed and tries to talk his son into changing his mind. From now on, their relationship won't be the same.
Expression écrite
1. Father: "Well, James. Do you remember our conversation here four years ago?"
Son: "Sure I do!"
Father: "At that time, you were stubborn and convinced that going to college was a waste of time. I can see now that you have changed your mind."
Son: "At that time, I was much younger and I was fed up with attending school. I was not really mature and I thought that learning could be done on one's own."
Father: "So? Has your view changed on that point?"
Son: "Well, yes: since I'm older now I understand better your view on that point and I have realized that you were right at that time. But it takes time for a teenager to understand and accept other views and specially his parent's ones."
Father: "I know. It is a phase we all go through at that age and we are convinced that we know everything and that adult's views are stupid."
Son: "You are right. I have finally understood that."
Father: "So, are you satisfied with what you have done at college?"
Son: "Well, yes. I think I can say that you were right to insist on me to change my mind. Of course among what I have learnt I know that there are things I won't really use, but they help me understand things better and they have opened my mind to many things."
Father: "Of course, it was the same for me, but at the same time I have also learnt what I wanted to learn and prepared my future."
Son: "Yes. Now I will be able to get a job I'm interested in and it will be much easier. I think I would have had a totally different life if I had done what I wanted to do a few years ago and I would probably have had difficulties to lead a decent life."
Father: "This has not been very pleasant to convince you and have you change ideas but at last you have done it and now I think you will have a brighter future. I'm happy for you."
Son: "That's right. I resented your behavior towards me four years ago when we had tense relationships because I didn't want to attend university but now I am grateful to you."
2. Giving a definition of a successful life is not easy. It depends on many things and it can be different from one person to another.
To me, a successful life means doing the job I really want to do. Needless to say that nowadays, this means passing exams and getting a degree or qualifications. Then, it means having a good job and earning enough money to lead a decent life and to support a family. It also means having responsibilities.
Family life is important too, so I would like to have a wife with whom I share joys – and may be sometimes sadness – and children with whom I get along well. I would also like to take part in community and social life and to try to make things improve from a political and social point of view.
Of course when we talk about success we know that however hard we try, sometimes life and events can change or affect what we want to do and can thwart our plans. But success also means fighting against odds and trying to overcome them and to achieve our aims.
To put it in a nutshell, a successful life means being self-fulfilled, avoiding troubles and worries and being happy.