ANNALES BAC S/ES épreuve de compréhension Willie is the son of a Brahman1 and a lower-caste woman. He loved his mother, and when he was very young he used such money as came his way to buy pretty things for her and the house: a bamboo-framed mirror, a bamboo wall-stand for a vase, a nice length of blockstamped cloth, a brass vase, a painted papier-mâché box from Kashmir, crêpe-paper flowers. Butgradually as he grew up he understood more about the mission school and its position in the state. He understood more about the pupils in the school. He understood that to go to the mission school was to be branded, and he began to look at his mother from more and more of a distance. The more successful he became at school – and he was better than his fellows – the greater that distance grew. Hebegan to long to go to Canada, where his teachers came from. He even began to think he might adopt their religion and become like them and travel the world teaching. And one day, when he was asked to write an English “composition” about his holidays he pretended he was a Canadian, with parents who were called “Mom” and “Pop”. Mom and Pop had one day decided to take the kids to the beach. They hadgone upstairs early in the morning to the children’s room to wake them up, and the children had put on their new holiday clothes and they had driven off in the family car to the beach. The beach was full of holidaymakers, and the family had eaten the holiday sweets they had brought with them and at the end of the day, tanned and content, they had driven home. All the details of this foreign life –the upstairs house, the children’s room – had been taken from American comic books which had been circulating in the mission school. These details had been mixed up with local details, like the holiday clothes and the holiday sweets, some of which Mom and Pop had at one stage out of their own great content given to half-naked beggars. This composition was awarded full marks, ten out of ten, andWillie was asked to read it out to the class. The other boys, many of whom lived very poor lives, had had no idea what to write about, and had not even been able to invent, knowing nothing of the world. They listened with adoration to Willie’s story. He took the exercise book and showed it to his mother, and she was pleased and proud. She said to Willie, “Show it to your father. Literature was hissubject.” Willie didn’t take the book directly to his father. He left it on the table in the verandah overlooking the inner ashram2 yard. His father had coffee there in the morning. He read the composition. He was ashamed. He thought, “Lies, lies. Where did he get these lies from?” Then he thought, “But is it worse than Shelley and W and the rest of them? All of that was lies too.” He read thecomposition again. He grieved at his disappearance and thought, “Little Willie, what have I done to you?” He finished his coffee. He heard the first of the day’s suppliants assembling in the main courtyard of his little temple. He thought, “But I have done him nothing. He is not me. He is his mother’s son. All this Mom-and-Pop business comes from her. She can’t help it. It’s her background. She hasthese mission-school ambitions. Perhaps after a few hundred rebirths she will be more evolved. But she can’t wait like other decent folk. Like so many backwards nowadays, she wants to jump the gun.” He never mentioned the composition to Willie, and Willie never asked. He despised his father more than ever. V. S. NAIPAUL, Half a Life (2001)
1. a member of the highest or priestly caste in the Hinducaste system 2. a religious Hindu community headed by a holy man
1. In which country is the story set? Justify by quoting from the text. 2. Identify the different members of the family. 3. What sort of school did the boy attend? Who ran it? (30 words) 4. …to go to the mission school was to be branded… (l. 6) implies that mission-school pupils were generally: a. looked down on b....