Ambitions (séries générales LV1)

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Unit 1 - | Corpus Sujets - 1 Sujet Ambitions  

Séries générales • LV1



Mythes et héros



France métropolitaine • Juin 2013

Séries générales • LV1

Text 1

Graduating from Oxford

From the first day he could walk Simon had always wanted to outdistance his rivals. The Americans would have described him as ‘an achiever’, while many of his contemporaries thought of him as pushy, or even arrogant, according to their aptitude for jealousy. During his last term at Lancing Simon was passed over for head of school and he still found himself unable to forgive the headmaster his lack of foresight. Later that year, some weeks after he had completed his S-levels1 and been interviewed by Magdalen2, a circular letter informed him that he would not be offered a place at Oxford it was a decision Simon was unwilling to accept.

In the same mail Durham University offered him a scholarship, which he rejected by return of post. “Future Prime Ministers aren’t educated at Durham,” he informed his mother.

“How about Cambridge ” she enquired continuing to wipe the dishes.

“No political tradition,” replied Simon.

“But if there is no chance of being offered a place at Oxford, surely ”

“That’s not what I said, Mother,” replied the young man. “I shall be an undergraduate at Oxford by the first day of term.”

After eighteen years of forty-yard goals Mrs Kerslake had learned to stop asking her son. “How will you manage that ”

Some fourteen days before the start of the Michaelmas Term3 at Oxford Simon booked himself into a small guest house just off the Iffley Road. On a trestle table in the corner of lodgings he intended to make permanent he wrote out a list of all the colleges, then divided them into five columns, planning to visit three each morning and three each afternoon until his question had been answered positively by a resident Tutor for Admissions: “Have you accepted any freshmen for this year who are now unable to take up their places ”

It was on the fourth afternoon, just as doubt was beginning to set in and Simon was wondering if after all he would have to travel to Cambridge the following week, that he received the first affirmative reply.

The Tutor for Admissions at Worcester College4 removed the glasses from the end of his nose and stared at the tall young man with a mop of dark hair falling over his forehead. Alan Brown was the twenty-second don Kerslake had visited in four days.

“Yes”, he replied. “It so happens that a young man from Nottingham High School, who had been offered a place here, was tragically killed in a motor cycle accident last month.”

“What course – what subject was he going to read ” Simon’s words were unusually faltering. He prayed it wasn’t Chemistry, Anthropology or Classics. Allan Brown flicked through a rotary index on his desk, obviously enjoying the little cross-examination. He peered at the card in front of him. “History,” he announced.

Simon’s heartbeat reached 120. “I just missed a place at Magdalen to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics,” he said. “Would you consider me for the vacancy ”

The older man was unable to hide a smile. He had never in twenty-four years come across such a request.


Mrs Kerslake was not surprised when her son went on to be President of the Oxford Union. After all, she teased, wasn’t it just another stepping stone on the path to Prime Minister

Jeffrey Archer, First Among Equals, 1984.

1. S-levels: an exam similar to A-levels for students hoping to get into the most prestigious universities.

2. Magdalen College: a college that is part of Oxford University.

3. Michaelmas Term: name given to first term at Oxford University.

4. Worcester College: a college that is part of Oxford University.

Text 2

Lost ideals

What happened to me

The eighties happened. The nineties happened. Death and sickness and getting fat and going bald happened. I traded lots of dreams for a bigger paycheck, and I never realized I was doing it.

Yet here was Morrie talking with the wonder of our college years, as if I’d simply been on a long vacation.

“Have you found someone to share your heart with ” he asked.

“Are you giving to your community

“Are you at peace with yourself

“Are you trying to be as human as you can be ”

I squirmed, wanting to show I had been grappling deeply with such questions. What happened to me I once promised myself I would never work for money, that I would join the Peace Corps, that I would live in beautiful, inspirational places.

Instead, I had been in Detroit for ten years now, at the same workplace, using the same bank, visiting the same barber. I was thirty-seven, more efficient than in college, tied to computers and modems and cell phones. I wrote articles about rich athletes who, for the most part, could not care less about rich people like me. I was no longer young for my peer group, nor did I walk around in gray sweatshirts with unlit cigarettes in my mouth. I did not have long discussions over egg salad sandwiches about the meaning of life.

My days were full, yet I remained, much of the time, unsatisfied.

What happened to me

“Coach,” I said suddenly, remembering the nick-name.

Morrie beamed. “That’s me. I’m still your coach.”

Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie, 1997.


Text 1

>Lines 1 to 22

1 Which statement best corresponds to the situation here

1. Simon has just finished high school. His dream is to go either to Cambridge University or to Oxford University.

2. Simon is a university student at Oxford. He has rejected an offer from Durham University as his only dream was to go to Oxford.

3. Simon is at high school. He is determined to go to Oxford University and so he rejects offers from all other universities.

2 Explain what determines his choice of university Justify with a quote.

>Line 23 to the end

3 Copy out the text and fill in the blanks (one blank = one word).

Simon is in … (name of the city). He intends to visit all the … to see if they have a … for him. He intends to visit six every day until he is … .

4 Which adjective best describes Simon as he goes about his visits Give two quotations to justify your choice.

Hesitant – determined – confused – impatient.

5 Does he succeed in getting a place at university Justify with an element from the text.

Text 2

1 Who are the characters present in the extract and how do they know each other

2 The passage refers to two periods in the narrator’s life. Which ones

3 Are the following statements right (R) or wrong (W) Quote from the text to justify.

1. The narrator earns a lot of money. e5f1bc2c9fcada940489903b6aaeeeb7.pngc4737b7164a388ca04e38f9d68361a30.png

2. The two characters haven’t seen each other
for quite a long time. 1c44798519eeeb663a63a8f150ab7e64.pngc7b21508f2406877495b0f975044c3ca.png

3. As a student the narrator had a lot of ideals. 2ebb3e4ca5a86e1af20fc10e9aee6236.png7a977fb14f962873bbc760abd5d2b5b0.png

4. The visit makes him realize he is content
with his current life. d3483d5a4ad6acf69a0aed35100008f5.pngbed08366c99007c17dc26490b73b69f8.png

4 “What happened to me ” (l. 1, 12 and 24). What did happen to him Explain in a few sentences what he has just realized.

5 What do we realize about the narrator’s state of mind when meeting his friend

Both texts

1 In your opinion what is the theme common to both documents

1. Absence of ambition

2. Failure

3. Success in life

4. Pride.

2 Explain your choice of answer in a few sentences.


> Les candidats traiteront au choix un des deux sujets 1 et un des deux sujets 2. (150 mots au moins pour chaque sujet)

1 1. After meeting Alan Brown, Simon writes to his mother in order to keep her informed. Write his letter.

2. Simon has decided to run for President of the University’s Student Union. Write his first campaign speech.

2 1. Is it possible to reconcile your dreams with a professional life

2. “I once promised myself I would never work for money” (text 2, l. 12-13). How easy is it to stick to such a decision

Texte 1


Jeffrey Archer (né en 1940) a fait ses études à Oxford. Membre du Parti conservateur, il a siégé à la Chambre des Communes de 1969 à 1974. Annobli par la reine, Lord Archer a écrit des romans et recueils de nouvelles.

Pour en savoir plus :

Le thème

Simon Kerslake a toujours voulu se démarquer des autres. Au sortir du lycée, son ambition est d’intégrer Oxford, passage obligé pour devenir Premier Ministre. Il délaisse Cambridge, qu’il sait lui être accessible, déterminé à être accepté à Oxford où il a été refusé. Il conçoit un plan de harcèlement des responsables chargés du recrutement des étudiants, et à force d’insistance, arrive à ses fins.

À savoir, Cambridge et Oxford sont les plus prestigieuses universités de Grande-Bretagne. Chaque ville compte des dizaines de colleges, c’est-à-dire des facultés.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

To outdistance, l. 2 (distancer)  an achiever, l. 3 (une personne performante)  pushy, l. 4 (insistant, lourd)  to pass over, l. 5 (ne pas être pris/ne pas accorder)  lack of foresight, l. 7 (manque de prévision, de jugeote)  a circular letter, l. 8 (une circulaire)  to be unwilling to, l. 10 (ne pas être disposé à)  a scholarship, l. 11 (une bourse)  an undergraduate, l. 20 (un étudiant qui prépare une licence)  a trestle table, l. 25 (une table à tréteaux)  a freshman, l. 30 (un étudiant en première année)  a don, l. 38 (un professeur d’université)  faltering, l. 43 (hésitant)  the vacancy, l. 49 (la place libre).

Texte 2


Mitch Albom (né en 1959) est américain. Il est écrivain, journaliste, scénariste et travaille pour la télévision et la radio. Tuesdays with Morrie a été écrit suite à ses retrouvailles avec Morrie Schwartz, son ancien professeur de sociologie à l’université. Albom a échangé avec Schwartz, malade en phase terminale, sur la vie et la mort, et rapporte ces conversations dans son livre dont les droits d’auteur ont financé les soins de Schwartz pendant sa fin de vie.

Pour en savoir plus :

Le thème

À trente-sept ans, le narrateur fait un bilan de sa vie à l’occasion de sa rencontre avec Morrie, homme dont il a fait la connaissance à l’époque où il était étudiant à l’université. Il était alors animé par plein d’idéaux. Il fait le point sur ce qu’il est devenu : un homme attaché à l’argent, qui a délaissé les grandes questions existentielles.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

To go bald, l. 3 (devenir chauve)  to squirm, l. 11 (ne plus savoir où se mettre)  to grapple with, l. 11 (être aux prises avec)  unlit, l. 21 (pas allumée).

Les points de convergence

Les deux textes abordent les thèmes de l’ambition, de l’idéal. Mais ils sont différents sur de nombreux points. D’abord, Simon (texte 1) est à l’aube de sa vie, tandis que le narrateur du deuxième texte fait le point au milieu de la sienne, à 37 ans. Ensuite, l’ambition de Simon est en rapport avec la réussite sociale, alors que celle du narrateur (texte 2) était de se détacher des choses matérielles. De plus, c’est avec amertume que ce dernier réalise qu’il a délaissé ses idéaux pour obtenir un succès professionnel et matériel qu’il ne souhaitait pas au départ.

Le sujet d’expression 11.

Pistes de recherche

Gardez à l’esprit le caractère assuré de Simon, certain que tout va lui réussir. Nombre d’éléments du texte sont à réutiliser : la rencontre l’après-midi, le nom du professeur… Il pourra évoquer dans sa lettre la phase qui a précédé (préparatifs, planning des visites…) et celle qui va suivre (ses ambitions une fois entré à l’université, son programme d’étude, son engagement dans diverses activités…).

Vocabulaire utile

Available (disponible)  to check (vérifier)  lucky me! (j’ai trop de chance !)  unexpectedly (de façon inattendue).

Le sujet d’expression 12.

Pistes de recherche

On peut sans doute mettre ici de côté le parcours de Simon, car il ne se vantera sans doute pas d’avoir dû se battre et utiliser des moyens détournés pour intégrer Oxford. Organisez plutôt le discours autour des qualités d’un bon président de syndicat étudiant : écoute, talents oratoires, disponibilité, combativité à l’heure de faire valoir les droits des étudiants.

Vocabulaire utile

To apply for (poser sa candidature à)  a value (une valeur)  public speaking (l’art oratoire)  oratorical skills (des talents oratoires).

Le sujet d’expression 21.

Pistes de recherche

Ce sujet est très personnel, la réponse variera en fonction de vos projets de vie. De façon générale il y a deux façons de concilier rêves et vie professionnelle. Soit on prend une voie professionnelle en rapport avec ses rêves (lorsqu’on a une passion, par exemple, l’aviation, l’équitation…)  soit on distingue les deux et on choisit un métier qui permette de bien gagner sa vie et de s’offrir ainsi certains de ses rêves.

Vocabulaire utile

To afford (avoir les moyens)  to earn money (gagner de l’argent)  to conciliate (concilier).

Le sujet d’expression 22.

Pistes de recherche

Ne pas travailler pour de l’argent relève d’un monde idéal, pas de la réalité. Tout travail mérite salaire, dit-on, et dans notre société régie par l’argent, nous avons besoin de celui-ci pour vivre et, si l’on peut, s’offrir des loisirs. Il est néanmoins possible de donner de son temps comme bénévole dans une association par exemple.

Vocabulaire utile

Barter (le troc)  money is the root of all evil (l’argent est la source de tous les maux)  to deserve (mériter)  to earn money (gagner de l’argent)  to afford to V (avoir les moyens de faire qqc)  spare time (le temps libre).



Text 1

1 3. Simon is at high school. He is determined to go to Oxford University and so he rejects offers from all other universities.

2 He wants to become Prime Minister and for him, Oxford is the only university that will allow him to achieve this. (“Future Prime Ministers aren’t educated at Durham”, l. 12-13.)

3 Simon is in Oxford. He intends to visit all the colleges to see if they have a place for him. He intends to visit six every day until he is accepted.

4 Determined: “planning to visit three each morning and three each afternoon until his question had been answered positively” (l. 27-29) “on a trestle table in the corner of his lodgings he intended to make permanent” (l. 25-26).

5 Yes, he does. “Mrs Kerslake was not surprised when her son went on to be President of the Oxford Union” (l. 53-54).

Text 2

1 The two characters, the narrator and a man called Morrie, have known each other since university.

2 It refers to his college years, when he was in his early twenties, and today, when he is thirty-seven years old.

3 1. Right: “I traded […] dreams for a bigger paycheck” (l. 3-4) “rich people like me” (l. 19).

2. Right: “here was Morrie […] as if I’d simply been on a long vacation” (l. 5-6) “remembering the nickname” (l. 25).

3. Right: “I traded lots of dreams” (l. 3) “I once promised myself I would never work for money, that I would join the Peace Corps, that I would live in beautiful, inspirational places” (l. 12-14).

4. Wrong: “I remained, much of the time, unsatisfied” (l. 23).

4 He has realised that now he is older, he is not leading the life that he yearn­ed for, that he has followed the crowd and forgotten his ideals, which have been replaced by a traditional life, a career and money. He was idealistic in his youth of making a difference whereas money has become much more important to him that he thought it would.

5 When he meets his friend, we realise that it enables him to remember things he used to think about, and has forgotten in the course of his life. He feels uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, as Morrie expects him to have made his dreams become reality. He repeats the question as he comes to realise his fate.

Both texts

1 3. Success in life.

2 The first character wants to succeed, to achieve his ambitions and become Prime Minister, while the second character is taking stock of his life, which is professionally and socially successful, but is not what he dreamed of becom­ing and which puts his past ideals to one side.


1 Guidelines

1. Dear Mum,

I hope you’re doing well at home, and you don’t miss me too much.

I wanted to tell you about what happened this afternoon. In my last letter, I told you that I had planned to meet the tutors for admissions as frequently as possible, in order to check if there was a place available at the last minute. I have been doing this for four days now, and this afternoon I met Alan Brown at Worcester College. I had really expected him to say “no sorry”, like the twenty-one before him did, but unexpectedly, he informed me that there was someone missing – a poor guy who died in a motorbike accident – lucky me! and that he would consider me for the vacancy. I tried to keep my cool, but I felt like dancing in the street. I knew my determination would pay off. The next step now is to apply for the place of President of the Oxford Union. But trust me, they will choose me. They won’t have the choice, anyway.



2 Guidelines

2. Nowadays, money is at the core of our modern world. It has been, since barter stopped existing. When we are young, we sometimes promise ourselves a life of ideals, and we would like to detach ourselves from money, considering it as “the root of all evil”. We want to do something we like, that we don’t consider as a job and for which we don’t think we deserve to be paid. And yet, reality catches us up, and we understand that not only does all work deserve to be paid, but that we need money to do things in life. Earningmoney enables us to lead the life that we want, when we can afford to pay for our hobbies, or simply to pay for day to day costs for ourselves and those we love. The only way, then, is to have a job and earn a salary, but this doesn’t mean we can’t spend our spare time doing more worthwhile activities, volunteering, for a noble cause for instance.