Séries générales • LV1
Formes de pouvoir
Pondichéry • Avril 2013
Séries générales • LV1Text 1
The scene is set in the fifties. Samantha, Mira’s friend, has a money problem. Mira has offered to help her.
“Absolutely not,” Norm said.
“Norm, poor Samantha!”
“I feel very very sorry for Samantha,” he said solemnly, “but I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to lay out my hard-earned money to help that creep Simp.”
“You wouldn’t be helping Simp. He doesn’t even live there now.”
“He owns the house, doesn’t he It would be different if I thought he’d ever repay it, but from what you say, he’s a loser and a stupid bastard, and I’d never see that money again.”
“Oh, Norm, what difference does it make We have plenty.”
“That’s easy for you to say. That money comes out of my hide.”
“What do you think I do all day What have I done all these years I work as hard as you do.”
“Oh, come off it, Mira.”
“What do you mean, come off it ” Her voice rose wildly. “Am I not an equal participant in this marriage Don’t I contribute to it ”
“Of course you do,” he said placatingly, but there was an edge of disgust in his voice, “but you contribute different things. You don’t contribute money.”
“My work enables you to make that money!”
“Oh, Mira, don’t be ridiculous. Do you think I need you to do my work I could live anywhere, I could have a housekeeper, or live in a hotel. I support your way of life by my work, not the reverse.”
“And I have nothing to say about how it’s spent ”
“Of course you do. Don’t I give you everything you want ”
“I don’t know. I never seem to want anything.”
“Do I complain about your bills for clothes, or the kids’ music lessons or camp ”
“I want this, then. I want three hundred dollars for Samantha.”
“No, Mira. And that’s the end of it.” He stood up and left the room, and in a few minutes, she heard the shower running. He was going out to a meeting that evening.
She stood up too, and only then did she realize her whole body was shaking. She held on to the back of the kitchen chair. She wanted to pick it up, she wanted to race upstairs with it and smash open the bathroom door and crash it down on his head.
Marilyn French, The Women’s Room, 1978.Text 2
A mother’s ambition for her daughter
The scene is set in the late sixties.
But what I hadn’t understood about my mother was that buried deep beneath this conventional exterior was the hardy little seed of a feminist. I’m sure that word never passed her lips, but it made no difference. Her certainty frightened me. She said it was my duty as a woman to go to Cambridge to study maths. As a woman In those days, in our milieu, no one ever spoke like that. No woman did anything ‘as a woman’. She told me she would not permit me to waste my talent. I was to excel and become extraordinary. I must have a proper career in science or engineering or economics. She allowed herself the world-oyster cliché1. It was unfair on my sister that I was both clever and beautiful when she was neither. It would compound the injustice if I failed to aim high. I didn’t follow the logic of this, but I said nothing. My mother told me she would never forgive me and she would never forgive herself if I went off to read2 English and became no more than a slightly better educated housewife than she was. I was in danger of wasting my life. Those were her words, and they represented an admission. This was the only time she expressed or implied dissatisfaction with her lot3.
Then she enlisted my father – “the Bishop” was what my sister and I called him. When I came in from school one afternoon my mother told me he was waiting for me in his study. In my green blazer with its heraldic crest and emblazoned motto – Nisi Dominus Vanum (Without the Lord All is in Vain) – I sulkily lolled in his clubbish leather armchair while he presided at his desk, shuffling papers, humming to himself as he ordered his thoughts. […] He had made some enquiries. Cambridge was anxious to be seen to be “opening its gates to the modern egalitarian world”. With my burden of triple misfortune – a grammar-school4, a girl, an all-male subject – I was certain to get in.
lan McEwan, Sweet Tooth, 2011.
1. when “the world is your oyster”, you have everything to succeed in life.
2. read: study (at university).
3. her lot: her own life.
4. grammar-school: traditional British school where uniforms are required and pupils generally go on to study at prestigious universities.
1 How are the four main characters related
2 From the beginning to l. 14
Does Norm agree with Mira’s suggestion to help Samantha Explain in your own words. (about 40 words)
3 From l. 11 to l. 29
Contrast Mira’s and Norm’s views on money. Find at least two of the arguments used by each of them. (about 70 words)
4 Describe Mira’s feelings at the end of the text. (about 30 words)
1 What did the narrator’s mother want her to do
2 1. “I was in danger of wasting my life” (l. 16). Explain the mother’s attitude about the narrator’s future. Give at least two reasons to justify your answer. (about 30 words)
2. Did the narrator agree with her mother (Find a sentence in the first paragraph to justify your answer.)
3 “Then she enlisted my father” (l. 19). What does this sentence reveal about the father’s attitude concerning his wife’s plans
4 In your own words, explain why, according to the narrator’s father, she was certain to get a place at Cambridge University. Find at least three reasons. (about 40 words)
Compare and contrast the following female characters in terms of influence over their present (or future) situations. (about 100 words)
1. Mira in text 1 and the narrator’s mother in text 2.
2. Mira in text 1 and the narrator in text 2.
> Le candidat choisira le sujet 1 ou le sujet 2.
1 1. Imagine the conversation between Mira and Samantha after the scene described in text 1.
2. Would you say that the mother in text 2 is too ambitious for her daughter
2 In text 2, we are told that “Cambridge was anxious to be seen to be ‘opening its gates to the modern egalitarian world’.” Generally speaking, do you think that our modern world has become egalitarian concerning equality between men and women
Auteure féministe américaine, Marilyn French (1929-2009) a connu un succès international avec son premier roman, The Women’s Room, qui évoque les aspirations des femmes au moment où le féminisme devient un mouvement de grande ampleur. Bien que non autobiographique, l’histoire de Mira, femme au foyer qui met un terme à un mariage malheureux et prend son indépendance pour promouvoir la cause des femmes, a bon nombre de points communs avec la vie de Marilyn French.
Il s’agit d’une dispute entre Mira et son mari, Norm. Mira souhaite prêter 300 à son amie Samantha, qui a des problèmes financiers mais c’est à Norm de débourser cette somme, puisqu’elle est femme au foyer. Norm refuse, bien qu’il en ait les moyens : Mira a beau argumenter que leurs rôles sont égaux – elle s’occupe de la maisonnée pendant qu’il travaille –, c’est Norm qui gagne l’argent du ménage, qui la fait vivre et qui prend donc les décisions.
Pour en savoir plus : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilyn_French
Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension
Hide, l. 12 (peau), that money comes out of my hide (j’ai gagné cet argent à la sueur de mon front) come off it!, l. 15 (arrête !) placatingly, l. 18 (sur un ton apaisant).
Ian McEwan (né en 1948), auteur britannique, a été lauréat de nombreux prix. Certaines de ses œuvres – romans et recueils de nouvelles – ont été adaptées au cinéma. Sweet Tooth est un roman d’amour et d’espionnage dont certains éléments, notamment des traits des personnages, sont autobiographiques.
Pour en savoir plus : https://www.ianmcewan.com/
Dans ce roman, écrit à la première personne, la narratrice se souvient quelles furent les directives de ses parents quant à ses propres choix d’orientation en matière d’études supérieures. Sa mère, qui a des prises de position féministes sous des dehors très conventionnels, lui dit que c’est son devoir, « en tant que femme » d’aller étudier les mathématiques dans la prestigieuse université de Cambridge, et d’y exceller. Il lui faut viser haut, pas question de gâcher son talent ou bien elle gâcherait sa vie. Son père considère que dans la mesure où Cambridge a décidé de s’ouvrir au monde moderne, elle a ses chances d’y être admise.
Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension
Seed, l. 2 (graine) duty, l. 4 (devoir) to compound, l. 11 (aggraver) to aim, l. 12 (viser) slightly, l. 15 (légèrement) sulkily, l. 23 (en boudant) to loll, l. 23 (être vautré) burden, l. 28 (fardeau).
Les points de convergence
Les deux textes évoquent, au travers de personnages féminins aspirant à l’égalité et à l’indépendance, l’émergence d’idées féministes dans les foyers à une période où le mouvement monte politiquement en puissance. Le premier nous donne à voir la révolte d’une femme dépendant financièrement et socialement de son mari le second, les ambitions d’une mère dans le choix des études et d’une carrière pour sa fille.
Le sujet d’expression 1 1.
Pistes de recherche
Après avoir dit à Samantha combien elle est désolée de ne pouvoir l’aider, Mira pourra confier son sentiment de frustration de ne pas se sentir considérée par son mari comme son égale. À vous d’imaginer que Samantha essaie d’apaiser sa colère, ou bien au contraire qu’elle lui dit que les idées féministes font leur chemin et qu’elle peut trouver de l’aide auprès de groupes féministes. N’oubliez pas cependant que la scène se passe dans les années 1950, donc méfiez-vous des anachronismes dans votre argumentation : Samantha ne pourra pas par exemple lui conseiller de s’appuyer sur internet et les réseaux sociaux !
Breadwinner (celui qui fait bouillir la marmite) to take into account (prendre en compte) to break up (rompre) to look down on, to despise (mépriser) to assert oneself (s’affirmer) to deserve (mériter) to put up with (tolérer) head of the household (chef de famille) guidance (conseils, accompagnement) to lend money (prêter de l’argent).
Le sujet d’expression 1 2.
Pistes de recherche
Vous pouvez orienter votre argumentation sur l’aspect « sociétal » de la question : soit vous jugez que la mère est trop ambitieuse pour sa fille dans la mesure où celle-ci pourra être confrontée à d’énormes difficultés, d’abord à l’université, puis dans la vie professionnelle, où elle risque d’être moins considérée et sans doute moins rétribuée que les hommes soit vous pensez qu’avec les capacités qu’elle semble avoir, elle pourra parfaitement faire face à ces difficultés.
Vous pouvez aussi réfléchir à l’aspect psychologique de la question. La jeune fille ne semble pas intéressée par ce que sa mère ambitionne pour elle. Saura-t-elle trouver en elle l’envie de « viser haut » et donc de se battre dans un monde d’hommes Sa mère pressent-elle assez justement qu’une fois étudiante sa fille réalisera l’intérêt de se battre pour une vie différente de celle qu’elle-même a eue
Bright (brillant) to bear in mind (avoir à l’esprit) to overcome (surmonter) to feel like + V-ing (avoir envie de) a policy (une politique) to prompt somebody to do something (inciter quelqu’un à faire quelque chose) to muster up courage (rassembler son courage) proficient (compétent).
Le sujet d’expression 2
Pistes de recherche
Des références aux premiers mouvements féministes vous permettront de mesurer le chemin parcouru depuis le début du siècle dernier. Vous pourrez ensuite donner des exemples de la progression des femmes vers plus d’égalité sociale (femmes occupant des postes politiques de haut niveau, femmes cadres supérieurs ou chefs d’entreprises, etc.) mais démontrer aussi que la parité est loin d’être acquise au niveau des instances politiques, que l’inégalité entre les salaires persiste encore quasiment partout, et que les préjugés machistes sont loin d’avoir disparu.
Women’s Liberation Movement (Mouvement de libération de la femme, MLF) top jobs (postes de haut niveau) head of state (chef d’état) to rule (diriger) iconic (emblématique) wages (salaires) job opportunities (offres d’emploi) to pass a law (faire voter une loi) to cope with (gérer) to enforce a law (faire appliquer une loi) sex equality (égalité entre les sexes).
1 Mira and Norman are husband and wife. Samantha is Mira’s friend, Simp has broken up with Samantha (“he doesn’t even live there now”, l. 6-7) but they are still married, as helping Samantha would come down to helping him, who “owns the house” (l. 8).
2 Norm does not want to lend Samantha money: he does not think much of Simp at all, and as Simp is still the head of the household, he considers the money would go into Simp’s pocket and he does not trust Simp to give him his money back.
3 Being the breadwinner in their couple, Norm finds it natural that his wife should depend on him (“I support your way of life by my work”, l. 24). His role is to give her the money she needs to run the household (“Don’t I give you everything you want ”, l. 26). As for Mira, she feels entitled to her share: her contribution is to help him focus only on his job (“My work enables you to make that money”, l. 21) and thus she should have her say in how to spend it (“And I have nothing to say about how it’s spent ”, l. 25).
4 She is so infuriated and even humiliated by his blunt refusal that she can’t control her body and feels physically hurting him is the only answer left to her.
1 She wanted her to study maths at Cambridge University to have a bright career such as men usually had.
2 1. The mother thinks her daughter deserves a bright professional future and that it would be a shame not to do her best to get it. Besides she is not satisfied with her ordinary housewife’s life and thinks that her daughter deserves something better.
2. She doesn’t agree with her mother: “I didn’t follow the logic of this, but I said nothing” (l. 12-13).
3 The father didn’t initially feel as eager as his wife but she managed to get him to do as she wished.
4 First, the narrator came from a grammar school: the traditional way to such prestigious universities as Cambridge. Then, Cambridge had started a new sex equality policy of female integration. Third, it would be good for its image if a girl read (= studied) maths, a subject usually reserved for boys.
1. Both are dissatisfied with their lot as dependent housewives, but while Mira starts a fight with her husband over her role in their couple but does not seem to question her place as a housewife, the narrator’s mother in text 2 seems to resign herself to her own situation and prefers to fight for her daughter’s future as an independent woman with a suitable career.
2. Mira revolts against being financially dependent on her husband and his decisions, against being sort of looked down on as a mere housewife, whereas the narrator in text 2 doesn’t see the point of evolving towards the future her mother wants for her, all the more so as her mother has to get her father’s help to try to convince her to go to Cambridge.
1.Mira: I’m terribly sorry, Samantha, but Norm won’t lend me those 300. He says he is the breadwinner, that it’s his money and he is afraid he won’t get it back. He won’t take into account the fact that you’ve broken up with Simp.
Samantha: Don’t worry, Mira, that’s all right, I understand. It is no surprise for me: some men still haven’t realized that women are their equals, and Norm is just one of those. But don’t blame him, it’s just the way men are educated.
M.: But I have never felt so humiliated, Samantha! He looks down on me as if I were only his housekeeper!
S.: I see. I think it’s time you did something about it and started asserting yourself as an independent woman with all the rights that go with it! Never mind the money, thanks anyway. Here I’m just trying to help you.
M.: Oh, Samantha, what can I do
S.: Well a few friends of mine have set up a group of women who think that now we’re in the 50s, that the way forward is open to a new and better society where women have the place they deserve. Why don’t you join them
M.: How could they help
S.: Well, they would help you analyse the situation in your couple and give you arguments to convince your husband to see sense. By the way, why don’t you try to get a job
M.: A job Are you kidding Norm would never let me…
S.: Oh come on, Mira! You’re at it again! You can’t put up with his attitude anymore! Norm considers himself as the head of the household, but is he your master I’m telling you: you do need some guidance! A job, any job, would give you some independence and would show him you’re a capable woman. You’ve got to get him to respect you!
M.: But he does respect me in his own way.
S.: No, Mira. When he says he supports your way of life, it means you’re just a thing, not a human being as he is. He sort of despises you.
M.: Yes, you may be right. But I think it’s going to be a long time before that changes…
S.: Trust my friends. They know what to do.
Since the British Suffragettes in the early 20th century and the Women’s Lib in the 1960s and 1970s,it has been a long road to equality between men and women, but there is still a long way to go. Indeed, more and more women can now have access to top jobs there are women heads of states. And the death, this year, of Margaret Thatcher, who ruled Britain for eleven years and waged war against Argentina, reminded everybody of the impact of the “Iron Lady” in the world.
But these are only iconic examples:there are no countries where Parliament counts as many women as men quite often women’s wages are lower than men’s for the same jobs, in some careers women have fewer job opportunities than men. Although some governments have passed laws promoting equality, a woman’s everyday life isn’t equal to a man’s: a man is hardly ever asked the question “how do you cope with both your job and your family” in people’s minds, a woman still has two jobs: her own and being a housewife, etc. Real equality will have been achieved when reporters no longer feel it necessary to describe a female minister’s or president’s dress, when quotas and laws enforcing sex equality in companies are no longer necessary.