Living without technology (séries générales LV1)

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Unit 1 - | Corpus Sujets - 1 Sujet Living without technology  

Séries générales • LV1



Idée de progrès



Afrique • Juin 2013

Séries générales • LV1

Text 1

Back from holidays

As I pushed open the front door of my house, I expected to feel the dead weight of piles of junk mail behind it. But there wasn’t that much. Maybe a dozen envelopes. To be honest, I would have expected more than that, after an absence of three weeks. Leaving my suitcase in the hall, I scooped up the letters and carried them into the sitting room. It was freezing in there. Needless to say, there was no sound of a radio drifting in from the kitchen, no smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the hall. Caroline and Lucy were – as I’d known they would be – more than 200 miles away. Maybe they had written one of these letters, all the same. When they first went away, Lucy used to write to me quite often – every couple of weeks or so – usually enclosing some drawing, or collage, or piece of writing that she’d done at school. But the letters had been slowing down lately. I think the last time I’d received one had been in November. Let me see… I skimmed through the envelopes, and could quickly see that there was nothing from her. Three credit card bills. Letters from gas and electricity suppliers touting for business. Bank statements, mobile phone bills. The usual crap. Nothing of interest there at all.

I went into the kitchen to turn the heating on, and boil the kettle, and while I was there I glanced at the answering machine mounted on the wall. It blinked a number back at me. “Five”. Five phone messages, while I’d been away for almost a month This was ridiculous. Did I dare to listen to them […]

I made a mug of strong tea and took a couple of sips before press­ing the “Play” button on the answering machine. But my mood of trembling anticipation was short-lived. There was a message from my employer, reminding me to come in for a final meeting with the Occupational Health Officer in a few days’ time. There were two messages from my dentist. […] Then there were two blank messages, consisting simply of long electronic beeps followed by the noise of somebody hanging up. […]

So much for the telephone.

Well, maybe Facebook would cheer me up. I had more than seventy friends on Facebook, after all. Surely that must have created some activity while I’d been away. I took my tea upstairs, settled down in front of the computer and logged in to my home page.


I stared at the screen in shock. Not a single friend had sent me a message or posted anything on my wall in the last month. If the evidence was to be believed, in other words, not one of those seventy people had thought of me once during my absence.

Jonathan Coe, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, 2010.

Text 2

Back to the roots of civilisation

“I was interested in knowing if it was possible to be independent of modern technology,” [Gene Rosellini] told an Anchorage Daily News reporter, Debra McKinney, a decade after arriving in Cordova. He wondered whether humans could live as our forebears had when mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed the land or whether our species had moved too far from its roots to survive with­out gunpowder, steel, and other artifacts of civilization. With the obsessive attention to detail that characterized his brand of dogged genius, Rosellini purged his life of all but the most primitive tools, which he fashioned from native materials with his own hands.

“He became convinced that humans had devolved into progressively inferior beings,” McKinney explains, “and it was his goal to return to a natural state. He was forever experimenting with different eras – Roman times, the Iron Age, the Bronze Age. By the end his lifestyle had elements of the Neolithic.”

He dined on roots, berries, and seaweed, hunted game with spears and snares, dressed in rags, endured the bitter winters. He seemed to relish the hardship. His home above Hippie Cove was a windowless hovel, which he built without benefit of saw or ax: “He’d spend days,” says McKinney, “grinding his way through a log with a sharp stone.”

As if merely subsisting according to his self-imposed rules weren’t strenuous enough, Rosellini also exercised compulsively whenever he wasn’t occupied with foraging. He filled his days with calisthenics1 weight lifting, and running, often with a load of rocks on his back. During one apparently typical summer he reported covering an average of eighteen miles daily.

Rosellini’s “experiment” stretched on for more than a decade, but eventually he felt the question that inspired it had been answer­ed. In a letter to a friend he wrote:

I began my adult life with the hypothesis that it would be possible to become a Stone Age native. For over 30 years, I programmed and conditioned myself to this end. In the last 10 of it, I would say I realistically experienced the physical, mental, and emotional reality of the Stone Age. But to borrow a Buddhist phrase, eventually came a setting face-to-face with pure reality. I learned that it is not possible for human beings as we know them to live off the land2.

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild, 1996.

1. calisthenics: physical exercises intended to develop a strong body.

2. to live off the land: to eat whatever food you can grow, kill or find yourself.


Text 1

1 Read the whole text and then concentrate on the first fourth lines. Say:

1. where the narrator is.

2. why he is there.

2 Read the first paragraph again. Say:

1. who are the other characters mentioned.

2. where they are.

3. how the narrator is related to each of them.

3 Read the whole text and retrace the steps of the narrator from room to room. For each room say:

  • what the narrator would have liked to find in it.
  • what he found.
  • his state of mind as a result.

We suggest that you present your findings in a table like this one:



What the narrator would have liked to find in it

What he found

His state of mind as a result (you may use adjectives or nouns). Quote from the text to justify each of your answers. There may be more than one feeling per room.


4 Use your answers to the preceding question to draw a psychological portrait of the narrator insisting on his relationships with other people. (30-50 words)

Text 2

1 Read the whole text.

1. Say which of the following suggestions best defines its genre:

  • adventure novel set in the prehistoric age
  • nonfiction narrative of a scientific test
  • autobiography of the winner of a reality show like Survivors.

2. Quote a word that is repeated in the text (as a noun and verb) to justify your answer.

2 Say what Gene Rosellini wanted to find out and identify two quot­ations in the text to justify your answer.

3 Quote extracts from the text showing what he did to prove his point in the following domains.

Food (vegetables and meat) – clothes – housing – free time.

4 Do you think he was alone or in the company of many people to do what he did Briefly justify your answer.

5 Say what conclusion he reached at the end of his quest.

6 Concentrate on the following quotations:

  • “He became convinced that humans had devolved into progressively inferior beings” (l. 11-12).
  • “For over 30 years, I programmed and conditioned myself [to become a Stone Age native]” (l. 32-33).
  • “I learned that it is not possible for human beings as we know them to live off the land” (l. 36-37).

Use them to briefly sum up the steps in the evolution of Rosellini’s attitude to other people. (30-50 words)

Both texts

1 Text 1’s narrator and text 2’s main protagonist do not have the same attitude concerning solitude. Compare them. (+/-30 words)

2 Compare how text 1 and text 2 provide answers to the following question: do we need other people in order to exist (+/-40 words)


> Write two essays (one for each of the following subjects).

1 “I was interested in knowing if it was possible to be independent of modern technology” (text 2, l. 1-2). Using this definition of technology, say what “artifact(s) of [modern] civilization” (text 2, l. 7) you could not live without and why. (+/– 100 words).

2 Would you envisage cutting yourself off from civilization or retreat­ing to a quiet place for a month Why or why not If you answered yes, say what you would use this time for. (+/– 200 words).

Texte 1


Jonathan Coe, romancier britannique né en 1961, a une prédilection pour les thèmes politiques qu’il aborde généralement sous l’angle de la satire. C’est ainsi que The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim traite du paradoxe du phénomène de la solitude dans notre société dite de communication.

Pour en savoir plus :

Le thème

Le narrateur rentre chez lui après trois semaines d’absence et s’attend à trouver un abondant courrier de ses proches et amis, mais n’y trouve rien d’intéressant, uniquement des factures. Il consulte son répondeur téléphonique, espérant entendre une kyrielle de messages, mais il n’a reçu que cinq appels peu importants. Pas même de messages sur son interface Facebook, qui compte pourtant soixante-dix « amis ». Visiblement, il n’a manqué à personne…

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

The dead weight, l. 2 (le poids mort)  junk mail, l. 2 (courrier publicitaire)  to scoop up, l. 5 (ramasser)  needless to say, l. 6 (inutile de le dire)  to drift in, l. 7, to waft through, l. 8 (flotter)  to skim through, l. 15 (parcourir)  a bill, l. 17 (une facture)  to tout for business l. 17 (racoler des clients)  crap, l. 18 (des conneries)  to boil the kettle, l. 20 (mettre la bouilloire à chauffer)  the answering machine, l. 21 (le répondeur)  to blink, l. 22 (clignoter)  to dare, l. 23 (oser)  a sip, l. 25 (une gorgée)  to hang up, l. 32 (raccrocher)  to cheer up, l. 34 (remonter le moral)  the evidence, l. 41 (les preuves).

Texte 2


Jon Krakauer, écrivain et journaliste américain né en 1954, est également un alpiniste chevronné. Il a publié plusieurs récits de ses expéditions. Dans Into the Wild, qui a été adapté au cinéma sous le titre éponyme, un jeune homme, Christopher McCandless, décide de tout quitter pour vivre seul et en mode de survie en Alaska – histoire inspirée d’une histoire vraie.

Pour en savoir plus :

Le thème

Le protagoniste, Gene Rosellini, s’est lancé le défi de vivre comme à l’époque préhistorique. Ce défi a été le projet de sa vie, et il a vécu ainsi pendant dix ans, se fabriquant des outils primitifs, se construisant son abri, vivant des ressources de la nature et se livrant de surcroît à des exercices physiques intenses. Au terme de cette expérience, il a écrit à un ami que la réalité l’avait mis au pied du mur, et que l’être humain tel que nous le connaissons aujourd’hui ne pouvait vivre ainsi.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

A decade, l. 3 (une décennie)  forebears, l. 4 (des ancêtres)  steel, l. 7 (acier)  his brand of dogged genius, l. 8 (sa forme de génie obstiné)  to devolve into, l. 11 (régresser)  roots, l. 16 (des racines)  seaweed, l. 16 (des algues)  game, l. 16 (gibier)  spears, l. 17 (des lances)  snares, l. 17 (des pièges, des collets)  rags, l. 17 (des haillons)  to relish, l. 18 (savourer)  a windowless hovel, l. 19 (une cahute sans fenêtres)  a saw, l. 19 (une scie)  an ax, l. 19 (une hache)  to grind one’s way, l. 20 (ici : tailler son chemin)  a log, l. 20 (une bûche)  to forage, l. 24 (fourrager, chercher sa nourriture).

Les points de convergence

Les deux textes décrivent l’effet de la solitude sur un homme, solitude liée à la présence (texte 1) ou à l’absence (texte 2) des moyens techniques qui nous entourent au quotidien. Dans le premier texte, cette solitude est subie, le personnage-narrateur est inquiet et frustré de découvrir à son retour que malgré tous les moyens de communication modernes, personne n’a pris le temps de le contacter. Tandis que dans le deuxième texte, le personnage a voulu ce retrait hors du monde moderne – même s’il arrive à la conclusion que l’homme n’est plus fait pour vivre ainsi.

Le sujet d’expression 1

Pistes de recherche

Le texte 2 donne aux « technologies modernes » une acception large, puisque leur refus conduit à un retour à la vie telle qu’elle devait être à l’époque préhistorique. Aussi, dans les « objets de la civilisation moderne », en deçà de tous ceux qui relèvent des nouvelles technologies (télévision, téléphones portables, ordinateurs, four micro-ondes…), vous pouvez inclure des outils et appareils de la vie quotidienne inventés au cours de l’histoire de l’humanité (outils, chauffage central, voitures et autres modes de transport…). À vous de voir ceux qui vous paraissent indispensables.

Vocabulaire utile

Modern appliances (les appareils électro-ménagers modernes)  a means of communication (un moyen de communication)  I couldn’t do without… (je ne pourrais pas me passer de…)  central heating (chauffage central)  to take for granted (considérer comme acquis).

Le sujet d’expression 2

Pistes de recherche

Vous pouvez, si vous l’avez vu, vous appuyer sur le film Into the Wild, même si le sujet ne sous-entend pas nécessairement un choix aussi extrême puisqu’il propose une « retraite » d’un mois, loin de toute civilisation ou bien seulement dans un endroit tranquille. Vous pouvez aussi exclure d’entrée cette hypothèse, si vous n’imaginez pas vous passer de votre environnement habituel, de vos amis, des moyens de la technologie moderne. Ou encore, si vous êtes passionné de nature, et peut-être d’émissions télé sur la survie (Man vs. Wild avec Bear Grills, ou Koh Lanta, Survivor en Grande-Bretagne), vous pourriez avoir envie de vous isoler un temps, afin de vous confronter à la réalité des contraintes naturelles, et apprendre à mieux vous connaître, en pensant aux questions fondamentales, universelles de l’existence.

Vocabulaire utile

The basics (les principes fondamentaux)  the wild (la nature)  a survival technique (une technique de survie)  to face (se confronter à).



Text 1

1 1. The narrator is at home.

2. He’s back home after a three-week absence. He may have been on holiday.

2 1. The other characters mentioned are Caroline and Lucy.

2. They are 200 miles away.

3. They now live 200 miles away and must have done so for quite a long time as young Lucy used to send him drawings and writings she’d done at school initially every two weeks, then not so often. We can infer from that that Caroline may be his spouse (that he may have separated from or divorced) and Lucy her/their daughter.




What the narrator would have liked to find in it

What he found

His state of mind

The hall

Loads of mail (“piles of junk mail”, l. 2)

A dozen envelopes, mostly bills

Disappointment (“I would have expected more than that”, l. 3)

The sitting room

The sound of the radio from the kitchen, the smell of coffee



The cold

Loneliness (“there was no sound of a radio…”, l. 6-7)

Disappointment (“Nothing of interest there at all”, l. 18-19)

The kitchen

Messages on the answering machine

5 uninteresting phone messages

Surprise (“Five phone messages, while I’d been away for almost a month ”, l. 22)

Apprehension (“Did I dare to listen to them ”, l. 23-24)

Disappointment (“my mood of trembling anticipation was short-lived”, l. 26-27)

A room upstairs (a bedroom )

Facebook messages or posts on his wall


Expectation (“Maybe Facebook would cheer me up”, l. 34)

State of shock, amazement (“I stared at the screen in shock”, l. 39)

Disappointment (“Not one… had thought of me once during my absence”, l. 41-42)


4 The narrator expected the others to get or keep in touch with him, to think of him when he was away. But no one cares about him, he is negatively surprised and terribly disappointed. It makes him feel as if he didn’t count for anyone.

Text 2

1 1. Nonfiction narrative of a scientific test.

2. Experiment.


Attention !

Ne pas confondre experiment, l’expérience scientifique, et experience, l’expérience acquise dans la vie.

2 Gene Rosellini wanted to find out if modern ­human beings could live like in prehistoric times, with­out ­modern technology.

“I was interested in knowing if it was possible to be independent of modern technology” (l. 1-2).

“He wondered whether humans could live as our forebears had when mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed the land…” (l. 4-5).

3 Food : “He dined on roots, berries and seaweed” (l. 16)  “hunted game with spears and snares” (l. 16-17).

Clothes : “dressed in rags” (l. 17).

Housing : “a windowless hovel, which he built without benefit of saw or ax” (l. 19).

Free time : “Rosellini also exercised compulsively whenever he wasn’t occupied with foraging” (l. 23-24).

4 He must have been alone to do that, or else, he would have been helped to build his house for instance. Moreover, nobody else is mentioned throughout the experiment (“his self-imposed rules”, l. 22).

5 He reached the conclusion that it is no longer possible for human beings to live as their ancestors did. They have changed too much/They have become too dependent on technology.

6 At first, he was obviously contemptuous toward mankind, he looked down on them because he regarded them as no longer able to do what their ancestors did. Therefore, he tried to make himself fitter and stronger, in order to survive the uncomfortable conditions of life without technology or modern comfort or tools. But he eventually discovered that he was like the rest of us, as he reached his own limits.

Both texts

1 The narrator in text 1 is uncomfortable and depressed by solitude, he is very disappointed at arriving in a deserted house and not hearing from anyone, whereas solitude is what Gene Rosellini was looking for in his experiment, he didn’t mind being alone, on the contrary.

2 For the narrator in the first text, it is obvious that other people help him to feel alive. If he stops existing for the rest of the world, it’s as if he has become transparent. On the contrary, Gene Rosellini doesn’t care about other people. He has defined his goal in life and achieved it without the help of anyone else.


1 Guidelines

Gene Rosellini’s experiment is an interesting one, and few people dare to leave our modern world to face a life without electricity, modern appliances, or means of communication… Giving up all this is part of a personal quest.

It would be very difficult for me to stop using the technological devices I have grown up with. Even if I know I could do without TV, for instance, I am aware it is because I know I have access to the Internet on my mobile phone. I couldn’t live without it, I’d have the same feeling as the narrator in the first text, that I was alone in the world. I’d feel lost, forgotten, and worried.

Even things we have lived with for a few generations, like running water or central heating, are nowadays so indispensable that we take them for granted and don’t even give them a thought. But our whole lives are conditioned by these devices that have entered our lives.

2 Guidelines

Even if short-lived, and safe, this could be an interesting experience: leaving the bustle of modern life, taking some time to think about the things that matter, taking stock before making an important decision… Maybe it’s a way to discover things about oneself, to go back to basics, provided you have acquired some knowledge about survival techniques of course.

But on the other hand there are things that would keep me from experimenting this. First, it’s dangerous. There are risks in the wild that we are not prepar­ed to face. I’m sure I couldn’t cope with most of the basic things that I’d have to do, like making a snare or finding berries. Second, I’m the kind of person who needs others around to live. I couldn’t live without my family, who has cared for me since my birth, and my friends. Therefore, I don’t think I would be tempted to cut myself off from civilization, at least not for the moment.