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  CBSE X Biology
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The Letter

The Letter

Summary-->

The Letter is the story of an old man who had once been an active hunter. His only child, a daughter, had left him for a distant place after marriage and he now wallowed in loneliness and misery. He would go to the post office every day to check whether his daughter Miriam had written to him. No letter had arrived for five long years and the postmen made fun of the old man. Finally, the old man died. One day, the postmaster’s own daughter lay ill in another town and he was waiting for news from her. In his present agony, he understands the pain Ali must have gone through as he waited for news of his daughter for five long years.

I. Look at the picture of the old man:

Working with your partner note down the feelings of the old man as he is sitting on the bench

  • __________________________________________

  • __________________________________________

  • __________________________________________

  • __________________________________________

  • __________________________________________

II. Can you think of reasons for these feelings? Discuss with your partner and note down possible reasons.

  • __________________________________________

  • __________________________________________

  • __________________________________________

  • __________________________________________

  • __________________________________________


Ans.

Working with your partner note down the feelings of the old man as he is sitting on the bench

  • He is feeling lonely and downcast.

  • He is feeling lost in the city.

  • He feels that he is not needed anymore.

  • He feels ill.

  • He feels that there is nothing to look forward to.

III. Can you think of reasons for these feelings? Discuss with your partner and note down possible reasons.

  • The old man yearns for the glorious days of his past.

  • He is well-dressed and has a high sense of self-worth.

  • He is probably living alone in the city.

  • His relatives and friends have forgotten him.

IV. Complete the table by explaining the following phrases/sentences in your own words:

Phrase/Sentence

Meaning

Happy memories light up a life that is nearing its close

 

The sounds helped him along his lonely way

 

The cold used sleep to extend its sway over all things even as a false friend lulls his chosen victim with caressing smiles

 

When the evening of his life was drawing in, he left his old ways and suddenly took a new turn

 

That the whole universe is built up through love and that the grief of separation is inescapable

 

The post-master, a man with a face as sad and as inexpressive as a pumpkin, would be seen sitting on his chair inside

 

The haughty temper of the official had quite left him in his sorrow and anxiety, and had laid bare his human heart

 

Ans.

Phrase/Sentence

Meaning

Happy memories light up a life that is nearing its close

A person who is about to die will think of all the happy events that has happened in his life.

The sounds helped him along his lonely way

The sound of pleasant morning work in wayside homes brought cheer to Ali on his journey

The cold used sleep to extend its sway overall things even as a false friend lulls his chosen victim with caressing smiles

The cold spread its influence everywhere by inducing people to sleep beyond reasonable time, as a false friend will charm his victim with deceptive smiles and trap him..

When the evening of his life was drawing in, he left his old ways and suddenly took a new turn

Ali gave up his wild and carefree ways as he grew older and became soft and mellow.

That the whole universe is built up through love and that the grief of separation is inescapable

Only love can sustain life but one must understand that people who love each other dearly will be separated one day.

The post-master, a man with a face as sad and as inexpressive as a pumpkin, would be seen sitting on his chair inside

The post-master is very impassive and work-oriented. He talks only when he has to give instructions.

The haughty temper of the official had quite left him in his sorrow and anxiety, and had laid bare his human heart

The postmaster dropped his bureaucratic mask in his anxiety to get news of his daughter. He became more sensitive and concerned.

V. Answer the following questions briefly:

  1. Who was Ali? Where did he go daily?
    Ans.
    Ali was an old man who had been a hunter. He went daily to the post office as he was expecting a letter from his daughter.

  2. “Ali displays qualities of love and patience.” Give evidence from the story to support the statement.
    Ans.
    “Ali displays qualities of love and patience.” He is always filled with joy when he sees the post office. He is always the first to arrive. Though the postmen made fun of him and he returned home empty-handed, he would return the next day with the hope that his daughter would have written to him.

  3. How do you know Ali was a familiar figure at the post office?
    Ans.
    Ali was a familiar figure at the post office. He always occupied a particular seat in a particular corner of the building. The postmen had begun to poke fun at him. When Ali did not come to the post-office for a few days, the postmen were curious to know what had stopped him.

  4. Why did Ali give up hunting?
    Ans.
    Ali’s only daughter Miriam had married and left him to be with her husband in the Punjab. He had no news of her and felt life had no meaning anymore. He could no longer enjoy the pleasures of hunting at this stage of life when he was old and lonely.

  5. What impression do you form of the postmaster after reading the story, ‘The Letter’?
    Ans.
    The postmaster was not heartless. He was quite willing to see a situation from another person’s point of view, as his remarks on madness show. When his daughter lay ill in another town, he was waiting anxiously for news of her well-being. In his sorrow and anxiety, he recognised Ali’s own anxiety and suspense. He now understood that a letter is a warm, beating heart.

  6. The postmaster says to Ali, “What a pest you are, brother? Do you agree with the statement? Give reasons for your answer.
    Ans.
    The postmaster says to Ali, “What a pest you are, brother!” I don’t agree with this statement. Ali was clearly ill and living his last day. His patience had run out after five years but he still had faith that his daughter would write to him. The postmaster should have listened to Ali patiently for there are matters more important than office work.

  7. Ali came out very slowly, turning after every few steps to gaze at the post office. His eyes were filled with tears of helplessness, for his patience was exhausted, even though he still had faith. Why were Ali’s eyes filled with tears of helplessness? What had exhausted his patience but not his faith?
    Ans.
    Ali’s eyes were filled with tears because he was nearing his end and yet he had not received any letter from his daughter. His patience was exhausted because he would not be able to come to the post office again. But his faith led him to believe that Miriam would write to him one day.

  8. Tortured by doubt and remorse, he sat down in the glow of the charcoal sigri to wait. Who is tortured by doubt and remorse? Why? What is he waiting for?
    Ans.
    The post-master is tortured by doubt and remorse. He is anxious for news of his daughter’s well-being. He now deeply regrets the shoddy treatment he gave Ali when he would come daily to ask if his daughter has written to him. Now the post-master waits for some news from his own daughter in the form of a letter.

VI. The writer carefully builds up an atmosphere of loneliness and grief in the story. Working in groups, pick up words/phrases from the story that build up the atmosphere. Copy the following table in your notebook and complete it.

Loneliness

Grief

  • An old man was walking through the town, now and again drawing his tattered clothes tighter to shield his body from the cold and biting wind

  • His lonely way

  • The whole town was wrapped in deathly silence

Ans.

Loneliness

Grief

  • An old man was walking through the town, now and again drawing his tattered clothes tighter to shield his body from the cold and biting wind

  • His lonely way

  • The whole town was wrapped in deathly silence
    — a life that is nearing its close

– the old man went in quietly
– the old man went back slowly to the bench
– the evening of his life was drawing in
– he reflected deeply
– a pitiable figure
– he saw the essential human worth of a letter

– he dragged along a cheerless existence
– the grief of separation is inescapable
– he sat down under a tree and wept bitterly
– his eyes were filled with tears of helplessness
– the tears were wet on his face

VII. Tortured by doubt and remorse, the postmaster sits in the glow of a charcoal sigri that night, waiting for news of his daughter. As he sits, he writes his diary. As the postmaster, write a diary entry in about 150 words outlining your feelings about the day’s events.

Ans.

I know now the value of each letter. It is a warm, beating heart; priceless to the receiver. I realize what Ali must have gone through, waiting anxiously for a letter that came, but came too late. Here I am now, waiting for one more night for my daughter’s letter, assuring me that all is well with her and that she sends me her love. Ali lived for five long years and died in the hope that his Miriam will write to her. But I had seen Ali this morning, with my very eyes. He was stooped double with age, yet when he lifted his eyes to look at me, I was shocked at the unearthly light that shone in them. And then he had vanished. Ali had indeed died three months back. I put the letter on his grave myself. Oh, how I wish that I had been more patient and understanding with him on his last day instead of brushing him aside with impatience. I am grateful to God that he gave me the opportunity of delivering Miriam’s letter to Ali with my own hands. I am sure now that Ali is at peace in Heaven. His letter, for which he has waited patiently for five years at the post office, finally arrived. I pray that God forgive me for my sins and take care of my own daughter and indeed, all the daughters in the world. Let no separation be so painful that the medium of a letter cannot bridge the gap between two loving hearts.

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