Facing Death | Summary & Questions and Answers Class 12 | August Strindberg | Compulsory English by Suraj Bhatt



Facing Death | Summary & Questions and Answers Class 12 | August Strindberg | Compulsory English by Suraj Bhatt
Neb English Support Class 12

Facing Death | Summary & Questions and Answers Class 12 | August Strindberg | Compulsory English by Suraj Bhatt

Facing Death by August Strindberg


Table of Contents


GLOSSARY

Monsieur (n.): (in countries where French is spoken) a title used before the name of a  man to refer to him, or used alone as a formal and polite form of address 

sous (n.): coins in Switzerland. 100 sou coin is equal to five Swiss franc coin, a four sou coin is twenty Swiss-centime

mortgage (n): an agreement by which money is lent by a building society, bank, etc. for buying a house or other property, the property being the security 

reproach (v.): to blame or criticize somebody/oneself, especially in a sad or disappointed way, for failing to do something

privation (n): a lack of basic comforts and things necessary for life

promenade (v.): to take a relaxed walk or ride in public, especially in order to meet or be seen by others 

francs (n.): the currency of Switzerland

impudence (n.): rudeness; lack of respect; insolence

prerogative (n): a right or privilege, especially one belonging to a particular person or group

scaffold (n): a platform on which people are executed

scamp (n.): a child who enjoys playing tricks and causing trouble

abyss (n.): a hole so deep that it seems to have no bottom

draughts (n.): cracks from where air flows into a house

veiled (adj.): partly hidden

incendiary (adj.): designed to set buildings, etc. on fire

conscription (n.): the act of forcing somebody by law to serve in the armed forces

spook (n.): a ghost

retrogrades (v.): to get worse; to return to a less good condition

exalted (adj.): in a state of extreme spiritual happiness

divulge (v.): to make something known, especially a secret

chiffonier (n): a high chest of drawers, often having a mirror at the top


ABOUT THE PLAY

Facing Death by August Strindberg

This one-play "Facing Death" was written by a Swedish writer, playwright, and painter Johan August Strindberg (1849–1912).

This play "Facing Death" presents the story of Monsieur Durand, a former railroad worker and widower in financial ruin. Durand has three daughters: Adรจle, Annette, and Thรฉrรจse. But he doesn't have prospects for their futures.

In the play, he has tried his best to provide for his daughters, even giving his house to renters, but his every effort is met with scorn and derision.

But Monsieur Durand has a plan to ensure his daughters' financial futures, even if it means he must face his own death, a prime example of European dramatic naturalism. Facing Death is the story of a father's love for his children, even when it means sacrificing everything.

In Facing Death, Strindberg dramatizes a heroic sacrifice made by a bankrupt man for the sake of his daughters. 


MAIN SUMMARY

Facing Death by August Strindberg

This play has presented the main character as Mr. Durand who is a former railroad employee, widower and pensioner. Here in this play, he has been presented as a financially ruined person. Mr. Durand is spending his life living along with his three daughters. His three daughters are:

Adele (27 years)

Annette (24 years)

Therese (24 years)

The relationship between the father and three daughters is not good. They are completely bankrupt. They have been facing a financial crisis for the last ten years. They have turned their home into a lodge for the rest of their lives. Adele works in the kitchen and Mr. Durand engages himself in other kinds of work such as serving guests, cleaning, delivering and bringing food items etc.

In the lodge, Mr. Darund's two daughters only try to seek others' attention. They don't help in other tasks in the lodge except playing, singing and flirting with the customers. 

The entire Durand family has been living and spending their lives borrowing money from others for years. The family is dealing with financial hardships. With bills piling up, Durand is trying to figure out how to provide for his three daughters after their mother's death.


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Mr. Durand has to pay several bills.  He has to pay everyone like the baker, the butcher and the grocer. Their work boy, Pierre, comes up empty-handed when he goes for bread.  Rather he brings only unpaid bills.  Durand buys candles to light on the death anniversary of his late (Zariia) son, Renรฉ, who died in infancy. He still loves him and misses him.

At their lodge, he has the only paying guest, Antonio (an Italian army lieutenant). Durand tells Antonio that due to bankruptcy and lack of supplies, they can no longer house him. Antonio offers to pay in advance and lets him stay for another month but Durand refuses. He also says that last spring he had no guests for three months and finally an American family came and helped him. When Durand goes for a coffee-bread, Therese flirts with guest Antonio and they kiss.

Durand is quite surprised to see them kissing when he appears at the door. Enraged, he angrily drives Antonio away from his house.  He also throws away the money given by him.  Therese and Annette are unhappy to see their father's act. They want the guest (Antonio) to be there. Both girls misbehave with their father. They even snatch the glass of milk from him as he could not bring bread.  In compulsion, they make him drink only a glass of water. As he prepares to light his bribery pipe, Therese snatches the match.

Mr. Durand is hungry for a long time and eats rats' feed too. But he luckily survives because it isn't poisonous. All his three daughters accuse him of spoiling the condition of the house. They claim that if the mother had been alive, the condition of the house would not have deteriorated. When their mother was alive, she did not have a good relationship with their father Durand. The daughters seem to take the mother's side and only blame the father. Actually, their mother used to waste money in the lottery. Most of the time, she was scolded. She was threatened that she would work as a prostitute.

When the wind blows, Mr. Durand tells his daughters to put out the stove fire and take care of the insurance documents properly.  He also says that he is going to bring money from insurance for them. Now the daughters start behaving well with him. Seeing Therese's unhappiness, he allows her to marry Lieutenant Antonio if he truly loves her.  Hearing this, Therese is now overjoyed and returns the match to him.

He calls his eldest daughter Adele and asks if there are candles. He tells Adele to hide documents from a fire insurance policy and begins to reveal the secrets he has kept inside his heart. He was born in France. He had fallen in love with a woman even before the age of recruitment. In order to be able to marry, they came to Switzerland and obtained native citizenship. During the final war, he joined the Swiss Army and fought against the French army. It means that he took up arms against his own country. To hide that shame, he lies that he was born in Switzerland.

He also states that due to his mother's carelessness and foolish speculations, he lost the ancestral property and the maternal property. In this way, they ran out of their inheritance.  

While his wife was alive, she taught the children to hate their father Durand. She made them obey herself. Most of the time, she blamed her husband and became successful in making the children against their father. After her death, Mr. Durand remained silent all his life because he did not want his daughters to doubt their mother's goodness. 

Mr. Durand suggests Adele take maternal care of her sisters. He suggests finding a teacher's place for the youngest daughter Annette so that she can be in good company and keep insurance documents properly. In the end, he drinks the poison from the glass and the house is seen burning. Thus Durand sets the house on fire and poisoned himself so that his daughters could receive 5000 francs as compensation from the fire insurance.


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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Facing Death by August Strindberg


BEFORE READING

Answer the following questions:

a. Have you ever observed your parents in a financial crisis? If yes, what was it like?

Answer: 

Yes, I have observed my parents in a financial crisis. It was the worst experience for them.


b. Have you ever appreciated their selfless act for your sake? If yes, how?

Answer:

Yes, I appreciated their selfless act for my sake. I appreciated them for making me educated and capable in this world.


UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT 

Answer the following questions:

a. Where does the play take place?

Answer:

The play takes place in the dining room of Monsieur Durand, a former railroad worker, widower and owner of the boarding house who lives there with his three daughters.


b. Why do the grocery, the baker and the butcher send their bills to the Durand household?

Answer: 

The grocery, the bakery and the butcher send their bills to the Durand household because the Durand household hasn't paid their bills for a long time. Therefore, they are unable to deliver even more goods until the bills are paid.


c. Why does Monsieur Duran spend money on candles when he doesn’t have money to buy even bread? 

Answer:

Monsieur Durand spends money on candles when he doesn't have money to buy even bread because he wants to light the candles on the death anniversary of his late dear son, Renรฉ, who died in his infancy. Durand is saddened by his passing and still has a feeling of affection for the dead child. Durand has another intention to set his house on fire and get fire insurance money to make up for his daughters' fortunes as they grapple with financial troubles.


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d. Why did Monsieur Duran sell his life insurance?

Answer:

Monsieur sold his life insurance to pay off the debtor's loan. His condition was so miserable whereas the debtor was quite angry with him for not paying the dues.


e. Why has Monsieur Duran paid fire insurance? 

Answer:

Monsieur Durand has paid fire insurance to make a compensation claim later on. He intends to get compensation from the fire insurance by burning his house so that the money given as compensation will help his daughters.


f. How did Monsieur Duran and Mrs. Duran run out of their inheritances from both the sides?

Answer:

Monsieur Durand and Mrs. Durand ran out of their inheritances from both the sides by Mrs. Durand's carelessness and foolish speculation. Both of them lost paternal inheritance and maternal inheritance which was used in raising their daughters.


g. Why does Monsieur Durand tell a lie about his birthplace?

Answer:

Monsieur Durand tells a lie about his birthplace because of two different reasons.

▪︎  He fell in love with a woman before his age. He wanted to marry that lady. So he left his birthplace and moved to Switzerland. To save his and his wife's reputation, he tells a lie.

▪︎  He fought against his own motherland France from the side of Switzerland. To hide this shame, he tells a lie.


h. What business is Monsieur Durand running to make a living? 

Answer: 

Monsieur Durand is running a boarding house to make a living. He has converted his house into a lodge to earn money. He provides lodging and dining services to his guests. There is quite a good facility like a homestay.


i. What plan does Monsieur Durand have to help his daughters with money?

Answer:

Monsieur Durand plans to commit suicide and set his house on fire. He hopes to get compensation from the fire insurance policy so that he can help his daughters with the money. He wants to sacrifice his life for the sake of his three daughters. 


j. How does Monsieur Durand die?

Answer: 

Monsieur Durand dies committing suicide at last. He drinks poison to help his daughters with the amount of compensation from the insurance policy.


REFERENCE TO THE CONTEXT

a. Sketch the character of Monsieur Durand.

Answer:

Monsieur Durand is the main character of the play "Facing Death". He is a widower, the lodge owner and a former railway worker. He is a financially ruined person who has three daughters. All of them live in the lodge. The relationship between Durand and his daughters isn't good. Here, in this play, we find him so loving, caring as well as protective father. Due to his bankruptcy, he is spending his miserable life along with his three daughters. His daughters hate him and blame him most of the time. But he keeps on thinking about the well-being of his daughters. He sacrifices his life for the welfare of his daughters who hate him. He is quite an enduring man who endures injustice from his late wife and remained silent for the rest of his life, blaming her for the financial ruin.  He is also a loving husband.  He is a patriot too who loves his native France, although he is forced to live in Switzerland.  He is a tragic hero who faces financial difficulties and eventually ends his life tragically committing suicide for the well-being of his three daughters. 


b. How do we know that the Durand family has reached a dead end?

Answer:

We know that the Durand family has reached a dead end by seeing their miserable state in their lodge. This family is completely bankrupt. When Mrs. Durand was alive, both husband and wife had lost their maternal and paternal inheritances. Mr. Durund and his daughters spend their miserable lives in an economic crisis. Due to their miserable economic status, they have converted their living house into a lodge. Mr. Durand's household has been borrowing money from others for years. There are numerous bills in the name of the Durand household which must be paid to different debtors. Among all family members, the condition of Durand is so bad. We find him living a tolerant life. He doesn't have good relationships with his daughters. His daughters hate him and blame him for many reasons. We even find that the family doesn't have money to buy bread for coffee. Due to hunger, we find Durand eating the rat's bait. This family has reached a dead end due to this financial crisis. Due to this financial hardship, Durand has planned to kill himself and burn down his lodge for the welfare of his daughter. Here, we find Durand successful in his deadly plan at last.


c. ‘The mother, though already dead, seems to have had a great influence on the daughters, especially Theresa.’ Do you agree? 

Answer:

Yes, I agree with this statement. Here in this play, we find that the mother has had a great influence on her daughters, especially Theresa. While their mother was alive, she used to teach the children to hate their father Durand. She made them obey herself. Most of the time, she blamed her husband and became successful in making the children against their father. After her death, Mr. Durand remained silent all his life because he did not want his daughters to doubt their mother's goodness. He is a much enduring person who endures injustice from his late wife and remained silent for the rest of his life, blaming her for the financial ruin. Due to the mother's teaching, all three daughters hate their father. They think that their father was the main cause of their financial ruin. Theresa is the one who has been influenced much by her mother. She shows her rude behaviour most of the time. She snatches the matches away from her father when he is about to inhale tobacco with a briar pipe. Similarly, she seizes the glass of milk from him. She seems so unkind towards her father. Among the three sisters, she is the one who is filled with much anger against her father.


d. Discuss the relationship between Monsieur Duran and his wife. 

Answer:

The relationship between Monsieur Durand and his wife was not so good. While Mrs. Durand was alive, she used to blame Mr. Durand though she herself had ruined the ancestral property. Due to her negligence and foolish conjecture, she ruined the ancestral property. She used to spend household money on lottery tickets. After being abused, she threatened her husband to become a prostitute for money. He called her a lone soldier. She taught all her daughters to hate their father and filled their minds with all the negativities. She had become successful in diverting her daughters' minds and making them against their father.


e. ‘Money determines the relationship between characters in this play.’ Elaborate this statement with examples from the play.

Answer: 

Here in this play "Facing Death" money has played a very vital role in the life of Mr. Durand and his daughters. Money is the first and foremost thing that has become the sole cause behind all the problems in this drama. The economic hardships of Mr. Durund's family have forced the entire family members to live a miserable life with a lack of various essential needs. This family has been presented in agony due to hunger. Due to the economic crisis, the family is unable to buy bread. Mr. Durand has to live with hunger for a long time. He is even seen eating rat's bait in the drama. Mr. Durund is unable to provide for the basic needs of his daughters due to this economic crisis. The relationship between Mr. Durand and Mrs. Durand also deteriorated due to the struggle to lose wealth. The daughters do not like the father because he doesn't have enough money to support the family. Economic crisis leads them to convert their living house into a lodge. Here, we find that money determines the relationship between the characters. Mr. Durand's three daughters hate and blame him most of the time. They show their rude behaviour to him. The daughters do not even give a glass of milk because the father cannot bring bread. They snatched the glass of milk from him. They snatch the matches from him when he goes to smoke. They show their kind behaviour to their father when their father says "I'll bring you money." They even kiss him lovingly. They use the words kindness and love. They even apologize for their rude behaviour.    


f. Monsieur Durand kills himself so that his daughters would get 5000 francs as compensation from the insurance company. What does his plan tell us about him? 

Answer:

In the play "Facing Death", Mr. Durand has been presented as a tragic protagonist who commits suicide by drinking poison and sets fire to his house to get compensation from the fire insurance company to improve the financial condition of his daughters. 

Mr. Durund has been spending his life in extreme poverty. Due to the financial crisis, he has been blamed most of the time by his daughters. He has been considered a failed and irresponsible father. His plan for the welfare of his daughters tells us that he is so caring as well as loving father who keeps on thinking much about his children's future. He is the man who sacrifices his life for the bright future of his three daughters.


g. Discuss Facing Death as a modern tragedy.

Answer:

By modern tragedy, we mean a play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, especially one concerning the downfall of the main character.

The play "Facing Death" is a modern tragedy as it ends with the tragic death of the protagonist Mr. Durand. Modern tragedy deals with realistic representations and common problems. Realism and naturalism are the main features of modern play.


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The protagonist of a modern tragedy is a common man. Furthermore, modern tragedy deals with the problems of the modern individual such as dysfunctional family relationships, socio-cultural problems, loneliness, etc. Characters become victims of their sociocultural environment, fate, economic class, gender, external environment, etc.

Here in this play, we find the exact features of modern tragedy. This play has presented the life of a common modern man with an immense crisis in his life. Due to economic hardships, he has been suffering a lot along with his three daughters. In the play, we can easily find problems of bad relationships and poor economic status. Mr. Durand, a common modern man has suffered a lot due to economic difficulties. This play also ends with the tragic downfall of the main character Mr. Durand. He kills himself and even burns his house for the welfare of his three daughters. This play has presented realism as well as naturalism.


REFERENCE BEYOND THE TEXT

a. Write a few paragraphs describing the role of the father in the family. 

Answer:

Our country Nepal is a country of patriarchal norms and values where we find the vital roles of fathers in families. In most Nepalese families, fathers are considered as the heads, who lead the entire family members.

In the context of a Nepali family, the position of the father is at the top who decides the overall activities of the family members. The father in the family is the responsible person who takes care of his family and members. He is regarded as the bread earner who performs his duties being responsible for the welfare of his family members. The entire family members feel a sense of security in the presence of the father. The following are the roles of a father in the family:

▪︎  Father is one who teaches and guides righteousness to his family members. 

▪︎  Father is the pillar of the family who faces a lot of hardships for the welfare of his family.

▪︎  Father plays a very vital role in the development of a children’s emotional well-being. 

▪︎  Father provide a feeling of security to his children, both physical and emotional. 

▪︎  Father plays supportive roles in his children's studies.

▪︎  Father sets the bar for relationships with others. He is the man who shares the culture, tradition and rituals of the family with his children. 

▪︎  Father develops the confidence of his children.

▪︎  Father sets rules for children's bright future.


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