Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Summary of Facing Death (One Act Play) by Johan August Strindberg | Class XII English Note (Exercise)

Facing Death

Summary of Facing Death (One Act Play) by Johan August Strindberg | Class XII English Note (Exercise)

CHARACTERS

MONSIEUR DURAND, a pension proprietor, formerly connected with the state railroad

ADÈLE, his daughter, twenty-seven

ANNETTE, his daughter, twenty-four

THÉRÈSE, his daughter, twenty-four

ANTONIO, a lieutenant in an Italian cavalry regiment in French Switzerland in the eighties

PIERRE, an errand boy

‘Facing Death’ by Johan August Strindberg is a one act play that reveals the story of Monsieur Durand, a former railroad worker and widower in financial ruin. In the play, Strindberg dramatizes a heroic sacrifice made by a bankrupt man for the sake of his daughters.

Summary

Mr. Durand is a former railroad worker, widower and pension owner in financial ruin. He lives with his three daughters Adele (27yrs), Annette (24yrs) and Therese (24yrs). The relationship between father and three daughters is dysfunctional (not good). They are bankrupt. They have been facing the economic crisis for the last 10 years and have converted their home into a lodge for their survival. Adele works in the kitchen and Mr. Durand does other works such as serving guests, cleaning, errands, etc. himself.


The two daughters Therese and Annette just play, sing, flirt and seek others' attention in public. They don't help their father in anything. The Durand household has been borrowing money from others. They have to pay off to everyone such as a baker, a butcher and a grocery. There are piles of bills to be paid. Their errand boy, Pierre comes empty handed when he goes for the bread. Rather he brings unpaid bills only. Mr. Durand buys candles to burn on the death anniversary of his late son, Rene who died in his childhood. He stills loves and misses him.


They have only one paying guest, Antonio, a lieutenant of an Italian army as a guest in the house. Mr. Durand tells Antonio that they can no longer keep him in the house due to bankruptcy and shortage of supplies. Antonio offers Mr. Durand to pay in advance and asks to let him stay for one more month but Mr. Durand refuses. He also says that they had no guests for 3 months last spring and at last an American family came and helped them. When Durand goes for coffee-bread, Therese flirts with the guest, Antonio and they kiss.


Mr. Durand appears on the doorway and he is surprised to see them kissing. Last time, Therese was found kissing with an American guest. He drives Antonio away from his home in anger. He throws the money given by him too. Seeing this, Therese and Annette are not happy. They want the guest to stay. They behave their father rudely. They even seize the glass of milk from him because he couldn't bring bread. He is compelled to drink only a glass of water. When he is ready to light his briar pipe, Therese snatches matches.


Mr. Durand is starving for long and eats the rat's bait too. Fortunately, it is not poisoned. All three daughters blame their father for ruining the condition of their house. They claim that the condition of the house wouldn’t be ruined if their mother were alive. When their mother was alive, she hadn't good relationship with her husband. Daughters are also taking their mother's side and only blaming father. Their mother used to waste money on lottery and when she was scolded, she used to threaten by saying that she would work as a prostitute.


When the wind blows, Mr. Durand tells his daughters to put off the gas stove and care for the insurance documents properly. He also states that he is going to bring money for them from the insurance. Now the daughters start behaving him well.


Seeing Therese’s unhappiness, Mr. Durand allows her to marry the lieutenant, Antonio if he truly loves her. Hearing this Therese is now happy and returns him matches. He calls his elder daughter Adele and asks whether there are candles or not. He tells Adele to hide the documents of a fire insurance policy and starts revealing the secrets he had kept. He was born in France. He had fallen in love with a lady before the age of conscription. To be able to marry, they came to Switzerland and got naturalized citizenship. During the last war, he joined the Swiss Army and fought against the French Army. It means that he raised the weapon against his own country. To hide that shame, he tells a lie that he was born in Switzerland.


Mr. Durand also tells his daughter that due to her mother's carelessness and foolish speculation, they lost paternal property and maternal property was used in raising daughters. Thus, they ran out of their inheritances. Her mother taught children to hate him and daughters believed what their mother said. She put all the blames on her husband and taught the daughters to hate father. He kept quiet whole life because he didn't want his daughters to suspect on their mother's goodness.


Mr. Durand suggests Adele to take motherly care of her sisters, and keep the insurance documents properly. Finally, he drinks poison from the glass and the house is seen burning. In this way, he sets the house on fire and poisons himself so that his daughters can get 5000 francs as the compensation from the fire insurance.

Understanding the Text

a. Where does the play take place?

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

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

The grocery, the bakery and the butcher send their bills to the Durand household because the Durand household hasn't paid its bills for a long time. Hence, they are unable to give more goods too unless the bills are paid.

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

Monsieur Durand spends money on candles when he doesn't have money to buy even bread because he wants to burn candles on the death anniversary of his late son, Rene who died in his childhood. Mr. Durand is grief-stricken due to his demise and still has the sense of affection towards the dead child. Durand's another intention is to burn his house on fire and get the money of fire insurance to make the fortune of his daughters since they are battling the economic crisis.

d. Why did Monsieur sell his life insurance?

Mr. Durand sold his life insurance because he had to pay off somebody's debt/loan by selling his life insurance since the debate was angry for not paying the due.

e. Why has Monsieur Durand paid fire insurance?

Monsieur Durand has paid fire insurance of the house by mortgaging his house. His intention is to get the compensation from the fire insurance by burning his house so that the money given as the compensation can be helpful to his daughters.

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

Due to Mrs. Durand's carelessness and foolish speculation, they lost paternal inheritance. Maternal inheritance was used in raising daughters. In this way, they ran out of their inheritances.

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

Monsieur Durand said that he was born in Switzerland although he was born in France. He tells a lie about his birthplace because of two reasons:

-not ruining his and his wife's prestige

-it looked as if he fought against his own birth country during the war although he fought against Germans.

h. What business is Mr. Durand running to make his living?

Mr. Durand is running a pension to make his living. He has converted his house into a lodge for the sake of earning money. He provides the guests with the services of lodging and fooding.

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

Monsieur Duran has a plan to burn his house in fire and get the compensation from the fire insurance to help his daughters with money at the cost of his own life.

j. How does Monsieur Durand die?

Monsieur Durand dies by poisoning himself and burning his own house for the sake of compensation from the fire insurance to make fortune for his penniless daughters.

Reference to the context

a. Sketch the character of Monsieur Durand.

Monsieur Durand is a pension owner, former railroad worker and widower who lives with his three unkind daughters. He is a loving, caring and protective father. He sacrifices his own life for the sake of the betterment of his daughters who despise(hate) him. He keeps quiet throughout his life bearing injustice from his late wife who put all the blames of financial ruin on him. He is a loving husband too. He is a patriotic person who loves his birth country, France too although he is obliged to live in Switzerland. He is a tragic hero who faces the financial hardships and ends his own life tragically.

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

The Durand family is bankrupt. They have lost their paternal and maternal inheritances. There are piles of bills to be paid off. Due to economic hardship, they have converted their house into a pension. Daughters have been filled with negativity and despise towards their father by their late mother. They don't even have bread to eat with coffee. Durand eats the rat's bait due to hunger. Daughters think, they have come to the verge of bankruptcy due to their father's mistake.

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

The mother has had a great influence on her daughters in this play. Due to mother's teaching, all the daughters hate their father. They think that their father was the main cause behind their financial ruin. Specially, Theresa has had more impact from her mother. She snatches the matches away from her father when he was about to inhale tobacco with briar pipe. Similarly, she seizes the glass of milk from him. She is ruder than other sisters.


Mr. Durand has been maltreated by his daughters. They don't even let him drink a glass of milk. When all the doors of hope are closed, he is obliged to poison himself and burn the house in order to get compensation from the fire insurance to his daughters. Hence, all these evidences prove that the Durand family has reached a dead end.

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

The relationship between Monsieur Durand and his wife was not good. She put all the blames on him though she herself ruined the inheritances. Because of her carelessness and foolish speculation, they ruined their paternal property. She used to spend money on lottery tickets. When she was scolded, she used to threaten by saying that she would be a prostitute for money. She called him a deserted soldier. She taught her daughters to dislike their father.

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

Mr. Durand is a tragic hero in the play who poisons himself and burns down his house for the sake of compensation from the insurance company to uplift his daughters' financial condition. The Durand family is having a difficult time due to economic crisis. He is being judged as an unsuccessful and irresponsible father by his three daughters. Hence, he plans to compensate his daughters from the fire insurance at the cost of his life than to be called an unsuccessful father.

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

Money is the first and the foremost thing valued in the play. Money is the root cause of all the problems in the play. The Durand family is starving due to lack of money. Mr. Durand has been unable to fulfil the basic needs of his daughters due to economic crisis. The relationship between Mr. Durand and Mrs. Durand also ruined just because of the conflict regarding the loss of inheritances.


Daughters hate their father just because he can't improve family's economic condition. They behave well with their father when he says "I am going away to get money for you". They even give him loving kisses. They use the words of kindness and love. They ask for forgiveness for their rude behaviours. When the father is unable to bring bread, his daughters don't even give a glass of milk. They seize it from him. They snatch the matches from him while going to smoke tobacco. Thus, money determines the relationship between characters in this play.

g. Discuss "Facing Death" as a modern tragedy.

Tragedy is a kind of drama that ends with death, separation, destruction, tears or failure of the protagonist. This play is a tragedy because it ends with the tragic death of the hero Durand. Modern tragedy deals with the realistic representation and common problems. Realism and naturalism are the main features of the modern play.


Modern tragedies deal with the problems of a modern man such as dysfunctional family relationship, socio-cultural problems, loneliness, etc. Characters become the victim of their socio-cultural environment, fate, economic class, gender, external environment and so on. Hence, in this play too, the protagonist has a dysfunctional relationship with his family members. He is an ordinary man and it deals with the financial hardship of a modern man. It realistically represents the modern world. Hence, it is a modern tragedy.

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