Sunday, 23 February 2014

What is wrong with Sophie in the lesson, 'Going Places' ( CBSE Grade twelve English course) ?

The lesson, ‘Going Places’ by A.R. Barton highlights what can go wrong when a teenager dreams and fantasizes excessively ( yes, that is the theme too ). While it is true that a life without dreams is a dry, drab and rather dead, life that is divorced from reality is equally harmful, bordering on insanity and an inability to differentiate between what is real and what is mere fantasy! Young children often pass through a phase of role playing and fantasizing, but then they soon grow out of it. Sophie, however hasn’t grown out of this phase! She keeps dreaming about what she will do after graduating from school, open a boutique, become an actress, or a manager-all without having the wherewithal to convert these dreams into reality. Her friend, Jansie presents a contrast to Sophie. She is grounded in reality, and she knows very well that they, ‘are earmarked for the biscuit factory’ at the most. Jansie’s cold logic and understanding or reality however might be in themselves rather too depressing, a reaffirmation of the idea that they have a bleak future ahead of them because of their economic circumstances. One might wish for more hope something provided for by dreams and fantasies. It is true that fantasizing or day dreaming within limits might provide a suitable refuge from the stress, disappointments and sadness of real life. In excess however this very refuge might become a trap from which their is no escape.
In many ways, one can’t help pitying Sophie for becoming what she is-a person who will spin tales in order to gain the attention of her father and her brother Geoff, whom she admires. Sophie spins the yarn of having met Danny Cassey probably in order to draw Geoff’s attention away from the motorcycle parts with which he was tinkering. He is the only one who sympathizes with her, although he knows that she has a propensity for spinning tall tales. Sophie is very much like Mademoiselle Loiselle in the short story, ‘The Necklace’ by Guy De Maupassant whose dreams for a better life ultimately leads her and her husband into destitution! Borrowing what she thought was a diamond necklace from her friend proves to be her undoing! Sophie too is like Mademoiselle Loiselle. She is however like a bird trapped in the cage of poverty, and she wants to spread her wings to fly and explore the world that had been denied to her because of her economic circumstances! With Sophie however, we don’t get to see things deteriorating as badly as they did for Madame Loiselle, although looking at how things are progressing we can only guess that her daydreaming could lead to great distress! Sophie’s father is aware about how things could work out for Sophie when he warns her that, “One of these days you’re going to talk yourself into a load of trouble”. Instead of the word, “talk” replace it with day dreaming, and obsession for a more fantastic life. For Sophie, the obsession for a better life coupled with her tendency to day dream and fantasize a lot are sure signs of a mental malady that could cause her great harm in the long run! Some of the danger signs of this tendency to fantasize are described in the part where Sophie walks by the canal to sit on the wooden bench beneath the solitary elm to wait for Danny Casey to come to her. She waits for him and initially is filled with the emotion of excitement which then gradually changes into a sense of disappointment when she realizes that Danny will not be coming after all. The greatest pain is felt by day dreamers when they undergo a phase of disillusionment, a waking from a fantastic dream into a world of reality. Sophie undergoes all these emotions when she wakes up from her fantastic dream to realize that it was after all only a dream, and that her Knight in Armour, Danny Casey will not after all be coming to rescue his damsel in distress!
The message of this lesson is that one should beware of falling into the habit of fantasizing and daydreaming too much, lest the waking up be too painful. Sophie’s dreams and disappointments are all in her mind and she is responsible for her own disappointments. She should have come to terms with the facts and realities of life, the fact that she was a small town girl living the humble life of a girl with little means. She had put too much store in her dreams which were unfortunately divorced from reality, and when she woke up from her dreams, she realized that the reality was made even more harsh by contrast that the dreams had provided to the real world, she woke up to the reality where she was the Sophie of a small town, and that she was the daughter of impoverished circumstances, the daughter of a miner struggling to make both ends meet.

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