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Class 10 English Literature Reader Chapter 3 The Letter

Chapter 3 The Letter

The Letter Summary
Coachman Ali is very old and sick and has been regularly visiting the post office for the last five years. Unfavourable weather and failing health don’t deter him. He religiously visits the post office every day in the hope of receiving a letter from his daughter Miriam, his only child, who had got married to a soldier and left him. Getting a letter from Miriam becomes the most important mission for him and every day Ali is the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, but no letter ever comes for him. Everyday he goes back dejected and empty-handed. Everyone at the post office considers him mad and derives pleasure in tormenting him. Coachman Ali had been a famous shikari and a crackshot in his yester-years. When Miriam left him and did not respond, he realised the pain of suffering and separation. So he gave up hunting altogether. One day Ali is in very bad physical condition and reaches the post office with great effort. This makes him impatient and an argument takes place with the postmaster. The postmaster has his own preoccupations, he becomes irritated and calls Ali ‘a pest’. Ali is humiliated, crestfallen but not bereft of hope. While leaving, Ali gives five guineas to Laxmi Das, the clerk, and extracts a promise from him that he will deliver Miriam’s letter to his grave. Ali’s prediction proves true and he is not seen for some time. By a strange quirk of fate, the postmaster finds himself in a similar situation. His daughter is ill in another town and he has no information of her condition. He is eagerly waiting for his daughter’s letter, when he chances upon Miriam’s letter for her father. Since the postman is also suffering the pain of separation, he understands the value of a child’s letter for the father. Next morning he delivers the letter personally to Ali. He is later shocked to discover that Ali has been dead for the past three months. Laxmi Das, the clerk, recounts his last meeting with Ali and their suspicions are further confirmed to see Miriam’s letter lying near the door. To compensate for their bad treatment, both the postmaster and Laxmi Das visit Ali’s grave and place the letter on it. This proves to be a very traumatic experience for the postmaster. He realises that letters are not just envelopes and postcards, but they have great human worth. The newly awakened father’s heart curses him for maltreating Ali. His only fate is now to wait for his daughter’s letter and spend another night in restless anxiety.
WORD–MEANINGS
Tattered : torn
Plodded : walking with difficulty
 Staff : stick
Squatted : sat down
 Scrub : bush  
Bereft : without
Serenity : calmness
Boundless : limitless
Glimmer : shine
Relic : object survived in its primitive form
Brimming : full of
Recital : narration
 Worth : value
Reproaching : blaming
Remorse : regret
Precincts : space within a boundary
Lunacy : madness
Crackshot : skilled in shooting

Question 1.
Look at the picture of the old man given below :
Working with your partner, note down the feelings of the old man.
• ………………………………………..
Answer:
Various answers as given below :
NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Literature Chapter 3 The Letter 1
NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Literature Chapter 3 The Letter 2
Question 2.
Can you think of reasons for these feelings ? Discuss with your partner and note down possible reasons.
• ………………………………………..
Answer:
  • when things of life do not move as anticipated.
  • when there is illness in the family.
  • when the family feels insecure and helpless due to reasons beyond control. These may be like murder, dacoity, scandal, straying from the path of righteousness, rectitude etc.
  • when deaths occur.
  • when the person has been deserted and is feeling neglected.
Note: There can be numerous other feelings and reasons thereof. These vary from persons to persons as they face life and look at it differently. Then their conditions are always different. The common aspects of life have been given above in relation to ‘feelings’ and ‘reasons’.
Question 3.
Answer the following questions by ticking the correct options :
(a) Ali’s walking to the Post Office daily even in biting cold weather shows his _______
  1. courage
  2. optimism
  3. foolishness
  4. strength of will
(b) The Post Office is referred to as Ali’s “place of pilgrimage” as he _______
  1. visited it daily
  2. came there to pray for a letter from his daughter
  3. went there with faith and hope
  4. believed God would bless him if he went there
(c) The Post Master’s rudeness to Ali reveals his _______
  1. lack of empathy
  2. preoccupation with his work
  3. preconceived notions
  4. sensitivity
(d) Ali did not come to the Post Office for several days as _______
  1. he had given up hope
  2. he was upset by the Post Master’s rebuke
  3. he was unwell and not able to walk to the Post Office
  4. he was busy hunting
(e) “Tortured by doubt and remorse, he sat down in the glow of the charcoal sigri to wait. ” The Post Master was waiting for _______
  1. a letter from Miriam
  2. a letter from his own daughter
  3. a letter from Ali
  4. Ali to deliver Miriam’s letter to him.
Answer:
(a) → (ii) optimism
(b) → (iii) went there with faith and hope
(c) → (i) lack of empathy
(d) → (iii) he was unwell and not able to walk to the Post Office
(e) → (ii) a letter from his own daughter
Question 4.
Answer the following questions briefly :
(a) Who was Ali ? Where did he go daily ? (CBSE 2015)
(b) “Ali displays qualities of love and patience.” Give evidence from the story to support the statement. (V. Imp.)
(c) How do you know Ali was a familiar figure at the post office ? (CBSE 2015)
(d) Why did Ali give up hunting ? (CBSE 2015)
(e) What impression do you form of the postmaster after reading the story, ‘The Letter’ ? (V. Imp.)
(f) The postmaster says to Ali, “What a pest you are, brother !” Do you agree with the statement ? Give reasons for your answer.
(g) “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 ?
(h) “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 ? (V. Imp.) (CBSE 2015)
Answer:
(a) Ali was an old coachman. He went to the post office daily.
(b)
(i) His love for his only daughter Miriam in his loneliness is clear when he hopes for a touch of love through it.
(ii) His going regularly to the post office for over five years to get a letter and waiting patiently for it shows his infinite patience.
(c) Ali was now a familiar figure at the post office since every one there knew him well. He had been coming to it regularly for over five years.
(d) Ali gave up hunting because now he was getting old and inching towards death.
(e) The postmaster in the beginning is ill-tempered, selfish and impatient. He is casual, indifferent, unfeeling and inconsiderate also. But when he faces a situation similar to that of Ali, he changes. He becomes caring, worrying, concerned, patient, helpful, sympathetic and selfless. He also develops the virtue of understanding.
(f) I do not agree with it. But given the temperament of the postmaster at this point of the story, he behaves as he should. This speaks of the irresponsible and indifferent attitude of those in power towards the common people. In fact, the postmaster must have shown sympathy to Coachman Ali. Ali had been coming steadily to the post office for some solace from his own daughter Miriam.
(g) Ali’s eyes were filled with tears of helplessness. It was because he could do nothing except to leave the postmaster in his rough and uncivilized behaviour. His not receiving any letter from Miriam for over a period of five years and the old age had exhausted his patience. But somehow he had still faith that he would receive a letter from Miriam. And he did receive that, though after his death.
(h) The postmaster is now tortured by doubt caused by his daughter’s illness. It is due to what he had seen in Ali’s coming to the post office. Ali had = been dead for over three months. But the postmaster had seen him (in the form of a ghost) that early morning.
The postmaster is bitten by remorse also. It is because of his rash and casual attitude towards Ali. He now feels that he should not have ill-treated Ali earlier. He now realises the real and genuine love which Ah had had earlier for his daughter. The postmaster now is, obviously, waiting for news from his own daughter.
Question 5.
The writer carefully builds up an atmosphere of loneliness and grief in the story. Working in groups, pick out words/ phrases from the story that build up the atmosphere. Copy the following table in your notebook and complete it.
NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Literature Chapter 3 The Letter 3
Answer:
NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Literature Chapter 3 The Letter 4
Question 6.
Complete the table by explaining the following phrases/sentences in your own words :
Phrases/SentencesMeanings
 (a) happy memories light up a life that is nearing its close
 (b) the sounds helped him along his lonely way
 (c) the cold used sleep to extend its sway over all things even as a      false friend lulls his chosen victim with caressing smiles
 (d) when the evening of his life was drawing in, he left his old ways  and suddenly took a new turn
 (e) the whole universe is built up through love and that the grief of  separation is inescapable
 (f) the post-master, a man with a face as sad and as inexpressive as a Pumpkin, would be seen sitting on his chair inside
 (g) And so the clerk, like a worshipper of Vishnu, repeated his  customary thousand names.
 (h) The haughty temper of the official had quite left him in his sorrow  and anxiety, and had laid bare his human heart.
Answer:
(а) Happy memories of one’s past life come up when one is dying.
(b) The people had woken up at that time in the morning. They were busy with their daily routine. These helped him to walk his lonely way to the post office.
(c) Sleep is the last refuge for men or women to soothe one during cold which makes them its prey.
(d) When he was going to die soon, he let go his old memories (of the past) and took a new turn in life.
(e) The whole of the world has love and grief like the two sides of the same coin. Both love and separation are inescapable.
(f) The postmaster was an unfeeling man. He had a wooden face, sad and round one. He would keep sitting on his chair.
(g) It means that the clerk was bewildered due to some supernatural development. He was a worshipper of Lord Vishnu. So he repeated his customary thousand names to seek his protection against the supernatural mishap. (It is like we chant ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ when we are terrified greatly.)
(h) The postmaster shed his sorrow and anxiety. In that moment he saw the real human heart (when he put himself in Ali’s place, though for a moment).
Question 7.
LISTENING TASK
Now you are going to listen to an article about the break-up of the Joint Family system in India.
As you listen to the passage complete the boxes given below.
NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Literature Chapter 3 The Letter 7
Answer:
NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Literature Chapter 3 The Letter 8
Question 8.
WRITING TASK
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.
Answer:
10 January, 20 – 1.50 am
1 am overburdened with the feelings of doubt and remorse at what happened today. I saw Ali coming and knocking at the door in his same dress. I duly asked him to come in. He was leaning on his stick and had tears on his face. However, his features were unearthly. I tried to guess what that could be. But I could not. This made me shrink in fear. I talked about it with Lakshmi Das, and asked more about him. He told me that Ali had died three months ago. This left me in a troubled state of mind. I searched my mind to know who was that who had come to me in the early morning in the post office. Then I understood everything. It was Ali’s ghost which had visited me. I had insulted him while he was alive. I now started feeling guilty. I went to his grave and offered his letter from Miriam. This was my repentance.
I am feeling remorse now. In the beginning, I insulted Ali. I laughed at his genuine feelings of love for Miriam when he used to wait for a letter from her. I overlooked the human side of his emotions then. But very soon I found myself in the same predicament. I realised my foolishness towards Ali. I really regret that I should not have been harsh to Ali.
Question 9.
SPEAKING TASK
(a) The postmaster believes that he saw Ali. What do you think ? Discuss with your partner and present your views in front of the class.
(b) The postmaster was anxiously waiting for his ailing daughter’s news. On not getting any news he visits his daughter’s town. Now construct a dialogue between the postmaster and his daughter and enact it.
Answer:
(a) I think the postmaster is right in his believing that he saw Ali’s ghost. The text clearly shows it. The postmaster sitting in the office at night asks Ali’s ghost by saying “Come in, brother Ali.” He then ‘handed’ the letter to him. The narrator describes Ali leaning on a stick and wet tears appear on his face. However, his features are ‘hard’ but got softened after getting the letter. Secondly, the postmaster shrinks back in fear and astonishment at unearthly light in the eyes of Ali’s ghost. Lakshmi Das hears the postmaster speak to Ali’s ghost. He even asks the postmaster about who it was that came to him.
(b) A dialogue between the postmaster and his daughter
Postmaster : Hello, daughter ! How are you now ? I was greatly worried about you as I couldn’t get the latest news about your condition.
Daughter : Hello, papa !I am now a bit well. I fell ill at once and no one could know what to do. My husband took me to hospital as I had gone into a coma. So all were worried and no one could inform you.
Postmaster : It is now ok. In fact I lay awake all night due to worry as I wanted to know about your condition. I couldn’t come to you at night as there was no transport. Your illness had almost killed me.
Daughter : Papa, you’re right. But I never knew I would have to undergo such a horrible situation, You know the abdominal pain nearly killed me.
PostrTuister : What thd the doctors tell of your illness?
Daughter : They say it is something related to the brain. They are doing tests. The real thing shall be out after the reports of the tests.
Postmaster : Ah ! it is really very sad that you being so young should have some brain problem !! am really scared. I feel as if my own body is being ripped apart.
Daughter : I’m very sorry, papa. But what can I do ? You know, who wants to be ill ? We must bear things as they come the natural way and shouldn’t complain.
Postmaster : Yes, daughter. You are right. But how can I make my heart understand ? My heart is always with you.
Daughter : I understand, papa 

Class 10 English Footprints Without Feet

  1. Chapter 1- A Triumph of Surgery
  2. Chapter 2- The Thief's Story
  3. Chapter 3- The Midnight Visitor
  4. Chapter 4- A Question of Trust
  5. Chapter 5- Footprints without Feet
  6. Chapter 6- The Making of a Scientist
  7. Chapter 7- The Necklace
  8. Chapter 8- The Hack Driver
  9. Chapter 9- Bholi
  10. Chapter 10- The Book That Saved the Earth

Class 10 English First Flight
  1. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 1- A Letter to God
  2. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 2- Long Walk to Freedom
  3. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 3- Two Stories About Flying
  4. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 4- From the Diary of Anne Frank
  5. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 5-The Hundred Dresses - I
  6. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 6- The Hundred Dresses - II
  7. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 7- Glimpses of India
  8. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 8- Mijbil the Otter
  9. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 9- Madam Rides the Bus
  10. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 10- The Sermon at Benares
  11. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 11- The Proposal




























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