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Baccalauréat 2002 - Section Littéraire


    "Norton," Sheppard said, "I saw Rufus Johnson yesterday. Do you know what he was doing ?"
The child looked at him with a kind of half attention, his eyes forward but not yet engaged. They were a paler blue than his father's as if they might have faded like the shirt ; one of them listed, almost imperceptibly, toward the outer rim.
"He was in an alley," Sheppard said, "and he had his hand in a garbage can. He was trying to get something to eat out of it." He paused to let this soak in. "He was hungry," he finished, and tried to pierce the child's conscience with his gaze.
The boy picked up the piece of chocolate cake and began to gnaw it from one corner.
"Norton," Sheppard said, "do you have any idea what it means to share?"
A flicker of attention. "Some of it's yours," Norton said.
"Some of it's his," Sheppard said heavily. It was hopeless. Almost any fault would have been preferable to selfishness - a violent temper, even a tendency to lie.
The child turned the bottle of ketchup upside-down and began thumping ketchup onto the cake.
Sheppard's look of pain increased. "You are ten and Rufus Johnson is fourteen," he said. "Yet, I'm sure your shirts would fit Rufus". Rufus Johnson was a boy he had been trying to help at the reformatory (1) for the past year. He had been released two months ago. "When he was in the reformatory, he looked pretty good, but when I saw him yesterday, he was skin and bones. He hasn't been eating cake with peanut butter on it for breakfast."
The child paused. "It's stale," he said. "That's why I have to put stuff on it."
Sheppard turned his face to the window at the end of the bar. The side lawn, green and even, sloped fifty feet or so down to a small suburban wood. When his wife was living, they had often eaten outside, even breakfast, on the grass. He had never noticed then that the child was selfish. "Listen to me," he said, turning back to him, "look at me and listen."
The boy looked at him. At least his eyes were forward.
"I gave Rufus a key to this house when he left the reformatory - to show my confidence in him and so he would have a place he could come to and feel welcome any time. He didn't use it, but I think he'll use it now because he's seen me and he's hungry. And if he doesn't use it, I'm going out and find him and bring him here. I can't see a child eating out of garbage cans."
The boy frowned. It was dawning upon him that something of his was threatened.
Sheppard's mouth stretched in disgust. "Rufus's father died before he was born", he said. "His mother is in the state penitentiary. He was raised by his grandfather in a shack without water or electricity and the old man beat him every day. How would you like to belong to a family like that ?"
"I don't know," the child said lamely.
"Well, you might think about it sometime," Sheppard said.
Sheppard was City Recreational Director. On Saturdays he worked at the reformatory as a counselor, receiving nothing for it but the satisfaction of knowing he was helping boys no one else cared about. Johnson was the most intelligent boy he had worked with and the most deprived.
Norton turned what was left of the cake over as if he no longer wanted it.
"You started that, now finish it," Sheppard said.
"Maybe he won't come," the child said and his eyes brightened slightly.

(1) reformatory : a special school for delinquents who are not sent to jail.

Flannery O'Connor
Everything that Rises Must Converge


1.Who are the main characters? Give their ages, when possible, and their relationship.

2. Where does the scene take place and at what time of day ?

3. Compare the social background and family life of the two boys. (70 words)

4. Using four quotations, show that Rufus doesn't have enough to eat.

5. Explain the evolution in Rufus's situation and physical condition over the past year. (30 words)

6. How did Sheppard help the boy over this period and what does he plan to do in the near future ? (60 words)

7. What do we learn about the father's personality throughout the text ? (50 words)

8. What weakness (es) does Sheppard notice in his son' s character ?

9. What is the point of this conversation between father and son ?

10. "Well, you might think about it sometime" (l. 47)
Rephrase the sentence and make the meaning of "might" clear.

11. Explain the evolution of Norton's reactions to what his father is telling. (50 words)

12. Choose one of the following essays. (200 words)
a) The following day Rufus comes to Sheppard's house.
Imagine what happens.
b) Confidence between adults and teenagers is a key to growing up. Discuss.






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