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Baccalauréat 2005 - Sections: L


Looking for a house

Shortly after the riots, like many other white Detroiters, my parents began looking for a house in the
suburbs. The suburb they had their sights on was the affluent lakefront district of the auto
magnates : Grosse Pointe.
It was much harder than they ever expected. In the Cadillac, scouting the five Grosse Pointe
(the Park, the City, the Farms, the Woods, the Shores), my parents saw FOR SALE signs on many

lawns. But when they stopped in at the realty offices and filled out applications, they found that the
houses suddenly went off the market, or were sold, or doubled in price.
After two months of searching, Milton was down to his last real estate agent, a Miss Jane Marsh
of Great Lakes Realty. He had growing suspicions.
"This property is rather eccentric," Miss Marsh is telling Milton one September afternoon as she

leads him up the driveway. "It takes a buyer with a little vision." She opens the front door and leads
him inside. "But it does have quite a pedigree. It was designed by Hudson Clark." She waits for
recognition. "Of the Prairie School(1)".
Milton nods, dubiously(2). He swivels his head, looking over the place. He hadn't much cared for
the picture Miss Marsh had shown him over at the office. Too boxy-looking. Too modern.

"I'm not sure my wife would go for this kind of thing, Miss Marsh."
"I'm afraid we don't have anything more traditional to show at the moment."
She leads him along a spare white hallway and down a small flight of open stairs. And now, as
they step into the sunken living room, Miss Marsh's head begins to swivel, too. Smiling a polite
smile that reveals a rabbity expanse of upper gum(3), she examines Milton's complexion, his hair,

his shoes. She glances at his real estate application again.
"Stephanides. What kind of name is that?"
"It's Greek."
"Greek. How interesting."
More upper gum flashes as Miss Marsh makes a notation on her pad. Then she resumes the

tour : "Sunken living room. Greenhouse adjoining the dining area. And, as you can see, the house
is well supplied with windows."
"It pretty much is a window, Miss Marsh." Milton moves closer to the glass and examines the
backyard. Meanwhile, a few feet behind, Miss Marsh examines Milton.
"May l ask what business you're in, Mr. Stephanides?"

"The restaurant business."
Another mark of pen on pad. "Can I tell you what churches we have in the area? What
denomination are you?"
"I don't go in for that sort of thing. My wife takes the kids to the Greek church."
"She's a Grecian, too?"

"She's a Detroiter. We're both East Siders."
"And you need space for your two children, is that right?"
"Yes, ma'am. Plus we have my folks living with us, too."
"Oh, I see." And now pink gums disappear as Miss Marsh begins to add it all up. Let's see.
Southern Mediterranean. One point. Not in one of the professions. One point. Religion? Greek

church. That's some kind of Catholic, isn't it? So there's another point there. And he has his
parents living with him! Two more points! Which makes - five! Oh, that won't do. That won't do at
Discreetly, Miss Marsh now draws a tiny "5" next to "Stephanides" and circles it. As she does
so, however, she feels something. A kind of regret. The point system isn't her idea, after all. It was

in place long before she came to Grosse Pointe.
"Tell me more about this Hudson Clark fella," he now asks.
"Clark? Well, to be honest, he's a minor figure."
"Prairie School, eh?"
"Hudson Clark was no Frank Lloyd Wright, if that's what you mean."

"What are these outbuildings I see here?"
"I wouldn't call them outbuildings, Mr. Stephanides. That's making it a bit grand. One's a
bathhouse. Rather decrepit, I'm afraid. I'm not sure it even works. Behind that is the guest house.
Which also needs a lot of work."
"Bathhouse? That's different. You don't have to show me any more. Decrepit outbuildings or

not, I'll take it."
There is a pause. Miss Marsh smiles with her double-decker gums. "That's wonderful, Mr.
Stephanides," she says without enthusiasm. "Of course, it's all contingent on(4) the approval of the
But now it is Milton's turn to smile. "You don't have to bother with that," my father said, relishing
the moment. "I'll pay cash."
Over the barrier of the Point System, my father managed to get us a house in Grosse Pointe.

adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, 2002

(1) : Prairie School (l.13): 20th century school of architecture made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright (l.50)
(2) : dubious (l.14) : uncertain
(3) : upper gum (l.20) : pink flesh inside the mouth above the teeth
(4) : contingent on (l.58) : dependent on

Vous traiterez les questions dans l'ordre en indiquant clairement leur numéro sur votre copie. lorsque la réponse doit être développée, le nombre de mots ou d'éléments de réponse sera indiqué dans la question.

Read from line 1 to line 9

1.a. In what country and what region does the story take place?

b. In your own words, say where Grosse Pointe is situated and what sort of people live there.

c. What is the name of the narrator's father?

2.a. What do the narrator's parents want to do in Grosse Pointe?

b. In your words, explain why the narrator's father is becoming suspicious (line 9). (20-30 words)

Read from line 10 to line 38

3. Explain what Miss Marsh's job consists in.

4. What is Milton's opinion of the house? Pick out four elements to justify your answer.

5.a. Line 11 : "It takes a buyer with a little vision." what does Miss Marsh mean? (20-30 words)

b. Line 12 : "it was designed by Hudson Clark." What effects does she think that name will have on Milton?

c. What does Milton nod "dubiously" (line14)?

6. Focus on Milton's answers to Miss Marsh's questions.

What exactly do we learn about Milton and his family? (origin, religion, job, household).
(30-40 words)

7.a. Focus on lines 39 to 43. Why is this passage in italics?

b. Lines 42-43 "Oh, that won't do. That won't do at all." Explain what Miss Marsh means.

8.a. In your own words, explain how the "Point System" works. (30-40 words)

b. What does it reveal about the community of Grosse Pointe? (20 words)

9.a. In one sentence say what Miss Marsh's goal has become.

b. What arguments does she use? (20-30 words)

Read the whole text again.

10. Focus on the expressions on Miss Marsh's face (lines 19-20;25;39). How can these expressions be interpreted? (30-40 words)

11.a. From line 47 onwards, what shows that Milton is gaining control of the situation? (30-40 words).

b. Line 60 "But now it is Milton's turn to smile". Explain this sentence. (30-40 words)





Translate into French from line 10 ("This property is rather eccentric...") to line 17 ("... to show at the moment.")





Choose one of the following subjects (250 words approximately. Write down the number of words.)

Subject 1 - The Stephanides have moved into the house. A few months later, Milton sends a letter to a friend telling him about their life in Grosse Pointe. Write the letter.

Subject 2 - Can money always buy everything you want?






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