Saturday, 4 June 2016

BSc BA English Notes Short Stories A Passion in the Desert (Honore de Balzac) Summary and Question Answers

BSc BA English Notes Short Stories A Passion in the Desert (Honore de Balzac) Question Answers

Q. Discuss this story as a fantasy?
A fantasy means a play of the imagination to present the action, characters and setting that are “impossible under ordinary conditions or in the normal course of human events.” A fantasy is about life, but unlike the realities of life”. 
This short story is of course a fantasy in which a young soldier develops feelings of friendship for a female panther that too feels strong attachment with him. The panther lives in the desert and is very happy to see another living creature near itself. The soldier runs away from the custody of Arabs and takes refuge in her cave. In the start he is afraid of her but later they develop a master-pet relationship and his fear is diminished to a great extent.
Their relation itself is incredible but the display of different human emotions by the panther looks even more marvelous. She shows the emotions of love, friendship, and an urge for companionship. At the end she even displays the strong reaction due to the feelings of jealousy. This story looks an exaggerated presentation of the tool of “pathetic fallacy”. The story reminds the reader of William Blake’s poetry where lions and wolves shelter and protect the little children. So the panther and her love transport us to an ideal land where there is no danger of wild animals but the natural feeling of insecurity present in the human heart leads the soldier to kill his companion. Thus it becomes a permanent regret in his heart.

Q. Who was the soldier?
The hero of the story was a twenty-two years old French soldier who was part of Napoleon Bonaparte’s military excursion in Egypt. The Arabs made him captive and took him to the desert with them. They travelled constantly to escape from the French army and took rest only at nighttime. One night they tied the hands of the soldier and all of them went to sleep. This was a vital chance for the soldier to run away and he instantly availed it. He took a scimitar and a gun and jumped over a horse, galloping at full pace. On the way, his horse died because of fatigue and he was left to himself. He started walking in a very low spirit; the boundless desert was fearsome for him. It spread far and wide like an unending sea with the scorching sun shining overhead. He reached an oasis after the sunset and carelessly slept on a granite rock under a palm tree. He was tired of the terrible conditions in the desert and his fear of death had been decreased a lot. When he got up the next morning, the sun was hot and tremendous heat was being emitted from the granite rock. He got up in a very low morale. He hugged a palm tree and started crying because of his lonely dejected state. The immensity and brutality of the desert was steadily killing him. But then he got up and tried to find some sheltered place. Luckily he was able to spot a cave in the rock nearby and it was good enough to spend a hot day of desert in it. The cave had some signs of having been used by some other person some time before because there was a tattered piece of rug lying there. He tried to cut a palm tree to shelter the facade of the cave but he couldn’t do so. He went inside to sleep, and thus started his incredible tale of adventure and passionate camaraderie.

Q. Describe the initial encounter of the soldier with the female panther?
Due to fatigue, the soldier instantly fell asleep in the cave.  It was nearly midnight when his sleep was disturbed by a loud sound of an even but strong breathing nearby. He contracted his eyes and saw two tiny yellow lights blazing in the darkness. He was unable to see clearly in the dark cave so he didn’t know what creature was lying besides him. Was it a lion, a tiger, or a crocodile?
His fear was tremendous as his ignorance led him to imagine all terrors at once. He endured the cruel torture, noting every variation of the breathing close to him, without daring to make the slightest movement. After some time the moon rose and he was able to see a great panther lying in the den, inches away from him. The spots on its body were clearly visible and it was curled up like a big dog. He could hear his own apprehensive heart that was beating very loudly. He didn’t know what to do against such a gigantic enemy.
He thought of shooting it with his gun but the distance between them was so little that the muzzle of gun extended beyond the animal…and… if the animal woke up!..… The thought made his limbs rigid. Twice he placed his hand on dagger so that he could cut her head off but felt that it wasn’t that easy and to miss would be to die for certain. So he thought to give himself a chance and wait till morning. At dawn, he could see the bloodstained muzzle and paws of the panther that meant it wasn’t hungry at least at that time. It was an extremely powerful and beautiful female panther; the soldier’s courage was at its lowest edge. But then he thought that he might have been killed by the Arabs when he tried to escape the day before yesterday, so he took himself as good as dead already and waited bravely for his enemy’s awakening.
On sunrise the panther suddenly opened her eyes, stretched her body and yawned…. Suddenly her eyes fell on the soldier and she started staring at him steadily without moving. The rigid lustrous eyes made him shudder, especially when the animal walked towards him. But he looked at her caressingly, staring into her eyes in order to magnetize her; then with a movement both affectionate and gentle he passed his hand over her whole body, from head to tail. The animal waved its tail voluptuously, and her eyes grew gentle and she uttered a soft voice showing its pleasure and it started purring like a cat. Thus, she came to like the soldier and had been tamed.

Q. Describe the relationship and attachment of two diverse creatures of God?
The destiny brought two diverse creatures of God in close contact in the wilderness of a desert. In wartime a French soldier fled away from Arabs who had captured him. He happened to reach in a female panther’s den and gradually forged an affectionate association with her.  At first he was afraid of her presence and his previous knowledge about such wild animals wasn’t encouraging either. When she came closer to him he tried to caress and pamper her. This was the language of affection that she understood and lost her ferocity. She looked at him with soft loving eyes and behaved like a little cat that tried to get her master’s attention by all means. She was living alone in that desert and was happy to have a nice loving companion; the soldier too had developed a liking for her. He was greatly enamoured by her beauty and her coquettish manners.  She behaved like a lovely girl that’s why her movements reminded him of his beloved back in France. Her name was Virginie but he used to call her lovingly by the name of “Mignonne”. She was an extremely jealous girl and often threatened to hit him with a knife. He tried to make the panther answer to the name, “Mignonne” and soon she started responding to this name.
As was already planned, he stealthily came out of the cave one night and tried to escape. But he hadn’t covered much distance when he saw her running after him at full speed. Unluckily, at that very time a quicksand surrounded him and his life was in danger. She quickly came ahead, took hold of his collar and pulled him out of the madly whirling sand. This brought him back to her and he accepted it as his fate. She liked to play with him, and wanted to be gently stroked by his hands. Their relation had become very intimate and deep; he could interpret all the modes of her voice and her moods. The changing expression of her eyes wasn’t a meaningless thing for him anymore.
One day he saw a big eagle hovering on his head and was fully attentive to him, neglecting his feline beloved for a moment. Surprisingly, she behaved like his girlfriend Virginie and visibly she was jealous of the intruder who had deprived her of her lover’s attention. Her eyes flashed like lightening and she obviously was annoyed. In her annoyance she gently caught hold of his leg, the soldier got frightened and thought that she would devour him. In panic he plunged his dagger into her throat, she rolled over, giving a cry that froze his heart. He saw her dying but still looking at him with gentle loving eyes without any anger. Now the soldier regretted his act heavily and wanted to bring her back to life at any cost.
Then after a day, he was rescued by a group of army men who found him crying besides her dead body.   Since then he had been restless and wandering through many countries but he claimed that he had never seen anything like the desert and its sultana. All through his life he regretted his act of killing her who was so majestic and so loving.

Written by: Asad Hussain

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