The Best Christmas Present in the World
By Michael Morpurgo
The narrator went to a junk shop and purchased a roll-top desk which was in bad condition. The narrator started its repairing on Christmas Eve and found a letter in its drawer. He read the letter. It was from Jim Macpherson to his wife Connie as written on top. After reading the letter, he found that Jim Macpherson was the leader of the England Army and he described that England and German were engaged in a war but on the Christmas morning a wonderful thing happened, first Germans wishes happy Christmas to English soldiers and same response was given by English also. The leaders shared their ideas and feelings with each other and celebrated Christmas by eating, laughing, talking and drinking. After that they played football match in which Germans won. In the night both troops sang carols and had a peaceful Christmas.
The author decided to gave this letter to Jim’s wife back. He went to the address which was written on the letter envelope where he found that an accidental fire caught in the house and she was in nursing home. He rushed to nursing home where he found Jim’s wife. As she was grown too old in the waiting of his husband he mistook the author by understanding him as Jim, his husband when narrator met him. She declared him as best Christmas present in the world.
Textual Questions and Exercises
Q1. What did the author find in a junk shop?
Ans. The author found a very old 19th century roll-top desk in a junk shop. It was made of oak. It was in a very bad condition. The roll-top was broken into several pieces. One of the legs was clumsily mended and there were scorch marks down one side.
Q2. What did he find in a secret drawer? Who do you think had put it in there?
Ans. In a secret drawer of a roll-top desk, the author found a small tin box. There was a piece of lined note paper sello-taped to its top. It had, ‘Jim’s last letter, received January 25, 1915. To be buried with me when the time comes” written on it. Most likely, it was put there by Mrs. Jim Macpherson, who was Jim’s wife. Her name and address were on the envelope inside the box.
Q3. Who had written the letter, to whom, and when?
Ans. Jim Macpherson had written the letter to his wife Connie Macpherson on December 26, 1914.
Q4. Why was the letter written-what was the wonderful thing that had happened?
Ans. Jim wrote the letter to tell his wife about a wonderful thing that had happened on Christmas day. The British and the Germans were engaged in a war, yet on this day, both the troops met in no man’s land. It was a thing of wonder because right in the middle of a war, the warring soldiers were making peace.
Q5. What jobs did Hans Wolf and Jim Macpherson have when they were not soldiers?
Ans. Hans Wolf was from Dusseldorf. He played the cello in the orchestra. Jim Macpherson was a school teacher from Dorset.
Q6. Had Hans Wolf even been to Dorset? Why did he say he knew it?
Ans. No, Hans Wolf had never been to Dorset. He had learned all about England from school and from reading books in English.
Q7. Do you think Jim Macpherson came back from the war? How do you know this?
Ans. No, it is most likely that Jim Macpherson did not come back from the war. In the sellotaped notepaper it was written that the letter was Jim’s last letter. Connie Macpherson did not receive any more letters from him. It indicates Jim Macpherson’s demise. The incident took place around the earlier part of the World war I in which the Germans had been victorious which implies the defeat of the British and the demise of Jim Macpherson.
Q8. Why did the author go to Bridport?
Ans. The author went to Bridport because that was the address where Mrs. Macpherson lived. The address on the letter read “Mrs Jim Macpherson, 12 Copper Beeches, Bridport, and Dorset. He wanted to give that letter back to her.
Q9. How old was Mrs. Macpherson now? Where was she?
Ans. Mrs. Macpherson was a hundred and one year old. She was in a nursing home in Burlington house, on the Dorchester road, on the other side of town.
Q10. Who did Connie Macpherson think her visitor was?
Ans. Connie Macpherson thought that her visitor was her husband, Jim.
Q11. Which sentence in the text shows that the visitor did not try to hide his identity?
Ans. The sentence which shows that the visitor did not try to hide his identity is, ‘I explained about the desk, about how I had found it, but I don’t think she was listening.’
Q12. For how long do you think Connie had kept Jim’s letter? Give reasons for your answer.
Ans. Connie must have kept Jim’s letter for a long time. This is because she told the narrator how she read it quite often every day so that she could feel that Jim was near her.
Q13. Why do you think the desk had been sold, and when?
Ans. The desk must have been sold when the house in which Connie Macpherson lived had caught fire. She was taken to a nursing home. All the burnt up things must have been sold after that.
Q14. Why do Jim and Hans think that games or sports are good ways of resolving conflicts? Do you agree?
Ans. Jim and Hans thought that games or sports are good ways of resolving conflicts because nobody dies in matches. No children are orphaned and no wives become widows. Due to these reasons, games are good ways for resolving conflicts. Wars only lead to death and devastation.
Q15. Do you think the soldiers of the two armies are like each other, or different from each other? Find evidence form the story to support your answer.
Ans. The soldiers of the two armies were like each other. Below are some instances from the story to prove:
- Both the armies celebrated Christmas
- Both the armies shared their food and spent time together in smoking, laughing, talking, drinking and eating.
- They played a football match and agreed that conflicts and disputes may be resolved by football match
- They agreed about the negative aspects of war and longed peace.
- They exchanged carols and hoped to unite with the families again.
Q16. Mention the various ways in which the British and the German soldiers become friends and find things in common at Christmas.
Ans. The British and the German troops celebrated Christmas with each other. They enjoyed each other’s food. All of them were smoking, laughing, talking, drinking and eating. Hans Wolf and Jim Macpherson shared the cake Connie had baked. They talked about Bathsheba, Gabriel Oak, Sergeant Troy and Dorset. They even talked about the books they liked. They agreed about everything. Both the troops played a game of football for which both Hans and Jim cheered, clapped hands and stamped feet. They also exchanged carols at night. In this way, they celebrated Christmas together, finding a lot in common between them.
Q17. What is Connie’s Christmas present? Why is it “the best Christmas present in the world?
Ans. When the narrator came to see Connie and gave her the box, she mistook him for her husband Jim. She thought that Jim had come home for Christmas. This was Connie’s Christmas present. It was the best Christmas present in the world for her because Jim had written in the letter that he would come home on Christmas. She had read that letter several times everyday to feel that he was near her. Now that he was finally there with her, she was extremely happy.
Q18. Do you think the title of this story is suitable for it? Can you think of any other title(s)?
Ans. Yes, the title of the story is suitable for it. The spirit of Christmas is the theme that prevails throughout the story. The message of Christmas peace and good will to all is brought out so clearly through the story. It was on a Christmas day, in the middle of a raging war, that two warring troops made peace. The moment of peace that the soldiers shared with each other was the best Christmas present for them. Again, it was on a Christmas day that the narrator went to see Mrs Macpherson. He went to return her husband’s letters to her. The letter was precious to her, but even more precious was her delusion that the narrator was her husband Jim, who she believed had returned as promised on a Christmas day. This was the best Christmas present in the world for her.
Suitable titles could be “A Christmas wish comes true!”, “Someday at Christmas…””The Christmas Message”.
Working with Language
1.(i) Read the passage below and underline the verbs in the past tense.
A man got on the train and sat down. The compartment was empty except for one lady. She took her gloves off. A few hours later the police arrested the man. They held him for 24 hours and then freed him.
Ans. (i) A man got on the train and sat down. The compartment was empty except for one lady. She took her gloves off. A few hours later the police arrested the man. They held him for 24 hours and then freed him.
(ii) Fill in the blanks using the correct form of the verbs in brackets.
My little sister is very naughty. When she________ (come) back from school yesterday, she had_______ (tear) her dress. We________ (ask) her how it had_____________ (happen). She______ (say) she________ (have, quarrel) with a boy. She___________ (have, beat) him in a race and he _____ (have, try) to push her. She_______ (have, tell) the teacher and so he_______ (have, chase) her, and she_________ ________ (have, fall) down and______ (have, tear) her dress.
Ans. (ii) My little sister is very naughty. When she came (come) back from school yesterday, she had torn (tear) her dress. We asked (ask) her how it had happened (happen). She said (say) she had quarreled (have, quarrel) with a boy. She had beaten (have, beat) him in a race and he had tried (have, try) to push her. She had told (have, tell) the teacher and so he had chased (have, chase) her, and she had fallen (have, fall) down and had torn (have, tear) her dress.
(iii) Underline the verbs and arrange them in two columns, Past and Earlier past.
(a) My friends set out to see the caves in the next town, but I stayed at home, because I had seen them already.
(b) When they arrived at the station, their train had left. They came back home, but by that time I had gone out to see a movie!
(c) So they sat outside and ate the lunch I had packed for them.
(d) By the time I returned, they had fallen asleep!
Ans. (iii) (a) My friends set out to see the caves in the next town, but I stayed at home, because I had seen them already.
(b)When they arrived at the station, their train had left. They came back home, but by that time I had gone out to see a movie!
(c)So they sat outside and ate the lunch I had packed for them.
(d)By the time I returned, they had fallen asleep!
|set out||had seen|
2. Find these phrasal verbs in the story.
|burn out||light up||look on||run out||keep out|
Write down the sentences in which they occur, consult a dictionary and write down the meaning that you think matches the meaning of the phrasal verb in the sentence.
(i) burn out: House number 12 turned out to be nothing but a burned-outshell, the roof gaping, the windows boarded-up.
(ii) light up: That was the moment her eyes lit up with recognition and her face became suffused with a sudden glow of happiness.
(iii) look on: Hans Wolf and I looked on and cheered, clapping our hands and stamping our feet, to keep out the cold as much as anything.
(iv) run out: The time came, and all too soon, when the game was finished, the schnapps and the rum and the sausage had long since run out, and we knew it was all over.
(v) keep out: Hans Wolf and I looked on and cheered, clapping our hands and stamping our feet, to keep out the cold as much as anything.