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- LESSON 1 : THIRD LEVEL BY JACK FINNEY
There are three different aspects to the third level.
● A futuristic projection of time travel and space travel
● Explores escapism – ‘a temporary refuge’ / brief respite from the stressful everyday
life by day-dreams, fantasies, and hobbies.
● an intersection in time and space
It explores the ideas of time travel, space travel and the role of pastimes or hobbies and thus
leaving the interpretation of the story open-ended. It conveys an idea of randomness.
- A story that weaves together a psychological journey of the narrator into past,
present and moves towards future.
- Protagonist Charley : a)31 year old b)American
c)wearing a tan gabardine suit and d)straw hat with the fancy
band, e)in a hurry to reach home f) wife Louisa
narrates his unusual experience of having been to the third level of Grand Central
- Discovers a)smaller rooms b)fewer ticket windows and
c)wooden information booth d) man in the booth wore:-. 1. green eyeshade.
- long black sleeve protectors everyone dressed like 1890’s
e)brass spittoons f)flickering gas lights g)a man pulling gold
pocket watch from his vest pocket h) men with old fashioned
beard,sideburns,fancy mustaches i) women wearing dress with
leg-of-mutton sleeves and skirts; high buttoned shoes. j) small Currier and Ives
locomotive engine with funnel shaped stack k)’The World’ :-
- a newspaper not been published for years 2. dated June 11 1894
- lead story of President Cleveland.
- Goes to ticket window to get two tickets to Galesburg, Illinois :.
a) wonderful town. b) big houses. c) huge lawns
d)plenty of trees e)people with lots of leisure time and surprises.
- Clerk says that it is not the currency and Charley will be put behind the bars.
- Charley notices that the money was a)old-style
b)half as big as the money he had. c) doesn’t want to get in
trouble. d)gets out fast.
- Tells his wife Louisa about the Third Level at Grand Central station.
- Wife worried take him to his psychiatrist friend, Sam.
- Sam refuses to believe Charley. Says: a) it was a waking dream
wish fulfillment b)could not bear the stress of modern world full of :-
c)insecurity, fear, war and just wanted to escape. d)stamp collection a refuge
- Charley desperate to go to Galesburg: a)exchanges new currency for old
b)could never find the Third Level
- His psychologist friend Sam disappears.
- Charley is sure that Sam has found the third level portal and time travelled to
Galesburg in 1894.
- One day while going through his stamp collection, he finds a first day cover.
- The paper inside it contains a letter dated July 18,1894 bearing Galesburg address
written by Sam.
- Sam is enjoying at the Dally’s a.someone is playing a piano b.singing ‘Seeing Nelly
Home’ on the front porch and c.has been invited over for lemonade.
- Charley goes to the stamp and coins Store and finds that Sam had bought old
currency worth $800.
- Charley is sure that Sam has set up a feed and grain business there because in 1894
there was no need of a psychiatrist.
- One word:
Stamp collecting: Philately.
Coin collecting: Numismatics
- Question Answers
1.What does Charley think of Grand Central?
Ans. Charley thought that Grand Central was
● growing like a tree,
● pushing out new corridors and stair cases, like roots.
● one could lose his way very easily and
● each time discover some new part of it.
● there was probably a long tunnel that nobody knew,
● under the city, on its way to Times Square, and
● another to Central Park.
● had been an exit, a way of escape from the modern world full of insecurity, fear, war,
worry and all the rest of it to an era of peace.
2.Do you think that the third level was a medium of escape for Charley? Why?
Ans. According to Charley’s psychiatrist Sam, it was
● just a waking dream wish fulfillment and provided escape from modern day fear,
insecurity, worry, etc.
On the other hand, the vivid description that Charley provides
● indicates that the place really existed and later
● Sam exchanging money,
● disappearing and
● sending a letter in the first day cover
perhaps proves that it was not an escape but a reality.
3.What does the third level refer to?
Ans.From a literal perspective, the third level refers to the
● third floor at the Grand Central Railway station.
Symbolically, however, it refers
● to some kind of a portal that can help one travel back in time, (in this case, 1894)
The first interpretation is supported
● by Charley’s description of how while going back home, he from Grand Central had
turned into different lobbies but exited at some other place.
Second interpretation is more interesting that
● the third level is a portal,
● an exit into another town and another town.
● Charley ended up in a railway station in 1894.
● Sam, his psychiatrist friend was able to travel, from the third level to Galesburg in
● as discovered by his letter addressed to Charley’s grandfather
● because Charley was not born yet in that time.
The third explanation is as given by Sam that
● the third level is a mere figment of the imagination.
● Charley was “unhappy” and probably
● stressed out from work so
● it was an escape mechanism built by the brain
● to give the mind some rest.
So one might argue that the third level was nothing but a daydream, fantasy or something
imagined on the spur of the moment.
4.Describe briefly the scene at the station as seen by Charley.
Ans. Refer to point 3 given above.
5.Describe Galesburg, as it existed in the year 1894?
Ans.Refer to point 4 given above.
6.What do you infer from Sam’s letter to Charley?
Ans.Sam had managed to find
● ‘the corridor that leads to the third level at Grand Central Station’ and
● travelled back in time to the Galesburg in the year 1894 is
● evident from his letter to Charley.
The final proof that Sam had travelled back in time and space is also evident from the way
● the letter ends up in Charley’s stamp collection.
Another important proof is
● the address Galesburg, Illinois, and
● the date July 18, 1894.
● found it and had
● been there for two weeks.
● admired the place as
● it was peaceful,
● people were warm and
● urged Charley and Louisa to continue their search for the place and not to give up.
The letter brought out the difference between the two worlds –
● the peaceful one of the pre-world war era and
● the modern world full of stress, worry and insecurities.
● People led a life of fun, enjoyment and little pleasures meant a lot to them in 1894.
The letter confirms Charley’s belief in the third level.
7.’Grand Central was growing like a tree, pushing out new corridors and stair cases,
like roots.’ Explain.
Ans. The symbol of the “tree, pushing out new corridors and staircases like roots,” suggests
a highway, a portal into space (place) and time. The multiple corridors take you to different
time-zones and different places.
8.How do people attempt to overcome the insecurity, fear, war, worry and stress of
the modern world?
Ans. According to Sam, the psychiatrist in The Third level, people attempt to escape from
the stress and worries of the modern world through fantasizing, day-dreaming and taking up
hobbies like stamp collecting. It is an attempt to escape and overcome the insecurity, fear,
worry and stress of life in the modern world.
What Charley had experienced, according to his psychiatrist friend Sam, was a waking
dream wish fulfilment in which he lived his fantasy of travelling back in time when people
were more relaxed and laid back, things were more peaceful and the air was fresher. It is
given in the lesson that stamp-collecting, is a ‘temporary refuge from reality.’
Taking up hobbies, sports, adventure activities do have benefits. They provide us with a
much-needed break from hectic work schedules. Pastimes help divert the mind from work
and provide a moment for the brain to cope with mental fatigue. Hobbies provide people with
coping strategies and widen their social circles.
Hobbies like stamp-collecting and coin-collecting help keep the past alive.