The Best Christmas Present in the World
Question 1: What did the author find in a junk shop?
Answer: The author found a roll-top desk made of oak wood in the junk shop. It was badly out of shape and needed lots of repair. But as a new one would have cost him a fortune he thought of buying it.
Question 2: What did he find in a secret drawer? Who do you think had put it in there?
Answer: The author found a letter written by a person named Jim. It was Jim's last letter to the recipient Mrs. Macpherson. So, there is every chance that Mr. Macpherson had put it there.
Question 3: Who had written the letter, to whom, and when?
Answer: Jim Macpherson had written the letter to his wife Mrs. Macpherson on during December 1914. It was written during the First World War.
Question 4: Why was the letter written — what was the wonderful thing that had happened?
Answer: German and British army was fighting a battle. The soldiers were living in their trenches to fight enemy. For soldiers writing and receiving letter was the only way to be in touch with their family members. Nowadays telephone has taken over the role of letters. Think how painful and wonderful it would have been to wait for weeks for a letter to arrive. The wonderful thing was, in spite of enmity they celebrated Christmas together. This shows that festivals are above all personal enmity. In our country there is a saying that during Holi you should embrace your friends and foes alike.
Question 5: What jobs did Hans Wolf and Jim Macpherson have when they were not soldiers?
Answer: Hans Wolf was a musician playing cello in an orchestra and Jim Macpherson was a school teacher. During early 20th century it was common for people to get enrolled into army during wars. Even today certain countries, like Israel, make it mandatory for all adults to serve in military for a certain period.
Question 6: Had Hans Wolf ever been to Dorset? Why did he say he knew it?
Answer: Hans Wolf had never been to Dorset. He was fond of reading books and had good command over English language. He read so much about Dorset in books that he was familiar with Dorset. That is why he said that he knew Dorset.
Question 7: Do you think Jim Macpherson came back from the war? How do you know this?
Answer: The written statement on the letter saying that that was the last letter from Jim and that should be buried with Mrs. Macpherson indicates that Jim didn't return from war.
Question 8: Why did the author go to Bridport?
Answer: The author wanted to ensure that the letter should reach the real owner and her last wish should be fulfilled. Even a criminal going to the guillotine is asked his last wishes and efforts are taken to fulfill those wishes. The address written on the envelope gave a hint to the author to try finding Mrs. Macpherson in Bridport.
Question 9: How old was Mrs Macpherson now? Where was she?
Answer: Mrs. Macpherson was now over hundred years old. She was in a nursing home.
Question 10: Who did Connie Macpherson think her visitor was?
Answer: Mrs. Macpherson thought the author to be Jim himself. Probably her old age, her poor health coupled with her sense of void after Jim's death created such hallucination for her.
Question 11: Which sentence in the text shows that the visitor did not try to hide his identity?
Answer: Author’s statement about how he found the desk and ultimately the letter shows that he did not try to hide his identity.
Question 12: For how long do you think Connie had kept Jim's letter? Give reasons for your answer.
Answer: Connie must have kept Jim's letter till her last breath. This can be assumed on the basis of her reactions when she found the letter.
Question 13: Why do you think the desk had been sold, and when?
Answer: The desk must have been sold as junk. It may have been sold after the demise of Macpherson.
Question 14: Why do Jim and Hans think that games or sports are good ways of resolving conflicts? Do you agree?
Answer: Jim and Hans think that games or sports are good ways of resolving conflicts because nobody dies in a game. They were of the opinion that a game does not end in a child becoming orphan or a wife becoming widow.
Question 15: Do you think the soldiers of the two armies are like each other, or different from each other? Find evidence from the story to support your answer.
Answer: Soldiers of the two armies are similar to each other. They celebrate the same festival in the same way. All of them love to sing carols and to dance. They love to eat and drink, to enjoy the life. They love to share their food with each other.
Question 16: Mention the various ways in which the British and the German soldiers become friends and find things in common at Christmas.
Answer: The British and the German soldiers smile at each other and wish merry Christmas to each other. They offer their food to each other. They share drinks and laugh at jokes. They play and enjoy a game of football. Thus they become friends on that occasion.
Question 17: What is Connie’s Christmas present? Why is it "the best Christmas present in the world"?
Answer: The letter from Jim was the Christmas present for Connie. It was from her beloved husband who was no more in this world. She received the letter after a gap of so many years, that too from an unknown person. The warmth in that letter made it the best Christmas present in the world.