The story Tyres deals with History, War and Love all through the story, going from the ordinary to the EXTRAordinary once and another again. The weekend before the winter holidays, in groups, we developed an activity in which we had to perform 11 questions based on the story Tyres by Adam Thorpe. I did it next to Violeta Juliá & Valentina Re. The following text is what we did:

1. Sum up his boyhood thoughts, opinions and feelings.

Raoul was a child that worked at his father’s tyre business since he was very little. He learnt very useful life lessons about the job, one of these was that he couldn’t “cut corners” because if he did it could lead to a man’s death. He was a very dedicated young man and everything he did he did it with lack of mistake. He wanted to pursue his father’s dream of eventually passing the tire shop to him. Moreover, he brought life to every object which was connected with the tyres business. He thought their inner tube was its soul and the outer casing of hard rubber was its body. There, he learnt to see a tyre as sad. Besides, he believed that the worn were the sad ones that laid each upon the other like humans in the yard. He, also, considered that his father’s idea was the one that would heap up the old, dead tyres at the ends of the fields. These were the legacy his father had given to him in his life days so he would never fall of the highest standards. All of these, represented how much did the business meant to him and his father.

2. What attitude does the father, Monsieur Andre Paulhan, have towards the Germans, the Resistance and to his son’s (Raoul) involvement in the war and resistance?

Raoul’s father was a neutral man upon the Germans and the Maquisards, he didn’t love them or hate them. This man only works for them repairing their cars to maintain his business. He didn’t want his son to be involved in war so he asked a friend of him to get him out of war.

3. Describe his first meeting and emotions with the young girl when Raoul was 14/15 in 1940 and three years later at 17/18. 

The first time he saw Cécile it was “love at first site”. He was young and it was obvious that his feelings for her were just a childish crush, not love. He described her as a pure and beautiful human being, he admires her gorgeous appearance. However he didn’t know how she really was like because he was a very shy man and he never dared to approach her. Three years later, at the age of 17, he had another “meeting” with this girl. He was working at the garage when he saw the girl riding her bike and a military vehicle was behind her. Raoul warned her and make signs to her so that she moved aside. Later she thanked him and they had their first conversation. Now that he was older it was a mature relationship and it wasn’t only a childish crush.

4. How do these lines reflect the Raoul’s feelings at the end of the story: “Someone who, if suddenly no longer there, can leave a hole in your heart, and a feeling of doom until the moment he or she reappears.”

This quotation shows that Raoul doubt about getting in love with the girl because if suddenly one day she left, she could leave his heart with a hole of emptiness, of love, that could never be closed. At the end of the story Cécile died and this hole is left in Raoul’s heart. Because of this we can identify a foreshadowing, because finally he ended as he thought he would end, with a hole of emptiness.

5. How involved in the Resistance does Raoul think that the young girl and his father are? What does the threat: “Try a nail or two” imply about the father?

Raoul was doubtful about the position of his father with the Germans and the Maquisards. His father fixed the German cars but he also fixed Maquisard cars. Because of this he got to the conclusion that his father was neutral and that it was all to maintain the business. Talking about the girl, he knew that she was involved in the resistance. Because of this reason, he sabotage the German car. Raoul loved the girl and he would do everything for her even if it means disappointing his father. The people knew that Raoul’s father fixed German cars but they hope that maybe he could sabotage one of their vehicles . When the man told Raoul, “Try a nail or two”, he was trying to say that if they didn’t sabotage a little bit the cars of the enemy, they would think that they support the German people.

6. What does Raoul do to bring the girl closer to him? How does his father react?

A month had passed since the girl had stopped to thank him and Raoul wanted to do something that would make her stop again. He saw her in the distance and, as a way of calling her attention, he poured stones and earth into the pot-holes. The girl stopped immediately, so his plan worked. Talking about Raoul’s father reaction, he was suspecting about this girl being in the life of his son. “Wipe that bloody stupid grin off your face or i’ll think you’re up to something”, when he saw his son gaiety, he wondered what was happening.

7. Describe Andre’s feelings about religion and about the Petain government.

Andre’s feelings about Catholics were not great. He “disliked Catholics with a two-hundred-year-old force flowing in his veins”, he hates catholics and he is against the Jews being killed by the Germans. The reason of why he is against the Jews being killed by the Germans is that most of his clients were Jews and they were being taken away by the enemy. From Andre’s point of view the war was a personal attack for his business, the war was taking his clients away from him and he was tired of that.

8. Finally the romance with Cecile Viala is in the open with Raoul’s family. How would you describe their feelings for each other?

After Raoul & Cècil started discovering each other and knowing much about them, the began to feel that they loved each other. “She shook hands with my father, and my sisters soon learned of my ‘affair’. They teased me about it, but I was happy to be teased”; Raoul was so in love that when Cècile met his family, although his sisters bothered him about her, he was happy about it, he felt ‘proud’ that, now, he could be mocked because of his ‘affair’. They were so in love that they did not want to be set apart, instead, be every moment they could together.

9. What has prompted Raoul to sabotage the Gestapo officer’s inner tube?

At the moment Raoul had to place the tyre of the German officer, he remembered the words of the man in the café, the first time war was closer him, when the three ripped bodies of the three good men in the floor laid, “One of them was a local man, the son of the butcher, a little older than myself. The other two I did not know.”, and the execution of Petit Ours, swaying from the bridge at the view of everybody, “The following week they looped a rope around the long neck of Petit Ours, whom they’d caught in a botched raid of the gendarmerie, and pushed him from the town bridge”, so he decided to shave the rubber of the inner tube of the tyre of the German vehicle.

10. What is the faint hope Raoul has for Cecile as she accepts the ride in the car?

When Raul sees that her beloved accepts a ride in a car he had recently sabotaged he holds on to the hops that the ride would be just fine and she would acquire some interesting information about the German. “The Long and the short of it was that she was forced – I can only think that the appropriate word – forced by circumstance (my bref is that she hoped to extract something useful from the enemy in that brief drive into the town)” In this part he is explaining what he hopes will happen, he is trying to imagine the best case scenario but truly he can realize that the chances of this happening are very slim.

11. The story ends with a reluctant mood to shift with the times. Explain how this is true.

Once we realize Cecile has died in the car crash the rest of the story is very gloomy and depressing because Raul has lost the love of his life because of something he shouldn’t have done, he disobeyed what he has been taught his whole life and it ends up affecting him. We can see that in the past he was depressed and i the present he was too. He never stopped loving her. “For myself , though , it was the beginning of winter, not the end. I leave fresh flowers every year on the anniversary.” This is the part where the story transforms into the present, in the present he still loves her, not a healthy love. He didn’t go on with his life, instead he mourned for the rest of his sad days. He never got married and he never had children. This quotation talks about “the beginning of winter” in my opinion this winter he is talking about is a metaphor, he really wants to say that i was the beginning of very dark days filled with suffering and pain.

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