Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Class XII - English - VIstas - The Third Level by Jack Finney - Summary, Explanation and FAQs

About the Author

Jack Finney, a renowned American author, was born on October 2, 1911 in the vibrant city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Despite losing his father at the tender age of three, Finney persevered and went on to attend Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He was originally named John Finney but was later renamed Walter Braden Finney in honor of his father, though he remained known as Jack throughout his life.

Finney was a prolific writer, best known for his captivating science fiction and thriller novels. Two of his most famous works, "The Body Snatchers" and "Good Neighbor Sam," were adapted into popular films that captivated audiences worldwide.

Throughout his life, Finney received numerous accolades for his contributions to literature. He passed away on November 16, 1995 in Greenbrae, California, leaving behind a rich legacy. In recognition of his exceptional achievements, Finney was posthumously awarded the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.

It's worth noting that Finney's novels "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Invasion" were also adapted into movies, making him one of the few authors to have multiple works brought to the big screen. His enduring legacy continues to captivate readers and moviegoers alike, cementing his place as one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th century.

Summary of The Third Level

Jack Finney's "The Third Level" is a mesmerizing tale that seamlessly blends fact and fiction, ultimately exploring a man's desire to escape from the harsh realities of the present day. Charley, the protagonist, is unhappy with his life and his wife, yearning for a simpler time without the constant stress of war and societal pressures. His psychiatrist friend, Sam, believes that Charley's passion for stamp collecting is a form of escape into the past.

At Grand Central Station, where there were only two levels, Charley stumbles upon a third level by chance. He is constantly discovering new doorways, corridors, and tunnels, leading him to believe that the station is continually expanding like the roots of a giant tree. On this mysterious third level, Charley finds himself transported to a bygone era, complete with locomotives, brass spittoons, and naked gaslights. He longs to escape to Galesburg, a town he has only dreamt of, but his journey is nearly thwarted when he is mistaken for a cheater due to the old-fashioned currency he uses to pay his fare. Charley is forced to run back into the present day and never finds the third level again.

However, Sam, the skeptic, manages to locate the third level and successfully escapes to Galesburg of 1894. This gripping story highlights the power of the human imagination and the desire for escapism in the face of overwhelming reality. With its vivid imagery and clever plot twists, "The Third Level" is a timeless classic that continues to captivate readers.

Theme of The Third Level

The captivating tale of 'The Third Level' delves into the exciting genre of time travel. Jack Finney, a distinguished author who received the World Fantasy Award, skillfully merges fantasy and reality to paint a vivid picture of time travel. The story follows Charley, the protagonist, who yearns to journey to the third level - a serene and joyful world set in Galesburg, Illinois in 1894.

Aside from time travel, the story also explores the theme of escapism, a psychological refuge from the harsh realities of modern life. Charley's wife, Louisa, does not object to his desire to stay in the past, and Sam is equally content having left his previous profession behind.

At its core, 'The Third Level' exposes the vulnerable side of humanity. When faced with countless challenges, we humans often crave a respite from the chaos and search for possible avenues of escape. This captivating story highlights the intersection of time - an illusionary and dream-like experience that is not confined to the realm of sleep.

Charactersketch of Charley - The Third Level

Charley, a 31-year-old man who favored tan gabardine suits and straw hats, was in a hurry one night after work and decided to take the subway at Grand Central Station. As he navigated the station's two levels, he stumbled upon an unfamiliar exit that led him to a third level through a long, winding corridor.

On this third level, Charley observed fewer ticket windows, gas lights flickering in the darkness, and women dressed in old-fashioned, fully-covered attire. He picked up a newspaper from June 11, 1894, and discovered he could travel to any location in the United States in 1984 from this third level at Grand Central. Excitedly, Charley purchased two tickets for himself and his wife, Louisa, to Galesburg, Illinois, a peaceful destination far from the worries and insecurities of modern times.

Despite his enthusiasm, the clerk refused the currency Charley offered, and he left, planning to return with older currency. Unfortunately, he never found the corridor that led to the third level again.

When Charley confided in his psychiatrist friend, Sam Weiner, about his experience, Sam called it a "waking dream wish fulfillment." Sam believed Charley sought an escape from the present day's troubles and anxieties, which made him unhappy.

Charley was an intriguing character who often daydreamed and sought to escape the world's harsh realities. He was a romantic at heart, preferring the charm and simplicity of the past to the complexities and stresses of modern life. His adventures in the third level highlighted his deep longing for peace and serenity, which he found difficult to attain in the present.

Chractersketch of Sam - The Third Level

Sam Weiner is a character in the story "The Third Level", and he is Charley's friend and psychiatrist. He plays a significant role in the story as he is the one who concludes that the third level is a product of Charley's imagination, a way to escape the pressures of modern living.

Sam disappears from Charley's life, but his influence remains. Charley discovers a first-day cover in his collection, signed by Sam and from Galesburg, Illinois, dated July 18, 1894. It is revealed that Sam had moved to Galesburg, Illinois, in 1894 and set up a hay, feed and grain business, which was something he always wanted to do.

Sam's decision to leave his profession as a psychiatrist and start a new life in a different time and place shows that he was also seeking an escape, just like Charley. It adds another layer of complexity to the story and highlights the theme of escapism. Despite his disappearance, Sam's presence is felt in the story, and his actions have a significant impact on the plot.

Charactersketch of Luisa - The Third Level

At first, Charley's wife, Louisa, wasn't too happy about what Sam suggested regarding Charley's state of mind. This happened after Charley had shared his experience of visiting the third level of the Grand Central Station in New York. However, Sam went on to clarify that Charley wasn't unhappy in his marriage, but rather dissatisfied with the way things are in the modern world. He felt there was too much insecurity, fear, war, and worry, and to escape from it all, his mind had found solace in the utopian world of the third level.

Louisa didn't really believe in the existence of the third level until she saw a note sent by Sam himself from Galesburg, Illinois, dated July 18, 1894. This gave her the confirmation she needed, and she became actively involved in searching for the third level along with Charley.

Frequently Asked Questions - The Third Level

Q1. Why did Charley meet a psychiatrist?


Charley met a psychiatrist, since he was in a dilemma. He felt sure that he had been on the third level of the Grand Central Station, which everyone knows has only two levels. Even the Presidents of the railroads would swear on a stack of timetables that there were only two levels.

Q2. What was the psychiatrist’s diagnosis?


According to the psychiatrist, Charley's unhappiness stemmed from the pressures of modern-day living, which was characterized by insecurity, fear, war, and worry. The psychiatrist diagnosed Charley as someone who desired an escape from these negative aspects of the world.

Q3. What proof did the psychiatrist provide?


The psychiatrist and Charley's friends claimed that his stamp-collecting and collection of first-day covers were signs that he sought a temporary escape from reality, without providing any specific proof to back up their assertion.

Q4. What was Charley’s argument when the psychiatrist told him that the stamp collection was a temporary refuge from reality?


When the psychiatrist suggested that Charley's stamp collection was a temporary escape from reality, Charley countered by arguing that his grandfather lived in peaceful times yet was the one who started the collection. He believed that stamp collecting wasn't a mere temporary refuge from reality but a legitimate hobby, as evidenced by President Roosevelt's own collection.

Q5. How does Charley describe Galesburg, Illinois, 1894?


Charley depicted it as a charming town with a relaxed way of life, characterized by grand old frame houses, vast lawns, towering trees, and a serene atmosphere. In the summertime, locals could be seen lounging on their lawns, with men puffing on cigars and women fanning themselves with palm-leaf fans. It was a time when the first World War was still two decades away, and the second World War was yet to happen, forty years into the future.

Q6. What is a first-day cover?


A first-day cover is an envelope or postcard that is stamped on the first day that a new postage stamp is issued. It is usually cancelled with a special postmark indicating the date and location of the stamp's first day of issue. Collectors often keep first-day covers as a commemorative item or for their historical value.

Q7. What role does the first-day cover play in the story?


One evening, while sorting through his stamp collection, Charley stumbled upon a first-day cover that seemed out of place. The cover was addressed to his grandfather at his home in Galesburg, dated July 18, 1894. Upon further inspection, Charley discovered that instead of a blank sheet of paper, the envelope contained a letter from Sam. In the letter, Sam urged Charley to return to the third level with Louisa and to continue their search until they found it.

Q8. What was the content of the note that Sam wrote to Charley?


Sam claimed that he had discovered the third level and had already spent two weeks there. He described it as a place of peacefulness, tranquility, and serenity. Sam urged Charley and Louisa to continue their search for the third level until they found it, as he believed it was worth the effort.

Q9. How was Charley often lost on the Grand Central Station?


Charley had visited the Grand Central Station countless times. However, he often found himself lost in new doorways and corridors that he had never seen before. On one occasion, he entered a tunnel and emerged in the lobby of a hotel. Another time, he found himself in an office building, completely disoriented.

Q10. How did Charley compare the Grand Central to a huge tree? Why?

Charley had a knack for discovering new tunnels and staircases at the Grand Central Station. He started to suspect that the station was like a colossal tree, constantly growing and expanding by pushing out new corridors and tunnels like roots extending deeper into the ground.


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