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The Midnight Visitor | NCERT Solution | English | Class X

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Lesson Architecture
Story -At-A- Glance

STORY-AT-A-GLANCE


Young writer Fowler meets Secret Agent Ausable:


  • Following Ausable down the musty corridor of the gloomy French hotel, which was a small room on the sixth and top floor, Fowler, a young writer, felt let down.

  • Ausable was a smart secret agent, but his profile did not match his constitution ( body structure) as he was short and very fat.

  • Fowler was interested to write about Ausable. For this reason he spent an evening with him.

  • Ausable entered the room, closed the door and turned on the light. He then told Fowler that they would soon be seeing a paper for which a lot of men and women had risked their lives and that report was very important.

Another Secret Agent Max seen with a Pistol :


  • When both Ausable and fowler entered Ausable’s hotel room, another secret agent named Max was waiting in the room with an automatic pistol pointed at them.

  • When Ausable asked Max what he was doing in his room and why he had come to his room, Max responded saying that he was waiting for the report that Ausable was likely to get soon concerning the secret missiles.

  • Ausable sank into a chair and started speaking that he would inform the management of the hotel as this was the second time that someone had climbed up from the balcony of the room.

  • Max replied that he came through the master key and did not know about the balcony. If he had known previously about the balcony, his work would have been much easier.

  • Ausable then started explaining things to Fowler that his room used to be a part of a large unit and the room next to his room was a living room. The room had a balcony that came till the window of his room.

  • Then Ausable reported that somebody did climb up the balcony last month as well. He also told Fowler that the management had told him that they would surely get it blocked but they still hadn’t done so.

  • Max looked at Fowler who was standing near Ausable. Max asked Fowler to sit down as there was still half an hour for the report to reach Ausable.

  • Ausable in a mocking tone said that it was not 30 minutes but 31 minutes were left for the report to reach them. The report was supposed to come in around 12:30 at night.

  • Ausable wished he had known how Max had come to know about the report. Max smiled mockingly and continued that he also wished he knew how Ausable and his team had got the report.



A Repeated Knock is heard outside Ausable’s Room

  • Then suddenly a knock is heard on the door and Max panics. Fowler is also scared by the knock on the door.

  • Ausable replied to Max’s question that it must be the police because he had asked them to check on him as the report he was likely to receive merited extra attention.

  • Ausable added that the door was unlocked and if he did not let him open the door, the police would enter anyway and would shoot Max if they saw him with a gun.

  • The knocking on the door got repeated and someone from outside called for Mr. Ausable twice.


Max jumps out of the window and Dies.


  • Max was sitting on the window sill with his gun pointing towards Mr. Ausable and Fowler.

  • Max then sat at the window sill with both legs outside.

  • The doorknob turned and Max fearing that the Police were entering the room, jumped from the sill to fall on the balcony.

  • There was a loud and shrill scream as Max jumped out of his window.

Ausable’s Presence of Mind rescues him from Max

  • Then the door opened, a waiter stood at the door with a tray, a bottle of wine and two glasses.

  • He came inside with a bottle that Ausable had ordered for. He opened the cork of the bottle deftly and left.

  • When Fowler enquired about the police, Ausable informed him that it was just the story he made about Police like he made a story about the balcony so as to get rid of Max.

  • Then again Ausable asked about the man outside the window to which Ausable replied that he would never come back as there was no balcony and that Max had fallen on the ground from the top floor of the building.



Theme


The theme of "The Midnight Visitor" revolves around espionage, mystery, and the unexpected alliances that can form in high-stakes situations. Some key themes explored in the story include:


1. Espionage and Intrigue: The story delves into the world of secret agents and espionage, highlighting the risks, challenges, and intrigue associated with their covert operations. Ausable's role as a smart secret agent and the mission to retrieve an important report from a dangerous spy add tension and excitement to the narrative.


2. Unlikely Partnerships: The story showcases how individuals from vastly different backgrounds and professions can come together and form unexpected partnerships. Fowler, a young writer, finds himself entangled in Ausable's world of espionage, and their collaboration demonstrates how unique skills can complement each other.


3. Courage and Risk: Both Ausable and Fowler display courage in their pursuit of the important report. They knowingly put themselves in danger for a cause they believe in, showing the lengths to which people may go when facing perilous situations.


4. Deception and Perception: The story plays with the theme of deception and perception. Ausable, a short and fat man, does not fit the typical image of a secret agent, challenging the stereotypical notions of appearance and abilities. It highlights the importance of looking beyond appearances to understand people and their true capabilities.


5. Thrill and Adventure: As the story unfolds, it takes readers on a thrilling adventure through the dimly lit streets of Paris, filled with suspense, unexpected twists, and the thrill of the chase.


Overall, "The Midnight Visitor" weaves these themes together to create an engaging and suspenseful narrative that keeps readers intrigued and entertained as they follow Ausable and Fowler on their mission.




NCERT Solution

READ AND FIND OUT ( Page 14)


Q1. How is Ausable different from other secret agents?

Ans: Ausable was different as he was a fat, sloppy and short man. He has a prominent American accent in spite of living in Paris for the past twenty years.


Q2. Who is Fowler and what is his first authentic thrill of the day?

Ans: Fowler was a young writer who was interested to write about Ausable.

His first authentic thrill of the day is experienced when he and Ausable on entering the latter’s hotel room discovered that a man was standing half way across the room holding a small automatic pistol that is pointed at them.



READ AND FIND OUT ( Page 15)


Q1. How has Max got in?


Ans: Max has got inside Ausable’s hotel room on the sixth floor by making use of a passkey to the door.


Q2. How does Ausable say he got in?


Ans: Ausable says that Max go in through the balcony that belonged to the next apartment, but extends below his window.



Think About It ( Page 18)


1. “Ausable did not fit any description of a secret agent Fowler had ever read.” What do secret agents in books and films look like, in your opinion? Discuss in groups or in class some stories or movies featuring spies, detectives and secret agents, and compare their appearance with that of Ausable in this story. (You may mention characters from fiction in languages other than English. In English fiction you may have come across Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or Miss Marple. Have you watched any movies featuring James Bond?)



Ans: In books and films, secret agents are often portrayed as charismatic, dashing, and physically fit individuals. They are usually depicted as skilled in combat, espionage, and have a talent for quick thinking and problem-solving. Some common traits and appearances often associated with secret agents in popular culture include:


1. Suave and Stylish: Secret agents are often shown as well-dressed and elegant individuals, who exude charm and sophistication.


2. Fit and Athletic: Physical fitness is a common attribute of secret agents, as they often engage in action-packed and dangerous missions.


3. Disguise Experts: Secret agents are skilled in adopting various disguises to blend in with different environments and situations.


4. Gadgets and Technology: They often have access to high-tech gadgets and cutting-edge technology to aid them in their missions.


5. Mysterious and Enigmatic: Secret agents typically have a mysterious aura, keeping their true intentions and identities concealed.


In the story "The Midnight Visitor," Ausable challenges these typical stereotypes of secret agents. He is described as short and very fat, not fitting the traditional image of a suave and athletic spy. However, his unconventional appearance allows him to operate under the radar and surprise his adversaries with his wit and resourcefulness.


In comparison to other famous fictional detectives and secret agents, such as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or James Bond, Ausable's appearance stands out as unique and unorthodox. These other characters are often portrayed as more conventionally attractive and physically capable.


Sherlock Holmes, for example, is known for his tall, lean figure, keen observational skills, and remarkable deduction abilities. Hercule Poirot is depicted as a meticulous and precise Belgian detective, while James Bond is the epitome of a suave and action-oriented secret agent, known for his charisma and expertise in handling gadgets and weaponry.


"The Midnight Visitor" challenges the traditional image of a secret agent and emphasizes the importance of intelligence and creativity over physical appearance. This could be a thought-provoking topic for discussion in groups or in class, exploring how different authors and filmmakers present secret agents and detectives in their works, and how these portrayals impact our perceptions and expectations of these characters.

2. How does Ausable manage to make Max believe that there is a balcony attached to his room? Look back at his detailed description of it. What makes it a convincing story?


Ans: Ausable wins over a very critical situation by his sheer presence of mind without using any physical force. He was a quick witted secret agent. He made Max believe that he was scared on finding him inside his room with a pistol in his hand. Ausable had realised that Max had no idea about the balcony in his house. He quickly thought of a plan. Ausable fabricated a story to convince Max about the balcony. Ausable said that his room used to be a part of a large unit and the next room was a living room. So the balcony of the next room extends under his window.

When there was a knock at the door Ausable convinced Max that it was police. He excited him to hide himself on the non-existent balcony. Max, in terror, jumped from the sixth floor and met his end.

Ausable was an intelligent secret agent. He could think quickly. He knew that Max was scared and he used his ignorance and foolishness in his own favour. His intelligence and presence of mind helped him in a dangerous and critical situation.



3. Looking back at the story, when do you think Ausable thought up his plan for getting rid of Max? Do you think he had worked out his plan in detail right from the beginning? Or did he make up a plan taking advantage of events as they happened?

Ans: Ausable managed to cook up a story that he was angry with the management of the hotel as on an previous occasion as well, somebody entered his room from the balcony under his window. The management was supposed to close the balcony, but did not do so yet. He befooled him about the balcony, knowing very well that there was no balcony in that room. He fabricated a story about the arrival of the report and the police. When there was a knock at the door, he convinced Max that it was police. Max got scared and jumped into the non-existent balcony to death. This is how Ausable proved that presence of mind is more powerful than physical force. Ausable had the qualities of being calm, quiet and wise in a dangerous situation. These are the values that one can practise in adversity. Ausable overpowered Max because of these qualities.




Competency-Based Questions (CBE)


1. Why did Fowler want to meet Ausable? Why was he disappointed?

Ans : Fowler was a young romantic writer. He loved adventure and thrill. He wanted to meet Ausable because he was intrigued by the idea of writing about a secret agent and being drawn to the world of espionage.


However, he was disappointed as Ausable's appearance didn't fit the typical image of a spy, making him doubt whether Ausable was truly a skilled secret agent.



2. How do you know that Ausable was a clever secret agent?Give instances from the story. (120 words)


Ausable's cleverness as a secret agent is evident in several instances throughout the story. Firstly, he surprises Fowler with his unassuming appearance, which defies the typical portrayal of spies. Despite this, he successfully carries out covert operations, showcasing his ability to blend in and avoid suspicion.


When facing Max's threat, Ausable cleverly misleads him by claiming there is a balcony, prompting Max to attempt an escape. However, Ausable reveals there is no balcony, trapping Max outside.


Furthermore, Ausable arranges for the waiter's timely arrival, diverting attention from Max's escape attempt. This display of quick thinking allows Ausable to maintain control of the situation.


These instances demonstrate Ausable's intelligence, resourcefulness, and ability to manipulate events to his advantage, solidifying his status as a clever and effective secret agent.



3. Do you agree with the assessment that Max's downfall as a spy was due to his overconfidence? Provide reasons to support your answer.


Despite Max's initial success in intercepting important information about Ausable's mission, his downfall can be attributed to his overconfidence. At first, Max manages to enter Ausable's room undetected, surprising Ausable, who believed Max was in Berlin. Max holds the upper hand, armed with a pistol and appearing more physically agile compared to the heavyset Ausable. The odds seem in Max's favor if a confrontation were to occur.


However, Max's smug demeanor and overconfidence become his undoing. He underestimates Ausable's skills in espionage, failing to realize how quickly situations can change in this line of work. Despite being in the same profession, Max naively believes all the lies Ausable feeds him, not questioning the authenticity of the story about the balcony or the possibility of someone else at the door.


Had Max been more cautious and skeptical, he might have successfully obtained the important papers. However, instead of carefully considering the situation, Max hastily accepts defeat, which mirrors the overconfidence he displayed in thinking he had outsmarted Ausable. His failure to exercise discernment and his unwarranted belief in his own superiority ultimately lead to Max's downfall as a spy.



4. In the story, Ausable was unarmed, whereas Max carried a pistol. Surprisingly, it was Ausable who emerged unscathed, while Max met a tragic end falling off the building. This illustrates the superiority of brain over brawn. It emphasizes that intelligence, resourcefulness, and quick thinking, as demonstrated by Ausable, can be more powerful and decisive than physical strength or weaponry, as exhibited by Max.


Ans: In the critical situation that unfolds in Ausable's room, it becomes evident that the strength of the mind triumphs over the strength of the body. Both Ausable and Max are secret agents, but Max holds physical advantages with his slender, agile physique and possession of a gun, while Ausable lacks these attributes, being overweight and unarmed.


Despite being at a physical disadvantage, Ausable demonstrates remarkable intelligence and resourcefulness. Realizing that he cannot overpower Max physically, Ausable resorts to his wit as his only option. He fabricates a story about a balcony under his room and the presence of police at the door to check on him. Max, unquestioningly trusting Ausable's tale, attempts to escape through the window. Unfortunately, this decision proves disastrous as he falls six floors to the ground, sustaining severe injuries.


Through his quick thinking and presence of mind, Ausable extricates himself from a dangerous predicament and safeguards the important papers from falling into Max's hands. The incident exemplifies how intelligence and mental acuity can overcome physical limitations and secure success in challenging situations.


5. How did Max enter the room? Why did he do so?

Ans: Max entered the room using a passkey, granting him unauthorized access. He infiltrated the room with a specific objective: to intercept important papers that Ausable was expecting. As a fellow secret agent, Max was aware of the significance of these papers and sought to gain control over them. Armed with a pistol and possessing a slender and agile physique, Max appeared to have the upper hand. However, his overconfidence and underestimation of Ausable's intelligence proved to be his downfall.


Ausable's quick thinking led him to fabricate a story about a non-existent balcony and police presence, deceiving Max into attempting an escape through the window, which ultimately led to his dramatic and unfortunate fate.








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