NCERT Solutions For Class 9 English Literature Reader – The Bishop’s Candlesticks

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‘The Bishop’s Candlesticks’ brings home the idea that no one is a born criminal. It shows how a good and humane treatment can bring out hidden goodness in a hardened criminal. The convict who enters the Bishop’s house demands food at the point of his knife. The Bishop remains calm and composed. He calls him ‘son’ and readily offers him food and wine and then a bed to sleep. In his conversation, the convict tells him how he stole out of a dire need to save his ailing and starving wife. He was sent to jail where ill-treatment made him a beast. When the Bishop leaves him to rest for the night, he decamps with the Bishop’s silver candlesticks. He is, however, caught and brought back to the Bishop. The Bishop gets him released by telling a lie to the police. He says that the candlesticks were his gift to his friend. When the police leaves, he actually gifts the candlesticks to the convict and shows him the way to Paris where he can start a new life. The convict falls on his knees and promises to become a good man again.


(i) The Bishop
In the play, the Bishop is an embodiment of all noble qualities. He is selfless and charitable. He often helps the poor and the needy. He sells his salt-cellars to enable an old, poor lady to pay off her rent. He is loving and affectionate, kind and generous. The convict tries to intimate him and demands food. He readily provides him food and shelter. The convict steals his silver candlesticks. The Bishop saves him by saying that he himself gave the candlesticks to him. He wins the heart of the convict by actually gifting the candlesticks to him. Thus, he proves to be an ideal priest.

(ii) The Convict
The convict in the play was once a normal human being. He fell on bad days and stole. He was sent to jail. In the jail he was treated so badly that he became a beast. When he escaped from jail, he had become inhuman. He has no faith in man’s goodness. He has no respect for society, religion or state.

However, he is essentially human. He has innate goodness which circumstances have concealed. The Bishop’s love and kindness overwhelns him. He regains his faith. The Bishop’s generosity reforms him totally and sets him on the right path. He is ready to lead a normal life of a good man.


Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow :

Question 1:
Marie : Pardon, Madam, but I think it was for Mere Gringoire.
Persome : Mere Gringorie indeed. Mere Gringoire. What, the old witch who lives at the top of the hill, and who says she is bedridden because she is too lazy to do any work ? And what did Mere Gringoire want with the money, pray ?
(a) What was done for Mere Gringoire ?
(b) Why does Persome refer to Mere Gringoire as an old witch ?
(c) What does the extract reveal about Persome’s character ?                                 (CBSE 2014)
(a) The Bishop had to sell his salt-cellars to pay the house rent of Mere Gringoire.
(b) Persome does so as she feels Mere Gringoire is wicked and selfish woman.
(c) The extract reveals that Persome is short-tempered and narrow-minded. She is not generous like her brother.

Question 2:
You told him she was feeling poorly, did you ? And so my brother is to be kept out of his bed, and go without his supper because you told him she was feeling poorly. There’s gratitude for you !
(a) Who is ‘she’ in the above extract ?
(b) Who is the speaker’s brother and why was he kept out of bed ?
(c) Explain the line ‘there’s gratitude for you’.                                                                               (CBSE 2014)
(a) ‘She’ in the extract is Mere Gringoire.
(b) The speaker’s brother is the Bishop. He was kept out of bed in order to help Mere Gringoire.
(c) Persome remarks ironically that Marie had paid her gratitude to the Bishop by making him help her mother in such a bad weather. She wants to say that she had proved to be ungrateful to the Bishop.

Question 3:
Bishop : That is why they are left open.
Convict: Well they are shut now!
Bishop (sighs) : For the first time in thirty years.
(a) Why were ‘they’ left open ?
(b) Why are they shut now ?
(c) Why weren’t they shut for thirty years ?
(a) ‘They’ are doors and windows which were left open to welcome any person who came in.
(b) ‘They’ are shut now by the convict to prevent anybody else in the house.
(c) ‘They’ were not shut for thirty years to let anyone come at any time to see the Bishop.

Question 4:
Bishop : The knife, oh, well, you see, dear, perhaps he may have thought that 1-1 had sold ours, (laughs gently)
Persome : Brother, I am frightened. He glares at us like a wild beast (aside to him).
(а) What is the tone of the Bishop in the above extract ?
(b) Why is Persome frightened ?
(c) Why is‘he’being compared to a wild beast?                                                                       (CBSE 2014)
(a) The Bishop’s tone is kind and gentle.
(b) Persome is frightened because the convict’s looks are very cruel and dangerous.
(c) ‘He’ is being compared to a beast as there is no human feeling on his face. Moreover, his way of eating is just like any beast’s.

Question 5:
None of that, my friend ! I’m too old a bird to be caught with chaff. You would ask your sister for the keys, would you ? A likely story ! You would rouse the house too. Eh? Ha! A good joke truly. Come, where is the food. I want no keys. I have a wolf inside me tearing at my entrails, tearing me; quick, tell me where the food is,
(а) What does the convict mean when he says I’m too old a bird to be caught with chaff ?
(b) Why does the convict say, ‘I have a wolf inside me’ ?
(c) Why does the convict think it is ‘a good joke’.                                                             (CBSE 2014)
(а)   The convict wants to say that he is too experienced to be duped in by cheap tricks.
(b)   The convict says so as he is very hungry and can tear anything apart like a hungry wolf.
(c) The convict thinks it to be a good joke that the Bishop will ask his sister to bring keys and she will go out to seek help.

Question 6:
I -I didn’t believe there was any good in the world One does’t when one has been in Hell, but somehow, I -I know your’re good and, and it’s a queer thing to ask but, but could you, would you bless me before I go ? 1-1 think it would help me.
(a) Why didn’t the speaker believe that there was any good left in the world ?
(b) How did the speaker know about hell ?
(c) Why did he seek the Bishop’s blessing ?                                                                                 (CBSE 2014)
(а)   The speaker believed so as he had been ill-treated and tortured all those years for a petty crime.
(b)   The speaker knew about hell as he had been in prison where conditions were as bad as in hell.
(c) He sought the Bishop’s blessings so that he could begin his life anew like a normal human being.

Question 7:
Convict: Ah, thanks, thanks, Monseigneur. I, I (he sobs) Ah ! Trn a fool, a child to cry, but somehow you have made me feel that, that it is just as if something had come in to me, as if I were a man again and not a wild beast.
Bishop (putting his hand on his shoulder) : Always remember, my son, that this poor body is the Temple of the Living God.
(а) Why was the convict crying like a child ?
(b) How is the speaker ‘a man again’ ?
(c) Explain the phrase ‘the poor body is the temple of the living God’.     (CBSE 2014)
(a) The convict was crying like a child as he felt guilty and remorseful. He realized he had been on the wrong track.
(b) The speaker is a man again as he has regained his faith in God and humanity.
(c) The human body is a sacred place where God dwells.

Question 8:
‘My dear, there is so much suffering in the world, and I can do so little…………. ‘
(a) Who speaks these lines and to whom ?
(b) What do you learn about him from the given line?
(c) What do you mean by ‘suffering’ ?
(a) The Bishop speaks these lines to his sister Persome.
(b) The Bishop is extremely generous, selfless and kind-hearted.
(c) ‘pain’.

Question 9:
‘One must do a great deal for the devil in order to do a little for God’.
(а) Who is the speaker ?
(b) What does he want to say ?
(c) Give the meaning of the word ‘devil’.
(a) The Bishop is the speaker.
(b) He wants to say that one has to do a lot to remove wickedness (devil) in doing a bit of service to God.
(c) ‘a wicked being’ (satan).

Question 10:
‘Look-here, why the devil are you-ki-kind to me ? What do you want V
(а) Who is the speaker ?
(b) Why is he so confused ?
(c) What has he actually expected ?
(а) The convict is the speaker.
(b) He is baffled at the kind behaviour of his host, the Bishop.
(e) He has actually expected to be treated badly.

Question 11:
You have your soul, to lose, my son; it is of more value than my heart’.
(а) Why does the Bishop call the convict ‘my son’ ?
(b) What tells you that he is a fearless person ?
(c) What does he want to do ?
(а)   The Bishop calls the convict ‘my son’ as he would call anyone else. In his eyes, he is as good as any other human being.
(b)     He does not care for his life. He is not afraid of being killed by the convict.
(c) He wants to reform the convict by showing him the right path through love and compassion.

Question 12:
You told him she was feeling poorly, did you ? And so my brother is to be kept out of his bed, and go without his supper because you told him she was feeling poorly”
(а)     Who is ‘she’ referred to in the above lines ?
(b)     What is the tone of the speaker ?
(c) Explain ‘kept out of his bed’.
(а) ‘She’ referred to in the above lines is Marie’s mother.
(b) The speaker (Persome) here speaks in a reproachful tone.
(c) ‘Did not sleep and take rest’.

Question 13:
If you call out you are a dead man !
(а) What was the Bishop doing when the convict entered ?
(b)What warning did the convict give the Bishop ?
(c) What does‘call out’mean ?
(a) He was reading then.
(b) The convict warned the Bishop that if he called for help he would be killed.
(c) ‘Shout’.

Question 14:
“I believe you want to convert me; save my soul, don’t you call it ? Well, it’s no good-see ? I don’t want any damned religion, and as for the church – bah ! / hate the church.”
(a) What does the convict resent ?
(b) Why does he hate the church ?
(c) Give the meaning of the word ‘damned’
(a) The convict resents the Bishop’s talking of saving his soul.
(b) He hates the church for even the church did not come to his rescue.
(c) ‘accursed’.

Question 15:
‘Ah, that is hard, very hard, I – He might have left me those. They were all I had.’
(a) Who speaks these words and to whom ?
(b) What does‘those’refer to here ?
(c) What does ‘hard’ mean in the context ?
(a) The Bishop speaks these words to his sister Persome.
(b) Those’ refers to the silver candlesticks stolen by the convict.
(c) ‘difficult’.

Question 16:
Yes, to starve. They feed you in Hell, but when you escape from it you starve.’
(a) Who is the speaker ? Who are ‘they’ ?
(b) Why has he come to ‘starving* ?
(c) Give the meaning of‘starve’.
(a) The convict is the speaker. ‘They’ refers to jail authorities.
(b) He is out of jail, but he has no work and no money. He cannot do work for fear of police. So he has come to the state of starvation.
(c)‘to die of hunger’.


Answer each of the following questions in 30-40 words ?

Question 1:
What makes Persome lost her temper ?
Persome feels irritated that the Bishop has gone out in the extreme cold. When she learns from the maid, Marie, that he has gone to see Marie’s ailing mother, she loses her temper.

Question 2:
What grouses does Persome have about her brother ?
Persome is the Bishop’s sister. The Bishop is in the habit of helping all who seek his help. He has sold his estate, his furniture and many other valuable things to help the poor. Persome who feels concerned about his future naturally has grouses in her mind about this kind of behaviour on his part.

Question 3:
What comes as a shock to Persome ?
Persome is already pained at her brother’s excessive magnanimity. When she learns about his selling of his silver salt-cellars to help an old lady to pay her rent, she is shocked.

Question 4:
How and when does the convict enter the Bishop’s room ?
It is almost midnight. The Bishop is reading in his room. A convict enters his room stealthily. It is not difficult for anyone to enter the Bishop’s house as its doors and windows are never shut.

Question 5:
How does the convict behave when he encounters the Bishop ?
The convict enters the Bishop’s room. He seizes the Bishop from behind and demands something to eat at once. He threatens to kill him if he raises an alarm.

Question 6:
How is the convict treated by the Bishop ?
The Bishop treats the convict as if he were his guest. He calls him ‘son’ and tries to calm him down. He asks his sister to bring some food for the guest. He offers him bed for rest.

Question 7:
Why was the convict caught and imprisoned ?
‘Now I’m not a man, now I’m a number.’ How had the speaker become a number ?
The convict’s wife was ill and starving. He had no money and work at that time. He had to steal to feed his sick wife and was thus caught and imprisoned. In the prison, he was given a number. He suffered there so much that he had forgotten his name. He had been reduced to a mere number.

Question 8:
Why does the convict call the prison a hell ?
The convict recalls his days in the prison which was nothing short of Hell. He was chained like an animal. He was fed on filth. He was made to sleep on boards. He suffered from vermins. He was often beaten mercilessly. He became a beast.

Question 9:
Why does the convict show contempt for the Bishop’s good behaviour ?
The convict was in the prison for ten years. He was treated very badly. He lost faith in God and humanity. So he has nothing but contempt for any good behaviour shown by the Bishop.

Question 10:
Who was Jeanette ? What was the cause of her death ?
Jeanette was the convict’s wife. She fell seriously ill. The convict was out of work then. He had no money to feed and treat her. When he stole and got arrested, she died of starvation.

Question 11:
Do you justify the Bishop’s behaviour in not handing over the convict to the police when he decamps with his silver candlesticks ? Give reason.
Had the Bishop handed the convict over to the police, the convict would never have got another chance to reform himself. As the Bishop wants to give him a chance to start a new life he saves him from the police.

Question 12:
What brings about real transformation in the convict ?
When the Bishop gives the convict his silver candlesticks as a gift before he leaves for Paris, the convict is speechless. He kneels himself down before the Bishop and weeps. He feels that he has become a ‘man’ once again. His tears are a symbol of his transformation.

Question 13:
Do you think the punishment given to the convict was justified ? Why/ Why not ? Why is the convict eager to reach Paris ?
The punishment given to the convict for a minor crime was too much and was unjustified. He did not commit a murder or indulge in any other major crime. His circumstances had forced him to steal. No, it.
He should have been given a light punishment instead of ten years in a hell ­like jail.

Question 14:
Before leaving, the convict asks the Bishop to bless him. What brought about this change in him ?
The convict had lost all faith in goodness. The Bishop’s love, kindness and generosity bring about a remarkable change in him. He feels as if he were a man once again. He regains his faith in God. So he asks the Bishop to bless him.

Question 15:
Identify the situations which can be termed as the turning points in the convict’s life ?
There are many situations in the play which can be termed as the turning points in the convict’s life. He stole to feed his sick wife. His consequent arrest on the charge of stealing was the first significant turning point in his life. His encounter with the kind, noble and generous Bishop was another turning point in his life. Again, his arrest for having stolen the Bishop’s candlesticks and the Bishop’s magnanimity and kindness in saving him from the police and gifting him his candlesticks are the other turning points in the convict’s life.

Question 16:
How does the Bishop’s attitude touch the convict ?
The Bishop’s attitude towards the convict is extremely amiable, kind and geneous. He calls the convict his ‘son’ and ‘friend’ – the words the convict has forgotten in his life. He offers him food and shelter. Even when the convict decamps with his cherished candlesticks, he saves him from the clutches of the police. He even gifts the candlesticks to the convict and helps him escape to Paris. His attitude moves the heart of the convict. The convict feels as if he were a human being again. He sees a ray of hope in his life.


Question 1:
‘It is easy to close the doors but difficult to open a window.’ Comment with reference to the play ‘The Bishop’s Candlesticks’. (CBSE 2014)
The statement -‘It is easy to close the doors but difficult to open a window’- is true. It is easy to close the doors implies that man can easily live selfishly; he can easily shut doors on others and live a life of a recluse, as some religious people do. It is not difficult to dislike or hate others. But to open a window for others is not easy. To go out of one’s way to show the right path ‘ or to help other is indeed a difficult but divine task.
The Bishop in the play ‘The Bishop’s Candlesticks’ keeps his doors and windows literally open for needy persons. He does everything possible to help the poor. But the way he treats the convict is something uncommon. He goes beyond the call of his duty. When his beloved candlesticks are stolen, he finds it difficult to forgive the thief, but very soon he realizes his mistake. By gifting the candlesticks he touches the raw nerves of a hardened criminal. He opens a window at the back of his house for the convict to go to his destination and start a new life. What a noble act !

Question 2:
‘Minds are open only when hearts are open. Keeping this in mind, the Bishop’s house had unshuttered windows and unbarred doors for thirty years. Discuss.             (CBSE 2014)
It is unthinkable that one could keep the doors and windows of one’s house open for thirty long years. Only a really fearless hermit can do it. The Bishop keeps the doors and windows open so that the poor and the needy could come anytime to his house. It reveals that his mind and heart are open. He is so generous and magnanimous that he attaches no importance to any material thing. He sells his estate, his silver salt-cellars and many others valuable things to help the poor. Though he cherishes his silver candlesticks, he readily gifts them to the convict.
Earlier in the play, Persome reminds the Bishop how people take undue advantage of his generosity. Even the convict mocks at him for leaving his windows and doors open. But the Bishop does not have a second thought at what he does.

Question 3:
Love, compassion and forgiveness are great human values which we must try to imbibe. Discuss it in the context of the play ‘The Bishop’s Candlesticks.’
There is no doubt that love, compassion and forgiveness are great human virtues. We should try to imbibe them in our day-to-day life. We should learn to love all. We should be compassionate towards the weak. We should forgive all those who offend or harm us in any way.The Bishop in the play ‘The Bishop’s Candlesticks’ is a true Christian who has imbibed in him the divine virtues of love, compassion and forgiveness. He loves one and all without any discrimination. He treats even the convict as his friend and guest. The convict proves to be ungrateful by stealing the silver candlesticks of a person who offered him food and shelter and comforted him. However, the Bishop forgives him easily. Rather he gifts the candlesticks to him so that he may start a new life. This is what we sould do in our life, though it is not an easy task.

Question 4:
The prison is meant for reformation, not punishment. Justify this statement with reference to the lesson ‘The Bishop’s Candlesticks’.(CBSE 2014)
The prison is meant for reformation. That is why, it is often called ‘Sudhar Ghar’. Here the prisoners should be treated in such a way that they realize their mistakes and reform themselves. They should not be treated like animals as was done in the prison which the convict calls ‘Hell’. The convict had to steal out of compulsion. When he was in the prison, he was given a number. He was fed on filth. He had to sleep on boards. He was beaten mercilessly. They turned him into a hardened criminal. He lost faith in humanity. He began to hate everybody. When he escaped from the prison, he was not a reformed person. He again stole-this time the silver candlesticks of a really noble person, the Bishop.

If he was changed man towards the end, it was due to the Bishop’s extremely kind and humane treatment. The Bishop changed his heart by his kindness and generosity.

Question 5:
‘I’m a number, number 15729′. An individual’s human identity is being degraded to a mere number.
What does your conscience tell you about this ? (CBSE 2014)
The convict became a victim of circumstances. He was once a normal human being. He led a poor life with his wife, Jeanette, in a little cottage. She was ill and starving. He was out of work and had no money to buy food for his wife. So he stole money to buy her food and was caught by the police. He tried to explain to the policemen why he had stolen. But they laughed at him and he was sentenced to ten years in the prison hulks. The convict was treated like a beast. He was tortured and beaten. The policemen chained him like a wild beast and lashed him like a hound. He was fed on filth and was covered with vermin. He slept on the board and when he complained, he was lashed again. They treated him cruelly and took away his soul and made him a devil. They took away his name. Now he was not a man; he was a number; number 15729 and he had lived in Hell for ten long years. He lost faith in the essential goodness of man. As for the church he began to hate church. He was so fed up with the society that he told the Bishop that he did not want any of his

Faith, Hope and Charity. He considered himself a devil and told the Bishop that his efforts to convert him would fail. He lost belief in religion. He had no identity, no faith in humanity, no faith in church and religion.

Thus, a man who is brutally treated loses his identity and conscience. But it is the society which is at fault in making him what he is.

Question 6:
In the end realization dawns upon the convict that he is a man again and not a wild beast. Who do you think is responsible for this change in the convict and what qualities would you associate with him ? (CBSE 2014)
The convict, who had been brutally treated in jail for ten long years, escaped, but only to starve. One night he entered the Bishop’s room and demanded food at the point of knife. The Bishop was very kind, generous and loving towards him. He gave him cold pie, bottle of wine and some bread. He also gave him bed to sleep. But the convict stole his candlesticks and ran away. He was arrested by the police and brought to Bishop’s house. The Bishop pleasantly surprised the convict and the sergeant by saying that the convict was his very good friend. The Bishop told the sergeant that he had supped with him the previous night and that he had given him the candlesticks. He called the convict his ‘son’. So unlike the police and the rest of the society, the Bishop treated him gently and kindly. He called him son and friend. Such affectionate words were not heard by the convict in his life. The Bishop offered him food, shelter and saved him from the clutches of police. The kindest act that the Bishop did was to gift the prized silver candlesticks to him and suggested him a safe passage to Paris. Bishop’s kindness, benevolence and love helped the convict to rediscover his innocence and goodness. In fact, he rediscovered his essential human self. Finally, he learnt from the Bishop that the body is the Temple of the Living God. In this way, the Bishop reformed the convict.

Question 7:
The Convict goes to Paris, sells the silver candlesticks and starts a business. The business prospers and he starts a reformatory for ex ­convicts. He writes a letter to the Bishop telling him of this reformatory and seeks his blessings.
As the convict, Jean Valjean, write the letter to Bishop.
J.V. Reformatory Paris
16 March, 20…
Venerable Father

You will be delighted to know that your ‘son’ has at last found his feet. The candlesticks that you gifted me did wonders for me. I sold the candlesticks and opened a workshop. By the grace of God and with your blessings, my

business flourished and I earned a lot of money. I am now a happy and respectable person in the society. I have recently opened a reformatory for ex ­convicts. My aim is to enable the ex-convicts to lead a life of dignity and respect. They work and lead a comfortable life. Learned men are invited for weekly discourses on religious and moral matters. Their discourses leave a great impact on them.

I seek your blessings.
Yours sincerely
Jean Valjean

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