Summary of – A Letter to God
The Story is set in a Latin American country and deals with the experiences of Lencho, a farmer who lived on the crest of a low hill. He was hoping that it would rain, and felt elated when it started raining at dinner time. He felt so happy that he told his wife that the raindrops to him were like ten cents and five cent coins, as they would bring in a good harvest. Huge clouds were seen approaching from the north-east and the wind blew pleasantly. Suddenly, a hailstorm started and the hails truly resembled silver coins. The boys excitedly ran out to collect the hailstones which glistened like pearls. However, the hailstorm continued for an hour and destroyed the crops entirely. Not a leaf stayed on the branches and the hard labour of the farmers were wasted. The entire valley, house, cornfield, garden and hillside looked white. It was as if everything was covered with white salt.
The aftermath of the storm was shocking for Lencho and his family. The entire crop was destroyed to such extent that Lencho commented that even a plague of crop destroying Locusts would have left more than what the hailstorm had left. All their work was in vain and he feared that they would have to starve that year due to lack of food. However, when everything is lost the thing that remains is hope. Lencho and his family had unwavering faith in God and they knew that the eyes of God observed everything and nobody died of hunger. Though Lencho worked like an Ox in the feilds, he still knew how to write and decided to write a letter to God telling him of his woes and requesting him to help. So, the next Sunday at dawn, he wrote a letter to God and went to the town to post it.
In the letter he informed God about his crop failure and requested him to send him a 100 pesos to plant crops and to survive till the next crop came. At the post office he stuck a stamp on the envelope addressed ‘To God’ and posted it. One of the employees, who was sorting the letter found the address amusing and took it to the post master. The postmaster was both bemused and impressed with the kind of faith Lencho had in the almighty. To retain his immense faith, he decided to pool up money to help out Lencho. He gave a part of his salary and his friends too contributed for the cause of charity. The collected money which was more than half of the required amount was put in an envelope addressed to Lencho, accompanied by a letter with a single word God.
The next Sunday, Lencho came earlier than usual and enquired whether there was a letter for him. The postmaster who felt satisfied after doing a good deed, handed over the envelope to Lencho. He expected Lencho to be overjoyed to receive the money that they had collected. However, Lencho was not at all surprised to receive the money and became angry after counting it. Such was his unwavering faith in God that he was sure God could not have made a mistake.
He immediately asked for pen and paper and wrote another letter which he posted. The curious postmaster immediately took it out of the mailbox and opened it. In the letter Lencho complained to God that he had received only seventy pesos of the hundred that he had requested God to send him. He requested God to send him the remaining amount as he was in dire need of the money. He also told him not to send it through the mail as he suspected that the staff at the post office were dishonest and had swindled his money.
The ending is ironic as all the good work of the post office employees remained unappreciated and they were taken to be a bunch of crooks by the farmer.
Glossary – A Letter to God
|crest||top of a mountain or hill|
|valley||low area of land between hills or mountains|
|ripe||fully developed and ready for harvest|
|intimately||in a private way|
|god willing||by grace of God|
|pleasure||feeling of satisfaction and happiness|
|hailstone||pellets of hardened snow|
|resemble||having similar appearance|
|plague||epidemic caused by pests|
|locusts||crop destroying insects moving in swarms|
|conscience||inner sense of right or wrong|
|peso||currency of several Latin American countries|
|envelope||(here) paper cover for letter|
|amiable||having pleasant manner|
|correspondence||letters sent or received|
|evident||clearly seen or understood|
|charity||money given out of generosity to help|
|bunch||a group of something|
Oral Comprehension Check – Short Questions – A Letter to God
1. What did Lencho hope for?
Ans . Lencho hoped for a good rain or at least a shower, so that they might have a good harvest.
2. Why did Lencho say that the raindrops were like new coins?
Ans. To Lencho the raindrops were like new coins as they promised a good harvest, which would bring in profits.
3. How did the rain change? What happened to Lencho’s fields?
Ans. The big raindrops were soon replaced by big hailstones which really looked like silver coins and frozen pearls.
After an hour of hailstorm, Lencho’s fields were covered with hailstones. The cornfield was ruined and the field looked white as if it was covered with salt.
4. What were Lencho’s feelings when the hail stopped?
Ans. Lencho felt devastated as their entire work was destroyed by the hail. His heart was filled with sadness, he felt helpless and everything looked hopeless. He felt that there was no one who could help them and they would have to starve that year.
5. Who or what did Lencho have faith in? What did he do?
Ans. Lencho had unwavering faith in God. He in his simplicity wrote a letter to God requesting him to send a hundred pesos as his crop had failed.
6. Who read the letter?
Ans. The postmaster read the letter when it was handed over to him by a postman at the post office. He was amused to see the letter addressed to God.
7. What did the postmaster do then?
Ans. The postmaster was impressed by the immense faith that Lencho had on God. He decided that they must do something to retain the childlike faith that Lencho had in the almighty. He decided that they must collect whatever amount they can, and hand it over to Lencho. He gave a part of his salary and his friends too contributed whatever amount they could as an act of charity.
8. Was Lencho surprised to find a letter for him with money in it?
Ans. No, Lencho was not surprised even in the slightest manner. He had immense faith in God and was confident that God would send him the money.
9. What made him angry?
Ans. . He had expected that God would send him hundred pesos as he had requested, and was infuriated when he found that there were only seventy pesos. He was sure that the post office staff had stolen it as God cannot do any mistake nor could he have denied to keep Lencho’s request.
10. “Lencho showed not the slightest surprise on seeing the money: such was his confidence- but he became angry when he saw the money” What does this line tell us about human psychology?
Ans. The given line tells us that at times faith in God comes as a source of hope when one encounters dire situations. Lencho’s immense faith led him to believe that God would help him in his need and therefore he unquestioningly took the money. However, it also highlights the conflict between faith in God and faith in humanity. The very man who has complete faith in God has no faith in the very men who went off their way to help him.
11.‘He was an ox of a man, working like an animal in the fields, but still he knew how to write.’ What does this line tell us about Lencho?
Ans. Lencho was a hard working man who was used to physical labour, but in spite of that he was not uneducated and was capable of writing a letter. The literary device used in ‘ an ox of a man’ is metaphor.
Thinking about the text
Question/Answers – A Letter to God
1. Who does Lencho have complete faith in? Which sentences in the story tell you this?
Ans. Lencho had unwavering faith in God. The lines which tells us this are:
‘But in the hearts of all who lived in the solitary house in the middle of valley was a hope: help from God.’
‘ All through that night, Lencho thought of his one hope: the help from God…’
“God,” he wrote, “ if you don’t help me my family and I will go hungry this year.”
He wrote ‘To God’ on the envelope…
‘ Lencho showed not the slightest surprise on seeing the money: such was his confidence …God could not have made a mistake…’
2. Why does the postmaster send money to Lencho? Why does he sign the letter ‘God’?
Ans. The postmaster initially laughed at the letter addressed to God, but immediately turned serious in admiration of Lencho’s immense faith in God. So, he decided to collect money and give it to Lencho, in name of God, as an act of charity in respect for his devotion to God.
He signed the letter ‘God ‘ to reinstate Lencho’s faith in God.
3. Did Lencho try to find out who had sent the money to him? Why/Why not?
Ans. No, Lencho did not try to find out the source from where the money came.
Lencho had immense faith in God and believed that God could never deny his request nor could he ever make a mistake. There was not a sliver of doubt in him about God. Such was his confidence that he did not show the slightest surprise when he received the money sent by God.
4. Who does Lencho think has taken the rest of the money? What is the irony in the situation? (Remember that the irony of a situation is an unexpected aspect of it. An ironic situation is strange or amusing because it is the opposite of what is expected.)
Ans. Lencho believed that the post office staff had taken his money.
The irony in the situation was that it was the employees of the post office who had given a part of their hard earned money to retain Lencho’s unshakable faith in God. However, the faith turned to be so unshakable that Lencho thought that God could never make a mistake of sending him only seventy pesos instead of the hundred that he had requested. He came to the conclusion that it must be the post office employees who had taken the money instead of the other way around.
5. Are there people like Lencho in the real world? What kind of a person would you say he is? You may select appropriate words from the box to answer the question
|Greedy, naive, stupid, ungrateful, selfish, comical, unquestioning|
Ans. Yes. There are people like Lencho who have immensely deep faith in God. Although they might not be as naive as Lencho but they believe everything that is taught to them without questioning the practicality or its validity.
The words naive, stupid, comical, unquestioning, greedy are appropriate for Lencho’s character. He is naive enough to think that he could send a letter to God via post. He is stupid enough to write ‘To God’ as the address of God. He takes the money unquestioningly and is comical in writing a complaint letter to God in receiving less than what he had requested, which again shows his greed as is not satisfied with what he received.
6. There are two kinds of conflict in the story: between humans and nature, and between humans themselves. How are these conflicts illustrated?
Ans. The first conflict depicted in the story is between human and nature. Nature bestows its bounties on all creations for their survival, but humans take nature’s bounties for granted and their greed is endless. Lencho was happy to receive the first showers which seemed to him as new coins instead of priceless water. Later, when nature disagrees with his aspirations and the crop is destroyed by the hailstorm he turns to God for help.
The second conflict is among humans themselves. Humans teach that one must have unshakable faith in God and goes to all extent to keep that faith intact. However, they doubt integrity of humans and do not trust each other, while retaining their blind faith in God.
I. Look at the following sentence from the story.
Suddenly a strong wind began to blow and along with the rain very large hailstones began to fall.
‘Hailstones’ are small balls of ice that fall like rain. A storm in which hailstones fall is a ‘hailstorm’.
Match the names in the box with their descriptions below, and fill in the blanks.
|gale, whirlwind, cyclone, hurricane, tornado, typhoon|
1. A violent tropical storm in which strong winds move in a circle: c y c l o n e.
2. An extremely strong wind : _gale_
3. A violent tropical storm with very strong winds : _typhoon_
4. A violent storm whose centre is a cloud in the shape of a funnel: _tornado_
5. A violent storm with very strong winds, especially in the western Atlantic Ocean: hurricane
6. A very strong wind that moves very fast in a spinning movement and causes a lot of damage: whirlwind.
II. Notice how the word ‘hope’ is used in these sentences from the story
(a) I hope it (the hailstorm) passes quickly.
(b) There was a single hope: help from God.
In the first example, ‘hope’ is a verb which means you wish for something to happen. In the second example it is a noun meaning a chance for something to happen.
Match the sentences in Column A with the meanings of ‘hope’ in Column B.
|1. Will you get the subjects you want to study in college? I hope so. |
2. I hope you don’t mind my saying this, but I don’t like the way you are arguing.
3. This discovery will give new hope to HIV/AIDS sufferers.
4. We were hoping against hope that the judges would not notice our mistakes.
5. I called early in the hope of speaking to her before she went to school.
6. Just when everybody had given up hope, the fishermen came back, seven days after the cyclone.
|– a feeling that something good will probably happen |
– thinking that this would happen (It may or may not have happened.)
– stopped believing that this good thing would happen
– wanting something to happen (and thinking it quite possible)
– showing concern that what you say should not offend or disturb the other person: a way of being Polite
– wishing for something to happen, although this is very unlikely
|1. Will you get the subjects you want to study in college? I hope so.||– wanting something to happen (and thinking it quite possible)|
|2. I hope you don’t mind my saying this, but I don’t like the way you are arguing.||– showing concern that what you say should not offend or disturb the other person: a way of being Polite|
|3. This discovery will give new hope to HIV/AIDS sufferers||– a feeling that something good will probably happen|
|4. We were hoping against hope that the judges would not notice our mistakes.||– wishing for something to happen, although this is very unlikely|
|5. I called early in the hope of speaking to her before she went to school.||– thinking that this would happen (It may or may not have happened.)|
|6. Just when everybody had given up hope, the fishermen came back, seven days after the cyclone.||– stopped believing that this good thing would happen|
III. Relative Clauses in A Letter to God
(a) All morning Lencho — who knew his fields intimately — looked at the sky.
(b) The woman, who was preparing supper, replied, “Yes, God willing.’’
The italicised parts in the above sentences are relative clauses. They begin with relative pronouns who, whom, whose, and which.
The relative clauses in (a) and (b) above are called non-defining, as we already know the identity of the person they describe.
In non-defining relative clause we usually use a comma or a dash(-) before and after it. If it comes at the end, we put a full stop.
Join the sentences given below using who, whom, whose, which:
1. I often go to Mumbai. Mumbai is the commercial capital of India. (which)
Ans- I often go to Mumbai, which is the commercial capital of India.
2. My mother is going to host a TV show on cooking. She cooks very well. (who)
Ans -My mother, who cooks very well, is going to host a TV show on cooking.
3. These sportspersons are going to meet the President. Their performance has been excellent. (whose)
Ans- These sportspersons, whose performance has been excellent, are going to meet the President.
4. Lencho prayed to God. His eyes see into our minds. (whose)
Ans- Lencho prayed to God, whose eyes see into our minds.
5. This man cheated me. I trusted him. (whom)
This man, whom I trusted, cheated me.
IV. Using Negatives for Emphasis -A Letter to God
(i) These aren’t raindrops falling from the sky, they are new coins.
(iii) Lencho…had done nothing else but see the sky towards the northeast.
(iv) The man went out for no other reason than to have the pleasure of feeling the rain on his body.
(v) Lencho showed not the slightest surprise on seeing the money.
Find sentences in the story with negative words, which express the following ideas emphatically.
1. The trees lost all their leaves.
‘Not a leaf remained on the trees.’
2. The letter was addressed to God himself.
“It was nothing less than a letter to God.”
3. The postman saw this address for the first time in his career.
“Never in his career as a postman had he known that address.”
V. Metaphors in -A Letter to God
Metaphors compare two things or ideas: a quality or feature of one thing is transferred to another thing.
Find metaphors from the story to complete the table below.
|OBJECT||METAPHOR||QUALITY OR FEATURE COMPARED|
|CLOUD||Huge mountains of clouds||The mass or ‘hugeness’ of mountains|
|RAINDROPS||New coins||They seemed like cents which would bring profits|
|HAILSTONES||Silver coins/ frozen pearls||Shiny priceless frozen drops resembling coins and pearls|
|LOCUSTS||A plague of locusts||An epidemic (a disease) that spreads very rapidly and leaves many people dead|
|LENCHO||An ox of a man||Lencho did hard physical labour just like an ox.|