Reading and Finding Out
1. What does the third level refer to?
third level refers to a subway of the Grand Central Station. Although Charley,
the protagonist of the story, strongly believes in its existence, in
reality, there are only two levels. Suffocated by the complexities of the
modern world, Charley tries to evade reality by hallucinating. The third
level is a figment of his imagination. His Psychiatrist Sam Weiner
calls it “a waking-dream wish fulfillment.”
2. Would Charley ever go back to the ticket-counter on the third
level to buy tickets to Galesburg for himself and his wife?
Charley desired to go on a trip to Galesburg, Illinois with his wife Louisa and
hence wanted two tickets. He went to the ticket counter at the third level but
could not buy them as the currency he had with him was quite different. So, he
went back, drew three hundred dollars from the bank and converted them into
“the old-style currency.” However, he could never again find the
corridor that led to the third level. His wife was worried upon hearing
everything. Moreover, Charley became busy with his stamps. So, he stopped
looking for the third level after a while.
Reading with Insight
1. Do you think that the third level was a medium of
escape for Charley? Why?
Yes, I think the Third Level was a medium of escape for Charley. Burdened by
the pressure of the modern world, Charley derived solace from resorting back to
the world that was rather peaceful and calm. The Third Level became a part of
his imaginary world because of his tendency to hallucinate.
fast-paced and competitive world provides little incentive to relax and
reflect. Often, we are exhausted from chasing after our material goals. In
fact, the Modern world “is full of insecurity, fear, war,
worry.” The complexities of Modern Life fueled Charley’s escapism and
provoked him to hallucinate about the Third Level at Grand Central Station.
According to his Psychiatrist, it was nothing but “a waking-dream
2. What do you infer from Sam’s letter to Charley?
Sam’s letter to Charley is quite an enigma. After Sam Weiner, Charley’s
psychiatrist friend disappears, Charley discovers that a first-day cover had been
mailed to his grandfather at his home in Galesburg. It had remained there since
July 18, 1894, and was kept unopened. A letter lies inside the cover instead of
it being blank. It is perplexing that the letter comes from Sam who “got to wishing” and then “got to believing” that Charley was right
about the Third Level. Ironically, this psychiatrist who previously dismissed
Charley’s experience at the Third Level as “a waking-dream wish
fulfillment” now not only claims to have found The Third Level but also
invites Charley and Louisa to join him. This is baffling as Charley and Sam
exist in the same time period whereas the letter claims to have arrived from as
far back as 1894. This gives us a hint of different versions of time and
reality that seem to exist in our consciousness. It is possible that Sam was
reminiscing about the old times and replaying different scenarios in his head.
The letter, therefore, could just be a figment of his overheated imagination.
3. “The modern world is full of insecurity, fear, war,
worry and stress.” What are the ways in which we can attempt to
The Modern World is complex and boisterous. To escape from the stress and
exhaustion, we all need to dissociate ourselves from the mundane activities for
a while. We can recharge ourselves in different ways that we find pleasurable.
One can sit back at home, read books of his choice and fill his mind with words
of wisdom. Inspiration can come through engaging in activities like art and
craft, writing a poem and letting the creative juices flow. Meditation and Yoga
help to relieve stress and replenish our energy levels. Spending alone time and
introspecting can help us deal with the complexities of life. Playing with our pet
or taking a long walk amid nature can soothe the mind. Interacting with friends
and families, travelling and exploring the world can make us more energetic.
Recreational activities like watching movies and even connecting with people
who have the same interest as us can provide us a sense of emotional support.
It is important to invest time in doing what we are passionate about
so that we can get in touch with our inner selves.
4. Do you see an intersection of time and space in the story?
“The Third Level” by Jack Finney is replete with the intersection of time
and space. The very first instance is the existence of Third Level in the Grand
Central Station which dates back to the 1890s whereas the other two levels
exist in the current times. Charley’s entrance to the third level is mystifying
in terms of time and space. The architecture of the third level differed from
the first two, and “the information booth in the centre was wood and old
looking.” The costumes of both men and women dated back to 1890s, and the
author was bewildered by the “beards, sideburns and fancy moustaches”
of many men, he came across. The locomotive and even the Newspaper dated June
11, 1894, overlapped with the reality he was living in. Charley is in the
present times but buys old-style currency to go on a trip to the Galesburg of
1894 with Louisa. The Letter from Sam is dated July 18, 1894. In reality,
however, both Charley and Sam belong to the present times. This reflects how
time and space overlap in the story and makes it even more amusing for the
5. Apparent illogicality sometimes turns out to be a futuristic
There are a lot of instances which prove that apparently unrealistic
imaginations have successfully materialised. Many scientists and inventors were
apparently scorned at for their ideas. They were initially rejected, and their
inventions were mocked. However, it were these inventions and ideas that, after
a generation later, revolutionised the world. Thomas Alva Edison’s light bulb,
Alexander Graham Bell’s Telephone and even Gutenberg’s Printing Press received
apprehensive remarks. Today, we would fall behind had these geniuses not
thought differently. Many of the inspirations for scientific discoveries,
literary creations and inventions were derived from dreams. The world of
Science Fiction stimulates us to look beyond the present world and dive into
potential reality. Thus, imagination and thoughts can transcend practicality
and provide us with a deeper insight into the future.
6. Philately helps keep the past alive. Discuss other ways in
which this is done. What do you think of the human tendency to constantly
move between the past, the present and the future?
The past can stay alive in photographs, recordings, videos, documentaries.
Often written documents like autobiographies, diaries help
us to connect with the memories of the past. Even Literary creations
and Oral history can throw light on many historical scenarios and enable us to
look at the past from the viewpoint of personal experience. Old artefacts,
monuments, buildings, sculptures provide a great deal of knowledge about the
past. Museums preserve the remains of different eras and civilizations which
stand as a testimony to the evolution of mankind.
human tendency to oscillate between the past, present and future facilitates us
to progress and evolve. Connecting with the past helps in
understanding how social structures, institutions and human society had worked.
We can be aware of the follies committed in the past. This knowledge
can be used to prevent the same mistakes from being made in the
future. While studying the past helps us to understand the present situation
better, envisioning the future is necessary to manifest our goals. Foresight
into the future can be instrumental in making necessary changes in
the present so that we can have brighter days ahead.
7. You have read ‘Adventure’ by Jayant Narikar in
Hornbill Class XI. Compare the interweaving of fantasy and reality in the two
In ‘Adventure’ Professor Gaitonde oscillates between fantasy and reality. He
collides with a truck while thinking about Catastrophe Theory. In the world he
visits, Bombay looks more like England. As he goes to Asiatic Society and
searches the History books, he is astonished by the information he revives. In
this world, the Marathas have won the battle of Panipat and Vishwasrao narrowly
escaped from death. The victory of the Marathas has contributed to an
altogether different reality here. However, upon returning to his own world, he
discovers Vhiswasrao had died and an entirely different course of the event followed. This brings to our mind the possibility of the existence of a
parallel universe. Similarly, in ‘The Third Level’
Charley believes in the existence of a third level when only two had
been constructed in reality. His hallucinations even lead him to buy old-style
currency to travel to Galesburg of 1894. Two different time periods overlap as
Charley receives a letter from Sam dated July 18, 1894, when in reality both of
them exist in the present times. Thus, both stories are based upon the
intermixing of space and time.