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How important a character is Fritz? Does he play any role in the story? Illustrate with examples.Marks:20
Fritz is the very lifelike Swiss doll which Jayanto receives from his uncle. Jayanto’s uncle had bought the doll from Switzerland. The man who had sold the doll to Jayanto’s uncle had told him, “He’s called Fritz. You must call him by this name. He won’t respond to any other.” This is the first indication that there must be more to Fritz than meets the eye. In the story, the author has given vivid details on Fritz.
Fritz was a twelve inch long figure of an old man who was dressed in the traditional Swiss costume. He was very lifelike. One could move and bend his limbs even though he was not mechanized. The doll had a smiling face and wore a Swiss cap with a yellow feather on it. The detailing on the doll was very intricate. His outfit was complete with belt, buttons, pockets, collars, socks and little buckles on the shoes. The craftsmanship of the doll was exemplary and perhaps that was what attracted Jayanto to him. Despite having many toys, Jayanto was very attached to Fritz. He used to spend hours and hours just talking to him and sometimes felt that perhaps Fritz would have responded if Jayanto knew how to converse in German.
Though he is present only in the memories of Jayanto’s childhood, the idea of Fritz changes the whole mood of the story. Fritz is responsible for the behavioural change which Jayanto goes through. Throughout the story, Jayanto fears that Fritz has come back from the grave and is haunting him. He is too scared to find out. Therefore, he initially does not approve of Shankar’s idea to dig at the spot where Fritz was buried.
The author does not reveal the true identity of Fritz. The readers keep wondering whether Fritz was a ghost or a haunted doll till the end. That is what makes the story a gripping read. Though Fritz is not an actual participant in most of the story, he keeps the story going. Therefore, even though Fritz isn’t an actual character who partakes in the action, he is just as important.
Compare the character sketches of Shankar and Jayanto.Marks:20
Jayanto is emotional, oversensitive and a believer in the supernatural. He is an editor by profession. He starts to behave erratically the moment they arrive at the circuit house in Bundi. As a child, he was pampered a lot and had many toys. But, Fritz was his favourite toy. He spent hours talking to the doll. He even believed that had he known how to speak German, perhaps Fritz would have responded. It shows that he has always had an active imagination. When Fritz was mauled by a pair of stray dogs, he reacted as if he had lost a friend. He wanted to give Fritz a proper burial. Since he could not arrange for the required things, he had to bury the doll directly under the deodar tree. He understands the difference between the rational and the irrational, but he is unable to get rid of his gut feeling that Fritz had visited them that night. He suspects something strange about Fritz and when they dig at the ground where Fritz was buried, his superstition grows stronger.
Shankar is a complete antithesis to Jayanto. He is Jayanto’s childhood friend. He is a school teacher and is also the voice of reason in the story. He is also very observant and curious. Not for a second does he believe that supernatural powers could be at play. He is the kind of person who sees the world in black and white. But, he is a helpful companion and a true friend who tries to keep Jayanto’s erratic behaviour in check. He constantly hunts for a logical explanation for the occurrences. In the story, there are times when he feels that he should give Jayanto a tranquilizer. But, he adopts a strategy which seems more effective. Like a well-reasoned man, he comes up with the idea of digging at the place where Jayanto buried Fritz. This shows that he prefers to tackle the issues head on. The manner in which he deals with the gardener shows that he can be quite tactful and persuasive. Since he is also the narrator of the story, he comes across as a rational and dependable narrator.
What made Jayanto visit the town of Bundi all over again? What changes happened to him there?Marks:20
Jayanto and Shankar – the protagonists of the story Fritz are childhood friends who embark on a trip to Bundi in Rajasthan at Jayanto’s insistence. Jayanto visited the place 31 years ago with his parents and he probably enjoyed his stay so much that he decided to come back one day. When the moment presented itself after 31 years, he was joined by Shankar. In the story, Jayantomentions that he always wondered how the circuit house and surroundings would appear to him years later. That is part of the reason why he decides to take a trip there. Another reason why he chose Bundi as the destination could be his memories of the time he spent in Bundi.
Despite the initial excitement and initiative, Jayanto’s behavior changes drastically once they arrive in Bundi. He starts feeling anxious and excited. It was as if he was afraid of something mysterious. The cause of his worry was the memory of his favourite doll – Fritz. Fritz was a twelve inch doll of an old Swiss man. His uncle had bought the doll from Switzerland. He took the doll with him to Bundi, where it was mauled by a pair of stray dogs. Jayanto then buried Fritz under the Deodar tree.
All these memories start to come back to him once they reach the circuit house in Bundi. Jayanto’s behavior grows more and more erratic. He feels paranoid and thinks that Fritz is haunting him. One day, in the middle of the night he feels something walk over his chest and is unable to sleep further. He is unable to pay attention to anything and sinks further into depression. Shankar feels greatly perplexed and decides to put an end to Jayanto’s fears by digging at the spot where Fritz was buried. When they dig, they don’t find the doll but find a twelve inch long perfect skeleton in the place of the doll.
Satyajit Ray chose to end the story in an unusual way. Did you find the ending satisfactory?Marks:20
Satyajit Ray was a master storyteller. The unusual ending of Fritz just validates that. Fritz is an unusual story due to many reasons. The story combines multiple cultural elements and binds them in a well-constructed narrative which successfully spooks the readers.
The story is set in a small town called Bundi in Rajasthan. The setting in itself adds a lot of mystery to the story. The story is narrated by Shankar who is visiting Bundi with his childhood friend Jayanto. As soon as they arrive in Bundi, Jayanto starts feeling uneasy. He is reminded of his last trip to Bundi with his parents, which happened 31 years ago. He remembers his favourite doll Fritz which his uncle had brought for him from Switzerland. Fritz is the centre point of the story. The author never conveys what Fritz actually was and that keeps up the air of mystery around the doll. Jayanto feels perplexed and thinks that he is haunted by Fritz. He is unable to enjoy his trip. Shankar starts to feel worried and there are instances in the story where he wonders if he should give Jayanto a tranquiliser. He tries to fight Jayanto’s fear with logic and reason, but Jayanto is unable to get rid of his anxiety. Shankar then convinces Jayanto to get someone to dig at the spot where Fritz was buried. He talks to the gardener who agrees and starts to dig. During the climax of the story, it is revealed that instead of Fritz, there was a perfect 12-inch human skeleton that was buried there. The author does not tell us whether the skeleton was that of Fritz or that of a child. This makes the ending of the story unusual as the author leaves the ending open and does not give the readers any form of closure.
He has not even hinted if Fritz was a supernatural creature. The human skeleton does not give us concrete ideas to deduce what Fritz was. This open ended-ness filled with infinite possibilities makes the ending of the story Fritz highly unusual.
How is Fritz unusual and different as compared to ordinary ghost stories?Marks:20
Ghost stories usually contain supernatural elements that induce a feeling of terror and are particularly designed to frighten the audience. Fritz is somewhat an unusual ghost story despite having most of the classic elements of horror stories – the eerie environment, remote and mysterious place, the colonial era circuit house, etc. It is set in a small sleepy town of Rajasthan, the setting gives a solid background to the story and makes it more believable.
The circuit house where the two protagonists stay during their trip is a building from the colonial era. The rooms have skylights, dangling ropes and high ceilings. Jayanto visited the circuit house 31 years ago and the memories start coming back to him slowly and gradually. That is when the thrill begins. He recalls his favourite childhood companion – a 12 inch doll of an old Swiss man, Fritz. He recalls how Fritz was mauled by a pair of stray dogs and how he had to bury Fritz. His memories make him uneasy and strange things start to happen at night. He feels something walk over his chest. Though his friend, Shankar, tries to reason with him and put his fears to rest, he remains uneasy throughout the story.
Later, on Shankar’s insistence, Jayanto agrees to get the gardener to dig at the spot where he had buried the doll as a child. The story ends with a shocking climax with the protagonists finding a twelve inch human skeleton in the space where Fritz was buried. The incidents that happen in the story raise many questions. Was there in fact a ghost? Did something walk over Jayanto’s chest that night? This is what makes Fritz an unusual ghost story. We never know whether Fritz was a ghost or a haunted doll or something else altogether.