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Book Review: The Third Level by Jack Finney

The Third Level by Jack Finney is a story about time intersection. The narrator of the story is a thirty-one-year old Charley who works in New York. Charley insists that the Grand Central Station of New York has three levels, but people working at the station say only two. Charley claims that he has been to third level, on this his friend Sam, a psychiatrist, says that Charley is looking for escapes from the reality of life, as today’s world is full of insecurity, fear, wars, etc. Also, he called that it is a waking-dream wish fulfillment. Charley is also in the hobby of collecting stamps and his friends often labeled stamp collection a type of effort to escape from reality. To this Charley puts that he inherited the stamp collection hobby from his grandfather and during his time the world was a good and secured kind of place. So, he doesn’t agree that stamp collection is an excuse to remain aloof from the reality.


One summer night Charley, instead of taking bus to reach home, thinks of taking subway from the Grand Central Station as he has to reach home on time to meet his wife Louisa. To some time, everything is fine, people crossing him and the normal hustle-bustle of the metro. Well, he while walking gets into one long dark tunnel like corridor. He walks further and begins noticing things are from some other era, for example, gas lights, spittoons and fancy beards, sideburns and moustaches. Then he caught sight of a different-looking locomotive, funnel shaped, and this time his suspicion becomes clear that he is in some other time zone. To confirm it, he walks over to a newsboy and glances at the stack of papers at his feet. The name of the newspaper is ‘The World’ – and it does not get published in his current time. The date on the paper read: June 11, 1894.

Charley then thinks of buying tickets for Galesburg, Illinois, to go there with his wife. According to him, Galesburg is a nice and calmer place with lawns, farms and pleasant climate. He approaches the wooden ticket window and asks for tickets for Galesburg. Well, when he takes out currency, the ticket seller warns him of that he needs to have old bills (currency), not the one he have. He also warns him of jail, Charley fearful of jail, runs away to the same passage from where he had come.

Charley reaches home and narrates the tale to his wife, and she grows worried. Next Charley goes to the exchange corner and gets his money changed to old bills i.e. to the time of 1890s. After that he searches a lot about the passage but never gets through it. Also, his friend Sam disappears. Charley and his wife searches him every weekend at many places, they are sure that Sam, taking clue from Charley, has gone into the third level.

One night while browsing his stamp collection, Charley comes across a letter marked to his grandfather. He opens it and finds that the letter is written to him by Sam. Sam writes that he is happy there in that time and doing his favourite business.

So, the conclusion is that sometimes we, humans, feel so out of our world that we look for possible escapes, well this story is about time intersection, which is a kind of long dream that we do not experience during our sleep. Time intersection is an illusion.

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