Class 12- Vistas “The Third Level” Full Explanation

The Third Level,Jack Finney

Chapter 1, Vistas, Jack Finney’s “The Third Level” Summary, Theme, Character Sketch, Important Passages and Question Answers.

VISTAS, Chapter 1- The Third Level by Jack Finney:

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  • Brass spittoons: Containers made of brass for spitting into, typically found in public places in the past.
  • Corridors: Long passages in a building with doors or entrances leading to rooms on either side.
  • Derpy hat: A type of stiff, rounded hat with a narrow brim, often worn in the late 19th century.
  • Fancyclad: Decoratively or elaborately dressed.
  • Fireflies: Luminescent insects, also known as lightning bugs, that emit light at night.
  • Flickering: Burning or shining unsteadily; wavering in brightness.
  • Gaslights: Lights illuminated by burning gas, typically used in the past before the widespread use of electricity.
  • Hay, feed, and grain business: This business involves selling hay, animal feed, and grain.
  • Insecurity: Lack of confidence or assurance; uncertainty or anxiety about oneself or a situation.
  • Leg-of-mutton sleeves: Sleeves that are full and rounded at the top, tapering sharply to a narrow wrist.
  • Locomotive: A powered rail vehicle used for pulling trains.
  • Palm-leaf fans: Fans made from the leaves of palm trees.
  • Postmark: A mark stamped on a letter or package to show the date and place of posting.
  • Premium: An additional amount paid for something, typically because it is rare or high quality.
  • Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who specialises in mental health, including diagnosing and treating mental illnesses.
  • Refuge: A place or state of safety, shelter, or protection from danger or distress.
  • Stamp collecting: A hobby involving the collection and study of postage stamps.
  • Timetables: Schedules showing the times trains depart and arrive at various stations.
  • Waking dream: A dreamlike state experienced while awake, often involving fantasies or desires.

Summary ‘The Third Level’:

In “The Third Level” by Jack Finney, the protagonist, Charley, discovers a hidden third level at Grand Central Station that transports him back to 1894. Initially dismissed as a dream by a psychiatrist, Charley’s belief is validated when his friend Sam disappears and sends a letter from the past urging Charley and his wife to join him. Sam, who used to be Charley’s psychiatrist, chose to stay in 1894 Galesburg, Illinois, fulfilling his dream of running a hay, feed, and grain business. Charley, intrigued by Sam’s letter and finding evidence of the third level’s existence, continues to search for it with his wife. The story explores themes of escapism, nostalgia, and the allure of simpler times.

Themes in ‘The Third Level’:

Escapism and Nostalgia: 

“The Third Level” by Jack Finney explores escapism, nostalgia, and the allure of the past. Through the protagonist’s discovery of a mysterious third level in Grand Central Station, the story delves into the desire to escape from the complexities and uncertainties of modern life. The protagonist’s journey to a bygone era, represented by 1894, reflects a longing for simplicity, safety, and a romanticised view of the past. The theme of nostalgia is further emphasised by the protagonist’s friend’s decision to remain in the past, highlighting the powerful pull of nostalgia and the quest for a simpler, more idyllic existence amidst the chaos of contemporary society.

Character Sketch: 



Charley is the protagonist of “The Third Level.” He is portrayed as an ordinary thirty-one-year-old man living in a bustling city. He appears to lead a typical life, working in an office and living with his wife, Louisa. Despite his seemingly mundane existence, Charley’s encounter with the mysterious third level at Grand Central Station sparks a profound curiosity.


  • Curious: Charley exhibits an inquisitive nature, which is evident in his exploration of the third level despite its enigmatic and potentially dangerous nature.
  • Adventurous: His willingness to delve into the unknown and search for the third level demonstrates his adventurous spirit.
  • Reflective: Charley’s contemplation of the implications of the third level, both for himself and his friend Sam, showcases his introspective nature.


  • Escapism: Charley’s fascination with the third level stems from a desire to escape the complexities and uncertainties of modern life, suggesting a longing for a simpler, more idyllic existence.
  • Nostalgia: His quest to find the third level reflects a deep yearning for nostalgia as he seeks to connect with a past era of 1894.
  • Concern for Others: Charley’s concern for his friend Sam, who disappears after expressing interest in the third level, highlights his compassionate nature.

Role in the Story:

  • Protagonist: Charley is the central character whose experiences with the third level drive the narrative forward.
  • Catalyst for Exploration: His discovery of the third level leads to self-discovery and exploration of themes such as escapism and nostalgia.
  • Symbol of Human Longing: Charley’s character symbolises the universal human longing for an escape from the complexities of modern life and a yearning for a simpler, more peaceful existence.

Charley’s character in “The Third Level” is characterised by his curious, adventurous, and reflective nature and his motivations of escapism, nostalgia, and concern for others. As the protagonist, he plays a central role in exploring the story’s themes and symbolises human longing for a romantic past.

Important Lines/ Passages: 

1. “The presidents of the New York Central and the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroads will swear on a stack of timetables that there are only two. But I say there are three, because I’ve been on the third level of the Grand Central Station.” Charley is asserting that despite the official stance of the railway companies that there are only two levels to Grand Central Station, he believes there is a third level because he has experienced it firsthand. This line introduces the story’s central premise, setting up the mystery of the third level.

2. “And I wasn’t trying to escape from anything; I just wanted to get home to Louisa, my wife.” Charley emphasises that his motivation for being at Grand Central Station was not to escape from anything but simply to return home to his wife. This line highlights Charley’s normalcy and the innocuous nature of his visit to the station before he stumbles upon the third level.

3. “There’s probably a long tunnel that nobody knows about feeling its way under the city right now, on its way to Times Square, and maybe another to Central Park.” Charley speculates about hidden tunnels beneath the city, suggesting that such tunnels could explain the mysterious appearance of the third level at Grand Central Station. This line hints at hidden passages or alternate dimensions within the story’s setting.

4. “Then I knew… I could buy tickets that would take Louisa and me anywhere in the United States we wanted to go. In the year 1894.” Upon realising the true nature of the third level, Charley becomes aware that he has travelled back in time to the year 1894. This revelation highlights the fantastical element of the story and the opportunity for him to escape the troubles of the modern world by accessing the past.

5. “And that was that. I left the same way I came, I suppose.” After his brief encounter with the third level, Charley exits Grand Central Station, returning to the present day. This line indicates the abruptness of Charley’s experience and his uncertainty about how he left the third level, adding to the mystery surrounding its existence.

6. “But I’ve never again found the corridor that leads to the third level at Grand Central Station, although I’ve tried often enough.” Charley reflects on his repeated attempts to rediscover the corridor leading to the third level of Grand Central Station. Despite his efforts, he has been unsuccessful in finding it again. This line adds to the mysterious nature of the third level and the difficulty in accessing it.

7. “Now we’re both looking, every weekend, because now we have proof that the third level is still there. My friend Sam Weiner disappeared!” Following Charley’s friend Sam Weiner’s disappearance, Charley and his wife actively search for the third level every weekend. Sam’s disappearance proves that the third level exists and is still accessible. This line highlights the urgency and determination of Charley and his wife to find the third level again.

8. “And it had been there since July 18, 1894 — the postmark showed that — yet I didn’t remember it at all.” Charley discovers an old first-day cover in his stamp collection, postmarked July 18, 1894, addressed to his grandfather in Galesburg, Illinois. Despite the evidence of the letter’s existence, Charley has no memory of it. This line emphasises the mysterious and disorienting nature of Charley’s experiences with the third level.

9. “I got to wishing that you were right. Then I got to believing you were right. And, Charley, it’s true; I found the third level!” Charley’s friend, Sam, writes a letter confirming that he has found the third level and invites Charley and his wife to join him. This line highlights Sam’s excitement and conviction about the existence of the third level, urging Charley to believe in its reality as well.

10. “Come on back, Charley and Louisa. Keep looking till you find the third level! It’s worth it, believe me!” Sam urges Charley and his wife to continue searching for the third level, assuring them it is worth the effort. This line emphasises the allure and significance of the third level as a place of escape and refuge from the modern world’s troubles.

11. “Yes, I’ve taken the obvious step: I talked to a psychiatrist friend of mine, among others.” Charley acknowledges seeking advice about his experience at Grand Central Station, including consulting with a psychiatrist friend. This line highlights Charley’s attempt to make sense of his unusual encounter by discussing it with others, demonstrating his willingness to explore rational explanations.

12. “Then I walked down another flight to the second level, where the suburban trains leave from, ducked into an arched doorway heading for the subway — and got lost.” Charley describes his attempt to navigate Grand Central Station and access the subway, only to become disoriented and lost in the labyrinthine corridors and doorways. This line highlights the confusion and disorientation experienced by Charley as he unwittingly discovers the third level.

13. “There were brass spittoons on the floor, and across the station a glint of light caught my eye; a man was pulling a gold watch from his vest pocket.” Charley observes details of the third level that indicate its antiquated nature, such as brass spittoons and a man using a gold watch. These details contribute to the atmosphere of the past that permeates the third level, reinforcing the idea that Charley has travelled back in time.

14. “To be back there with the First World War still twenty years off, and World War II over forty years in the future… I wanted two tickets for that.” Charley desires to escape to a time before the turmoil of the two World Wars, emphasising the appeal of the past as a refuge from the uncertainties and conflicts of the present. This line reflects Charley’s longing for a simpler, more peaceful era.

15. “Of course the money was old-style bills, half again as big as the money we use nowadays, and different-looking.” Charley describes the currency he encounters on the third level as different from modern bills, indicating its old-fashioned appearance and further confirming the temporal displacement he experienced. This line contrasts the third level’s period and Charley’s contemporary world.

16. “But when I counted out the money and looked up, the clerk was staring at me. He nodded at the bills.” Charley recounts when he tries to pay for tickets on the third level with old-style bills. The clerk’s reaction indicates surprise or suspicion at the unusual currency, suggesting that Charley’s attempts to use outdated money in the present time are met with confusion.

17. “My three hundred dollars bought less than two hundred in old-style bills, but I didn’t care; eggs were thirteen cents a dozen in 1894.” Charley reflects on the exchange rate between modern currency and old-style bills, noting that his three hundred dollars were only bought in a smaller amount in the antiquated currency. Despite this, Charley remains undeterred, emphasising his willingness to adapt to the past’s economic conditions.

18. “But now we’re both looking, every weekend, because now we have proof that the third level is still there. My friend Sam Weiner disappeared!” Following Sam’s disappearance and the discovery of the letter from him, Charley and his wife intensify their efforts to find the third level. Sam’s vanishing is concrete evidence of the third level’s existence and motivates Charley and his wife to continue their search.

19. “The note is signed Sam.” Charley mentions the signature at the end of the letter found in his stamp collection, confirming its authenticity as a message from his missing friend, Sam. Sam’s signature adds credibility to the letter’s contents, reinforcing Charley’s belief in the reality of the third level.

20. “At the stamp and coin store I go to, I found out that Sam bought eight hundred dollars’ worth of old-style currency.” Charley learns from a stamp and coin store that Sam purchased eight hundred dollars worth of old-style currency before his disappearance. This revelation further highlights Sam’s commitment to his decision to stay in the past and his preparation for life in the 1890s.

21. “His old business? Why, Sam was my psychiatrist.” Charley reveals that Sam, who disappeared into the past, was his psychiatrist. This twist adds complexity to their relationship and raises questions about Sam’s motivations for leaving his profession and staying in the past.

Questions Answers ‘The Third Level’: 

Reading With Insight:

Q1: Do you think that the third level was a medium of escape for Charley? Why?

A1: Yes, the third level serves as a medium of escape for Charley. He encounters a world that offers him respite from the troubles and uncertainties of his contemporary life. With its simplicity and tranquillity, the nostalgic allure of the past allows Charley to escape the stress and chaos of the modern world.

Q2: What do you infer from Sam’s letter to Charley?

A2: From Sam’s letter to Charley, it is inferred that Sam has successfully found and embraced the third level as an escape from the present. He expresses his joy and contentment at being in the past, inviting Charley and his wife to join him. Sam’s letter confirms the reality of the third level and encourages Charley to continue searching for it.

Q3: ‘The modern world is full of insecurity, fear, war, worry and stress.’ What are the ways in which we attempt to overcome them?

A3: In attempting to overcome the insecurities, fears, wars, worries, and stresses of the modern world, individuals may resort to various coping mechanisms. Some standard methods include seeking therapy or counselling, engaging in hobbies or recreational activities, practising mindfulness or meditation, building strong social support networks, and pursuing personal interests or passions.

Q4: Do you see an intersection of time and space in the story?

A4: Yes, the story intersects time and space. The third level of Grand Central Station is a gateway to a different period (1894) within the same physical space as the present-day station. This convergence of different temporal realities within a shared spatial environment demonstrates the narrative’s interconnectedness of time and space.

Q5: Apparent illogicality sometimes turns out to be a futuristic projection? Discuss.

A5: The apparent illogical elements in a story, such as the existence of a third level or the ability to travel back in time, can be seen as a form of futuristic projection. Although these elements may seem illogical or unbelievable initially, they offer imaginative explorations of alternative possibilities and potential advancements in science or technology. As society continues to evolve, what may seem illogical today could become feasible or even commonplace.

Q6: 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?

A6: Philately, or stamp collecting, helps preserve the past by preserving historical artefacts and commemorating significant events, personalities, and cultural aspects. Other ways the past is kept alive include historical preservation efforts, such as museums, archives, and heritage sites; genealogy research and family history documentation; reenactments and living history events; and the study of literature, art, and music from different periods. 

The human tendency to move between the past, present, and future reflects our complex relationship with time and our innate desire to understand and connect with our personal and collective histories while envisioning and shaping our futures.

Q7: You have read ‘Adventure’ by Jayant Narlikar in Hornbill Class XI. Compare the interweaving of fantasy and reality in the two stories.

A7: Both “Adventure” by Jayant Narlikar and “The Third Level” by Jack Finney skillfully interweave fantasy and reality. However, they approach this blending in distinct ways.

In “Adventure,” fantasy emerges through Professor Gaitonde’s unexpected journey into an alternate reality, triggered by a collision and contemplation of historical events. This fantastical element contrasts sharply with the familiar reality he navigates, prompting reflection on the nature of existence and historical divergence.

On the other hand, “The Third Level” blends fantasy with reality by discovering a hidden subway station that connects to a parallel world from the past. Charley’s exploration of this mysterious level blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, challenging his perception of time and reality.

While both stories incorporate fantasy elements within a predominantly realistic setting, they explore different themes and concepts. “Adventure” reaches into alternate history and existential questions, while “The Third Level” explores the allure of escapism and the possibility of transcending time and space.

Extra Questions ‘The Third Level’: 

Short Answer Type Questions: 

Q1: What is the premise of “The Third Level” by Jack Finney?

A1: The protagonist, Charley, discovers a mysterious third level at Grand Central Station, which transports him to 1894. He receives a letter from a friend who disappeared into this level, urging him to find it, too.

Q2: How does Charley describe his encounter with the third level?

A2: Charley describes accidentally stumbling upon the third level, noticing its old-fashioned appearance, and realising he has travelled back to the late 19th century.

Q3: What does Charley try to do on the third level?

A3: Charley attempts to buy tickets to Galesburg, Illinois, in 1894, longing for the peaceful past and escaping the modern world’s troubles.

Q4: What happens when Charley tries to pay for the tickets?

A4: The clerk refuses Charley’s modern currency, prompting him to flee as he realises the money is incompatible with the period.

Q5: How does Charley verify the authenticity of his friend’s letter?

A5: Charley finds a first-day cover envelope among his stamp collection, postmarked from 1894 and addressed to his grandfather in Galesburg. The envelope contains a message from his friend Sam.

Q6: What does Sam’s message to Charley reveal?

A6: Sam’s note confirms his discovery of the third level and invites Charley and his wife to join him in the past and experience the peaceful life in Galesburg.

Q7: How does Charley react to Sam’s message?

A7: Charley becomes intrigued and determined to find the third level again, recognising its potential for escape from present-day worries and responsibilities.

Q8: How does Charley’s psychiatrist friend interpret his experience with the third level?

A8: Charley’s psychiatrist friend views the third level as a manifestation of his subconscious desire to escape from the stresses and uncertainties of modern life, attributing it to a form of wish fulfilment driven by discontentment.

Q9: What does Charley’s stamp-collecting hobby represent to his psychiatrist friend?

A9: Charley’s stamp-collecting hobby is seen as a temporary refuge from reality, indicative of his longing for a simpler and more peaceful existence, akin to his desire to escape to the third level.

Q10: How does Charley’s reaction to his friend’s disappearance differ from his psychiatrist’s interpretation?

A10: While Charley’s psychiatrist attributes his friend’s disappearance to a desire to escape, Charley sees it as proof that the third level is real and actively seeks to find it, driven by the hope of experiencing the idyllic past himself.

Q11: What does Charley’s decision to withdraw money from the bank and purchase old-style currency reveal about his mindset?

A11: Charley’s decision reflects his determination to return to the third level and join his friend in the past, willing to invest significant resources despite the scepticism of others, demonstrating his commitment to the pursuit of escapism.

Q12: How does Charley’s discovery of the first-day cover envelope impact his understanding of the third level?

A12: The first-day cover envelope is tangible evidence of the third level’s existence, validating Charley’s experience and reinforcing his belief in its reality. It motivates him to continue searching for it despite its elusive nature.

Q13: How does Charley’s pursuit of the third level affect his relationship with his wife, Louisa?

A13: Charley’s obsession with finding the third level initially worries Louisa, who fears for his safety and stability. However, as Charley becomes more convinced of its existence, Louisa joins him in the search, strengthening their bond through shared adventure and curiosity.

Q14: How does Charley’s experience with the third level challenge societal norms and expectations?

A14: Charley’s journey to the past disrupts conventional notions of time and reality, challenging the boundaries of what is possible. His desire to escape to a simpler era highlights discontentment with modern society, prompting reflection on the nature of progress and nostalgia.

Q15: What does Charley’s friend Sam’s transition from a psychiatrist to a businessman in 1894 imply about personal fulfilment?

A15: Sam’s transformation suggests that finding the third level allowed him to pursue his true passions and achieve a sense of fulfilment in a way his previous profession could not provide. It highlights the theme of self-discovery and the pursuit of happiness.

Q16: How does the theme of escapism manifest throughout the story?

A16: Escapism is evident in Charley’s desire to flee the complexities of the modern world by seeking refuge in the past. His pursuit of the third level, Sam’s disappearance, and the allure of Galesburg all serve as manifestations of this theme, highlighting the universal desire for solace and simplicity.

Q17: What broader commentary does “The Third Level” offer about the human condition?

A17: The story explores themes of nostalgia, longing, and the quest for meaning in a rapidly changing world. It suggests that the allure of the past is not merely about escaping reality but about finding a sense of belonging and purpose in the face of uncertainty.

Q18: What role does the “wakingdream wish fulfilment” play in Charley’s experience with the third level?

A18: The concept suggests that Charley’s encounter with the third level may be a product of his subconscious desires rather than a tangible reality. This ambiguity adds depth to the narrative, inviting readers to question the nature of Charley’s experience and its implications for his psyche.

Q19: How does Charley’s discovery of Sam’s letter challenge his initial scepticism about the third level?

A19: The letter provides Charley with tangible evidence of Sam’s experience in the past, compelling him to reevaluate his doubts and consider the possibility of the third level’s existence. It catalyses Charley’s renewed determination to find the elusive portal.

Q20: In what ways does “The Third Level” explore the theme of longing for a bygone era?

A20: The story delves into Charley’s yearning for the past, embodied by his desire to escape to 1894 Galesburg. This longing reflects a broader sentiment of nostalgia for simpler times and serves as a driving force behind Charley’s quest for the third level.

Long Answer Type Questions: 

Q1: What does Charley claim about the existence of a third level at Grand Central Station?

A1: Charley claims that there is a third level at Grand Central Station, despite the presidents of the New York Central and New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroads insisting there are only two. He recounts accidentally discovering this third level one night while trying to catch the subway home. Charley describes the third level as frozen in time, resembling 1894. 

He vividly describes the old-fashioned attire, gaslights, and antiquated currency. Despite scepticism from others, including his psychiatrist friend, who attributes it to wish fulfillment, Charley maintains the reality of the third level and continues to search for it, especially after his friend Sam disappears and confirms its existence through a letter.

Q2: How does Charley’s psychiatrist friend interpret his experience of the third level?

A2: Charley’s psychiatrist friend interprets his experience of the third level at Grand Central Station as a form of “waking dream wish fulfillment.” He suggests that Charley’s longing to escape from the modern world’s insecurity, fear, and worry manifests in his subconscious desire to find an alternate reality. Despite Charley’s insistence on the third level’s existence, his friend attributes it to psychological factors, implying that Charley’s unhappiness and desire for escape drive him to create this fantastical narrative. 

While Charley’s psychiatrist friend acknowledges the typical human inclination to seek refuge from reality, he views Charley’s experience as a psychological coping mechanism rather than a literal discovery of a hidden dimension.

Q3: What personal item does Charley mention as evidence of his journey to the third level?

A3: Charley mentions a first-day cover, a stamped envelope mailed to his grandfather in Galesburg, Illinois, on July 18, 1894, as evidence of his journey to the third level at Grand Central Station. This unexpected discovery among his oldest first-day covers serves as a tangible link to the past and confirms the reality of his experience. 

The envelope, addressed to his grandfather, contains a handwritten note from his friend Sam, who claims to have found the third level and invites Charley and his wife, Louisa, to join him there. This personal item validates Charley’s encounter with the third level and connects him directly to the mysterious and seemingly impossible journey back in time.

Q4: How does Charley describe the appearance of the third level at Grand Central Station?

A4: Charley describes the appearance of the third level at Grand Central Station as a scene frozen in the year 1894. He notices significant differences from the present-day station, such as fewer ticket windows and train gates, an old-looking information booth in the centre, and dim, flickering gaslights illuminating the area. 

The attire of the people present, including a man with a derby hat, a black suit, and a handlebar moustache, further indicates the period’s authenticity. Charley observes brass spittoons on the floor, open-flame gaslights, and individuals dressed in nineteenth-century fashion with beards, sideburns, and elaborate moustaches. These details collectively create a vivid image of a bygone era, transporting Charley to a time long before his own.

Q5: Charley finds a newspaper from what year on the third level, and what does it suggest about the period?

A5: Charley finds a newspaper from 1894 on the third level at Grand Central Station. Specifically, he discovers a copy of The World with a lead story referencing President Cleveland, dated June 11, 1894. This newspaper serves as a tangible artefact confirming the period of the third level. 

Its content, mentioning President Cleveland, provides historical context, indicating that Charley has travelled back to the late nineteenth century. The presence of such a newspaper, along with other period-specific details like attire and currency, solidifies the authenticity of the third level as a portal to the past, offering Charley a glimpse into a bygone era.

Q6: How does Charley attempt to purchase tickets on the third level, and what is the outcome?

A6: Charley attempts to purchase tickets on the third level at Grand Central Station using modern currency. Despite his desire to buy tickets to Galesburg, Illinois, in 1894 to relive peaceful moments from his childhood, he realises that the money he presents needs to be recognised by the ticket clerk. The clerk, noticing the outdated appearance of the currency, accuses Charley of trying to deceive him and warns him against attempting to defraud. 

Realising his mistake and the potential consequences, Charley quickly retreats from the ticket counter without purchasing any tickets. This encounter highlights the stark contrast between the present and the past on the third level and the challenges of navigating between different temporal realities.

Q7: What does Charley discover about his friend Sam’s whereabouts and occupation after his disappearance?

A7: After his friend Sam’s disappearance, Charley discovers that Sam has found his way to the third level at Grand Central Station, just like he did. Sam was transported back to 1894, specifically to Galesburg, Illinois. In a letter found among Charley’s oldest first-day covers, Sam invites Charley and his wife, Louisa, to join him in this alternate reality. 

Furthermore, Charley learns that Sam has utilised old-style currency, which he had purchased at a premium from a stamp and coin store, to establish himself in Galesburg. Sam has abandoned his previous occupation as a psychiatrist and has embraced a new life in the past, pursuing his dream of running a hay, feed, and grain business. This discovery sheds light on Sam’s whereabouts and his new occupation 1894.

Q8: How does Charley’s discovery of a letter from Sam on a first-day cover confirm Sam’s experience on the third level?

A8: Charley’s discovery of a letter from Sam on a first-day cover confirms Sam’s experience on the third level by providing tangible evidence of his presence in the past. The letter, found among Charley’s oldest first-day covers, is addressed to Charley’s grandfather in Galesburg, Illinois, dated July 18, 1894. In the letter, Sam explicitly mentions finding the third level and invites Charley and his wife to join him. 

The presence of this letter on a first-day cover, which serves as a timestamp, indicates that Sam’s experience is not merely a figment of imagination or a hallucination but a genuine journey to the past. It corroborates Charley’s encounter with the third level and validates the reality of this alternate dimension within Grand Central Station.

Q9: What does Sam’s letter to Charley suggest about life on the third level in 1894?

A9: Sam’s letter to Charley suggests that life on the third level in 1894 is idyllic and reminiscent of a simpler, more peaceful time. In the letter, Sam describes the scene in Galesburg, Illinois, where people are gathered on porches, enjoying music and lemonade. This portrayal evokes a sense of community and leisure, with neighbours coming together for shared enjoyment. 

Sam’s mention of attending a gathering where someone plays the piano, and everyone sings suggests a strong sense of camaraderie and social interaction. Sam’s letter paints a picture of a harmonious and contented existence, free from the anxieties and complexities of modern life. It implies that the third level offers an escape to a nostalgic and idealised version of the past, providing refuge from the present stresses.

Q10: How does Charley react to Sam’s invitation to return to the third level?

A10: Charley reacts with intrigue, disbelief, and cautious optimism to Sam’s invitation to return to the third level. Initially, he may feel sceptical about revisiting the past, especially after his unsuccessful attempts to find it. However, the letter from Sam serves as compelling evidence of its existence and the potential for a fulfilling life in 1894. 

Despite his initial scepticism, Charley may also feel a sense of longing for the idyllic world described by Sam, especially considering the challenges and uncertainties of his present-day life. Ultimately, Charley’s reaction may be one of determination and resolve as he and his wife embark on a renewed search for the third level, fueled by the promise of a more straightforward and happier existence in the past.


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