In the story "Dusk," do you think Gortsby is too quick and rash in forming opinions about people? Give reason for your answer?  

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Norman Gortsby strikes me as a sophisticated young man who has lived in the great city of London for years and has been approached for money innumerable times. He is eminently approachable because he is well-dressed and likes to lounge on park benches. He does not seem especially quick and rash in judging the young stranger who sits beside him and tells him a complicated tale of woe. Gortsby listens to the stranger attentively. Then he shows his sophistication:

"Of course," said Gortsby slowly, "the weak point in your story is that you can't produce the soap."

The young man sat forward hurriedly, felt rapidly in the pockets of his overcoat, and then jumped to his feet.

"I must have lost it," he muttered angrily.

After all, this young stranger is obviously not some panhandler hoping to get a shilling; he is in need of enough money to rent another hotel room for the night. He claims to have sent the address of the lost hotel to relatives and that he can contact them to get that address within twenty-four hours. When Gortsby relents and gives the young man a sovereign, that should prove that he is not hard-hearted but just a bit cynical after years of experience with strangers.

A sovereign was a coin worth one pound, and a pound was worth approximately five American dollars. That was quite a lot of money in those days, over a hundred years ago, enough to rent a good hotel room and perhaps have enough left over for supper that night and breakfast the next morning. Gortsby did not give the money away; he thought he was making a loan and that the young man would mail him a sovereign as soon as he had access to his own money at the hotel he had "lost."

So Gortsby turned out to be doubly trusting. He believed the stranger's story and also believed the stranger would repay him. Even if the story were true, it was not necessarily the case that the stranger would be as generous as Gortsby. He might decide to keep his sovereign, since he was never going to see Gortsby again.



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