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In "Dusk," by Saki, explain the role played by the dusk and the cake of soap?
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Significantly, dusk is described as the hour of the defeated by Norman Gortsby. It is the hour of "gloaming" that brings out those who suffer fallen fortunes or lost hopes. They come at dusk to avoid the scrutiny of those who wonder what has occurred, for it is the time that they will not be noticed. Many of the people who come out at this time have lost money, loves, or position, so they appear when they will be little noticed.
Thus, as Gortsby sits amid this milieu of discouragement and defeat, there is an older gentleman on the other end of the bench. After a time, he gets up and leaves so that the bench is vacated. Shortly, however, the young man who tells the tale of misfortune joins Gortsby on the bench. The cynical Gortsby doubts the young man's story about leaving his hotel for a bar of soap and not being able to find his way back, because the speaker does not have the visible proof of the veracity of his story; namely, the soap. Even when the young man feels his pockets for the soap, Gortsby doubts him. So, the young man "flits" away down the path.
As he, too, rises to depart, Gortsby sees on the ground a bar of soap, which has evidently fallen from the pocket of the young man. Gortsby picks it up and hurries after the young man. "The important witness to the genuineness of your story has turned up," Gortsby tells the young man, who hastily pockets the soap. In contrition, Gortsby offers the young man some money with his card so that the money can be returned. With a "catch in his voice," the young man says, "Lucky thing your finding it."
Returning to his bench, Gortsby congratulates himself on catching up to the young man, but he chides himself, "It's a lesson to me not to be too clever in judging by circumstances." Of course, the irony to the ending is that the old man returns to search for his cake of soap; Gortsby learns that he has been tricked after all and his first judgment was the correct one. Indeed, Gortsby does belong on the bench in the twilight, "the hour of the defeated."
Posted by mwestwood on May 23, 2011 at 2:19 PM (Answer #1)
Literally speaking, the role of the soap is that it fools Norman Gortsby and makes him give money to the young man.
The young man says that he has forgotten which hotel he was staying in (he had just checked in, he says, and gone to buy some soap for himself). He says he needs money to tide himself over until the next day.
The young man can't produce any soap, though, so Gortsby disbelieves him. Then Gortsby finds a bar of soap on the ground and goes to find the young man. After he gives him money, he finds out the soap actually belonged to an old man who had sat at the park bench with Gortsby before the young man came.
Symbolically, I think that the soap represents fate and luck. It was just lucky for the young man and unlucky for Gortsby that the soap happened to be there.
Posted by nitishshah10 on May 5, 2012 at 6:29 AM (Answer #2)
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