Give a characterization of Norman Gortsby in "Dusk" by Saki.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Saki does not share physical characteristics about Norman Gortsby in his story “Dusk.”  Everything in the story is seen through Gortsky’s thoughts and feelings although he is not the narrator of the story. The story’s name comes from the setting of the story which is about 6:30 p.m. in the spring in London.

Norman, the protagonist of the story, is sitting on park bench near a famous place in London called Hyde Park.  He labels this time of day as the “hour of the defeated” among which he counts himself.  On this evening's dusk, Norman feels somewhat trounced upon because “he had failed in some subtle ambition.”  Money is not Norman’s problem as the narrator implies.  Since Norman carries around business cards, he probably is some kind of professional.

What else can the reader elicit from the story about Norman? He is obviously educated and verbose, probably thinking himself smarter and more clever than he really is.  Self-described as extremely sad and disheartened—Norman  finds himself in a sardonic mood ready to watch people and make mocking judgments about them. Condescending in his opinions of others, Norman seems to almost enjoy the unhappiness or misfortune of others.  

He was …not disinclined to take a certain cynical pleasure in observing his fellow wanderers as they went their ways in the dark

Judging the old man who sits beside him on the bench, Norman decided that he is  one who moans about everything.  He immediately vanquishes the old man  to the land of those who barely pay their bills and live without respect. 

Norman, in his arrogance, thinks he has misjudged a young man after accusing him of not telling the truth.  He hurries to find him, apologizes,  and loans him money assuming that the young man will pay him back.  In the end, our protagonist finds that he has been deceived by the young man by a bar of soap.  Appropriately, Norman finds himself back on the bench where he belongs in the land of the defeated.    


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