The Bottle Imp Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

While making a visit to San Francisco “to have a sight of the great world,” Keawe, a young Hawaiian sailor, admires the opulent houses of the rich. He is particularly impressed by one house, which, while smaller than the rest, is “all finished and beautified like a toy.” To his surprise, he discovers that the elderly man who lives in this beautiful house is “heavy with sorrow” and sighs constantly. The elderly man tells Keawe that his house and all his fortune came from an imp who lives in a magic bottle. The imp will grant any wish that the owner of the bottle makes, but if the owner dies before he sells the bottle, “he must burn in hell forever.” The person who sells the bottle must always sell it for less than he paid for it. The elderly man tricks Keawe into buying the bottle for fifty dollars, which is all the money that Keawe has. Keawe attempts to discard the bottle or sell it for a profit, but it magically comes back to him.

When he returns to Hawaii, Keawe finds that his uncle and cousin have died, leaving him their land and a large sum of money. Resolving that he “may as well take the good along with the evil” of the bottle, Keawe has a beautiful house, called Bright House, built overlooking the ocean. His friend Lopaka persuades him to call the imp out of the bottle so that they can see what it looks like; although they are horrified at the appearance of the imp, Lopaka buys the bottle in order to enlist its power to obtain a schooner for himself.

Free of the bottle, Keawe lives in Bright House in “perpetual joy”; he could not “walk in the chambers without singing.” He sees a beautiful young woman, Kokua, bathing in the sea and instantly falls in love with her. She agrees to marry him, but then Keawe discovers that he has contracted leprosy. Unwilling to marry Kokua while he has this dread disease, Keawe resolves to buy the bottle again, although “ice ran in his veins” at the thought of the evil-looking imp. He goes in search of Lopaka, and although he cannot find his friend, he succeeds in tracing the bottle, which is now in the possession of a young white man who was desperate to pay back some money that he had...

(The entire section is 892 words.)