Critical Evaluation

Kálmán Mikszáth was a country squire, lawyer, magistrate, journalist, member of parliament, and novelist; his forte, however, was undoubtedly the ability for superb storytelling. He draws his characters with the certainty of a man who knows and understands the people about whom he writes, mainly the Hungarian peasantry. The ease with which he transforms everyday life into unusual stories reminds one strongly of Guy de Maupassant; his sense of humor, as demonstrated in this novel, makes reading a pleasure. The author became a member of the Hungarian Academy and of the Hungarian Parliament, but his parliamentary speeches will be long forgotten while the hilarious episodes of St. Peter’s Umbrella will be still remembered.

Sometimes called the Hungarian Mark Twain, Mikszáth established his fame as a short-story writer before he turned to writing novels, the first of which was St. Peter’s Umbrella. Like much of Twain’s work, the novel reveals a bittersweet, jauntily pessimistic tone in Mikszáth’s attitude toward the human condition. Although Mikszáth wanted to believe in essential human goodness, he was empirically convinced that human flaws and failings were innate and ineradicable. Thus, the well-meaning priest becomes party to a heretical superstition about the umbrella. So, too, the otherwise inoffensive brothers and sister of Pál Gregorics become greedy vultures who begrudge Gyury a share of his father’s estate.


(The entire section is 503 words.)