Please compare "Dusk" by Saki and "The Umbrella Man" by Roald Dahl as stories of tricksters.

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

People who live in the country can satisfy some needs, especially for food, without money. But city people need money for everything. Money is their preoccupation. Both “Dusk” and “The Umbrella Man” are about money. As Wordsworth wrote:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Those at the bottom beg for money. Most panhandlers barely survive.They can only obtain small sums and a lot of rejections. The interesting similarity between the tricksters in “Dusk” and “The Umbrella Man” is that both have devised ways of getting money without working and without begging.

Gortsby’s trickster poses as a gentleman of leisure because he fancies himself in that role and is trying to live comfortably without working. He talks of foreign cities and going to “one’s Consul.” The notion of having to go out to buy special soap is a nice touch: it shows refined tastes and broad experience with traveling. Gortsby tries to keep up with him:

“I remember doing exactly the same thing once in a foreign capital, and on that occasion there were two of us, which made it more remarkable.”

Gortsby was not planning to give the stranger money, regardless of whether or not his story was true. When he finds the soap, however, he pursues him. He is embarrassed about insulting a man he takes to be a social superior. He gives the stranger his card, not only in order to have his loan repaid by mail, but probably hoping to become better acquainted with a member of the upper class. From the beginning there is a suggestion that if Gortsby lends the stranger a sovereign he might get invited for a weekend  at one of those ugly country mansions where the hunting dogs sleep on the furniture. This is never explicitly stated, but the con man’s story contains many suggestions and implications.

“Unless I can find some decent chap to swallow my story and lend me some money I seem likely to spend the night on the Embankment.”

“Decent chap” is a nice touch. Sounds like Oxford and Eton.

The “umbrella man” also poses as a member of a superior social class. After all, he can afford to own an umbrella worth twenty pounds and virtually give it away for one pound, whereas the girl-narrator’s mother says:

“Aren’t we lucky. I’ve never had a silk umbrella before. I couldn’t afford it.”

In fact, mother and daughter were standing there getting drenched by the downpour because they didn’t have any umbrella at all.

“A real gentleman,” she went on. “Wealthy, too, otherwise he wouldn’t have had a silk umbrella. I shouldn’t be surprised he if isn’t a titled person.”

This trickster also has aspirations to a higher standard of living than he can afford. When mother and daughter follow him to the pub, they see him order a triple whiskey and probably leave enough of a tip to use up the entire one-pound note, before helping himself to another silk umbrella.

Both Saki’s youthful trickster and Roald Dahl’s elderly trickster are getting money by posing as members of the upper class rather than as needy panhandlers. Both are living out fantasies of actually being such gentlemen of independent means.

The elderly "umbrella man" will probably drink himself to death or die of pneumonia from walking around in the rain. Gortsby’s young trickster will go on to bigger scams and end up in prison or in Parliament.

me1tsush | Student

 “Dusk” and "the umbrella man"  are  short story about a con game. Even in the civilized world of London, the theme of survival of the fittest, or better yet, how Fate can step in and bring down the arrogant, is still very evident.

in dusk Gortsby represents the type of people that Munroe loved to portray and expose what they really were under their facades of superiority. It seems at first that Gortsby has seen through the con of the young man, but fate steps in when he finds the bar of soap that backed up the con. Unfortunately for Gortsby, the soap belonged to someone else, and the con man still gets his money and gortsby was fooled .

but in the umbrella man though the same thing happened and the mother and daughter were fooled but the tint of humour was present and also it was shown that even the most alert person are fooled by the perfection of these con men .

in Dusk fate had a large role to play or else the trickster would never get the money but in the umbrella man it was the old man's superb acting , storyline and appearance that worked for him. 

futurejairaj1 | Student

In the case of "Dusk," the protagonist is Gortsby, who seems to think he knows a lot about tricksters and how to defraud others, only to have circumstances work against him and prove him wrong when he finds the soap by the bench where the young man was sitting. This leads him to seek out the young man, fervently apologise, and give him the money he was asking for. However, as he congratulates himself on having done the right thing, he is shocked to return to the bench to discover that the bar of soap did not belong to the young man after all, and he had been successfully taken in. The ruse is therefore only successful in this story because of circumstances, and Gortsby was, in fact, correct in his original assessment of the young man.

In "The Umbrella Man," on the other hand, it is a young girl and her mother who are taken in. The elderly gentleman who offers to sell his umbrella to them is very convincing, and it is only the way in which he swiftly and energetically walks away once he has sold it that makes them suspicious. Following him, they discover that "his game" as the mother says is to steal umbrellas from a local pub and then sell them to finance his next beverage. As the mother comments, "I bet he could carry on going all night!" Although both tricksters do something or forget something that give themselves away, we could argue that the umbrella man is the more successful trickster, as he is obviously able to fund his drinking habit easily.

harshpandit4 | Student

ou have chosen two excellent stories to compare, as both focus on how some people are able to trick others into taking advantage of them in some way. What is interesting about both the man who sells the umbrella in Dahl's story and the young man in "Dusk" is the way that both have obviously carefully practised and presented their story many times to come across as convincingly as possible. The old man in Dahl's story, in spite of the natural mistrust that the mother has of strange men, spins a very convincing story, and is able to act the part, appearing to be tired and weak. In the same way, in "Dusk," the young man is able to give obvious proof of how unfortunate he is when he sits down next to Gortsby:

As if to emphasise the fact that the world went badly with him the new-comer unburdened himself of an angry and very audible expletive as he flung himself into the seat.

Both have carefully prepared and planned their "story," and both end up being successful in gaining money from their "victims," though of course it is the young man in "Dusk" who forgets a vital piece of proof to back up his story and is only able to trick Gortsby thanks to complete chance. The umbrella man too lets his story be shown to be false because of the sprightly way in which he walks away from the mother and daughter. Thus, in a sense, although both confidence tricksters have prepared their "acts" well, they let themselves down through either forgetting one vital piece of proof, or letting the act drop too quickly.

nishakankaria | Student

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gursukhan9sidhu | Student


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