Give examples from the text to prove that "double personality" is a theme of the short story. "Fly in the Ointment" by V.S. Prichett.
The man we meet when Harold comes to his father's failed business is solicitous and kind. He is pleased that Harold has come, he offers him tea—and is sad when Harold declines a drink—and apologizes for the state of his office. As the reader continues, it is discovered that the father has not always been so nice to his son:
"Come in, Professor," said the father. This was an old family joke. He despised his son, who was, in fact, not a professor but a poorly paid lecturer at a provincial university.
This segment foreshadows later developments in terms of Harold's father's behavior. From the moment Harold arrives to provide moral support to his dad, he is careful to step carefully around his father.
Better not arrive in a taxi, he was thinking. The old man will wonder where I got the money from.
Harold has had many years to know his father, learning the hard way. Intriguingly, while they speak, the father insists that he has learned a lesson: that money has been his biggest problem, and he doesn't care if he never sees it again. However, as they continue to converse, the harder side of the older man (the one Harold knows so well) exposes itself, showing Harold something of this father that he had never before noticed:
"Listen to me a moment. I want you to get this idea," said his father, his warm voice going dead and rancorous and his nostrils fidgeting. His eyes went hard, too. A different man was speaking, and even a different face...the son noticed for the first time that...his father had two faces. There was the outer face like a soft warm and careless daub of innocent sealing wax...and inside it...was a much smaller one, babyish, shrewd, scared and hard.
The gentler side of his father may be a direct result of the failing business. When someone is successful and powerful, there often may seem little need to be kind to others. Disaster, however, has a sobering effect and can many times soften the hardest of hearts. While this "epiphany" is an eye-opening experience for Harold, it makes the reader wonder as to the point Pritchett is trying to make.
With regard to the duality of the father's personality, the first point may well be that people can be softened by tragedy. However, a second and different message from the author may be that "things are not always as they appear to be;" or, "people don't change overnight."
We are creatures of habit. Being resilient is necessary in survival; in truth, resilience rarely stops operating and simply disappears. With various examples of foreshadowing, we learn that while he seems soft on the outside, the hard heart of a tenacious and competitive man—one who has even swindled people out of their money—is still "alive and well," and living inside Harold's father.
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