The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl

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How would one analyze "The Umbrella Man," by Roald Dahl.

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Red herring is one of the most dominant devices author Roald Dahl uses to craft his short story "The Umbrella Man." A red herring is a type of literary device used in narration to distract a reader from what's really important and make the reader draw "false conclusions" about the outcome of a story ("Red Herring," Literary Devices). To create red herrings in suspense fiction, authors will paint innocent characters as either falsely innocent or falsely suspicious and plant misleading clues.

In his short story, Dahl creates red herrings by describing the elderly man in the story through the eyes of the young, naive, innocent, twelve-year-old protagonist. In her eyes, the man is small, "pretty old," polite, has a jolly-looking pink face, and is a gentleman. The protagonist is convinced he is a gentleman because of what she perceives to be the quality of his shoes, which she describes as being "beautiful brown shoes." She has learned to judge character based on shoes from her mother, who has told her, "You can always spot a gentleman by the shoes he wears."

Though the reader doesn't know it until the end of the story, the reader has many reasons to be suspicious of the young protagonist's assessment of the man. First, since she is only twelve years old, we have reason to question her judgement of his age. Children often think older adults are much older than they really are because children do not yet have the experience needed to judge age. Second, her mother's comment about shoes is really based on such things as expensive brand and materials. All the girl says is that his shows were "beautiful brown"; she is unable to say anything about brand or material because she again does not yet have the experience needed to judge. Therefore, the reader can question her assessment of his shoes. All of these clues--her assessment of the man, her description of him, her judgement of his shoes--are meant to distract the reader from drawing the correct conclusion that the man is not a gentleman and not trustworthy, making them perfect red herrings. But, since they are red herrings, all the reader is at first able to do is see the elderly man from the girl's eyes and be...

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