The Umbrella Man

by Roald Dahl

Start Free Trial

In "The Umbrella Man," why has the narrator gone to London with her mother?

Quick answer:

The narrator has gone to London with her mother in order to visit the dentist. During her check-up, the dentist discovered and filled a cavity. After the visit and before returning home, they stop at a café for treats, and outside that café is where they encounter the umbrella man of the title.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In “The Umbrella Man,” the narrator—a twelve-year-old girl—and her mother make a trip into England’s capital city.

My mother took me up to London to see the dentist. He found one hole. It was in a back tooth and he filled it without hurting me too much.

The late-afternoon visit to the dentist is relatively efficient and uneventful. Before returning home, they stop at a café, where the mother treats her daughter to a banana split and herself to a cup of coffee.

Around six o’clock, they leave the café; because it is raining, the mother decides to hail a cab. She is interrupted by an elderly man who wishes to trade his umbrella for cab fare. Eventually, the mother and daughter discover that the old man is a thief who steals other people’s umbrellas and a con artist who pretends to be too infirm to walk in order to dupe people out of money.

The elderly man targets the girl and her mother perhaps because they appear to be from out of town and have money. The mother, suspicious, stares at the elderly man with a characteristic expression her daughter describes in detail:

My mother’s chin was up and she was staring down at him along the full length of her nose. It was fearsome thing, this frosty-nosed stare of my mother’s. Most people go to pieces completely when she gives it to them.

Both the mother and her daughter expect the man to wither under her stern gaze, but he does not; instead the con man is oblivious (and immune) to her act!

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial