In Saki's story "Dusk," would Norman Gortsby have given the young man any money if that young man had been able to produce the cake of soap?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“Dusk” opens as Norman Gortsby is "sitting on a bench in Hyde Park in London as the sun sets around 6:30 on an evening in March. He notices other people who are barely visible in the gathering gloom as they walk in the park or sit on benches."

Gortsby's perspective is that dusk or the time of day when it is nearly dark is the time that the defeated come out to wander about the park. Gortsby believes that the defeated folks are too ashamed to be seen in the daytime. He feels that the more successful people come out in the light of day, and since the defeated folks are too embarrassed to be seen in their shabby clothes, they would prefer to wander about when it is nearly dark. In this way, the more successful people cannot judge them.

The first old man who sits next to Gortsby seems to be depressed. When the old man tires of sitting, he leaves. Gortsby imagines that the old man gets no respect at home. 

The second man who sits down next to Gortsby has a sad tale. He has lost his way back to his hotel. He had gone out to purchase a bar of soap, and he could not remember the direction to his hotel. The young man is seeking a loan to get him through the night until the young's man's relatives learn of his situation.  

No doubt, Gortsby would have possibly believed the young man's story because the young man is dressed nicely enough. Even though Gortsby has had a cynical, skeptical attitude about people who come out at dusk, he most likely would have given the young man money because his story seemed probable. When the young man admits that his story likely seems improbable, Gortsby comments that he had a similar experience himself. 

Most likely, Gortsby would have given the young man money if the young man had been able to support his story with a bar of soap. When the young man could not produce a bar of soap, Gortsby becomes skeptical. Up until the point when the young man could not produce a bar of soap, Gortsby seemed to be buying the young man's story, even claiming that he had gone through similar troubles:

The youth himself admits that his story sounds improbable. However, Gortsby remarks that something similar once happened to him in the capital city of a foreign country.

When the young man walks away, thinking that Gortsby has discovered his trickery, Gortsby finds a bar of soap under the bench. Immediately, Gortsby chases the young man down:

Almost immediately, Gortsby finds himself rushing through the park, looking for the young man he has just insulted.

Gortsby gives the young man money. The fact that Gortsby runs after the young man when he finds a bar of soap is reason enough to speculate that Gortsby most likely would have given the young man money upon hearing the young man's sad predicament. No doubt, Gortsby would have been gullible enough to believe the young man's false tale if the young man had been smart enough to have had a bar of soap while telling his tale. Sadly enough, Gortsby will never see his money again.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

YES. The cynical Gortsby who "take(s)...cynical pleasure in observing and labelling his fellow wanderers" derives a certain amusement from the young man's tale and evaluates it accordingly. That Gortsby would have surely given the young man money is suggested by his concurring with the young man about how one can, indeed, forget his hotel. However, without the evidence of the cake of soap that the young man has supposedly purchased, the tale of forgetting where his hotel is and having no money lacks credibility, and Gortsby tells the young man so. But, after the young man departs, Gortsby is disappointed that he could not produce the bar of soap. He reflects,

If he had had the brilliant forethought to provide himself with a cake of soap, wrapped and sealed with all the solicitude of the chemist's counter, he would have been a genius in his particular line.

Further, when Gortsby thinks he discovers the soap, he runs after the young man and does give him money, a sovereign. Furthermore. he apologizes,

You must excuse my disbelief, but appearances were really rather against you, and now, as I appealed to the testimony of the soap I think I ought to abide by its verdict.

Characterized as "cynical," Gortsby is really a disappointed idealist.  For, when he thinks he has discovered the bar of soap, he cannot wait to return it to the young man whom he idealistically has wanted to believe all along.