The short story "B. Wordsworth" explores an unusual friendship between an old man and a boy with critical appreciation. Discuss.

In this coming-of-age story, a mysterious poet named Black Wordsworth strikes up a friendship with the young narrator. Before Wordsworth dies, he instills in the boy a sense of the poet's vocation.

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In the short story "B. Wordsworth" by V. S. Naipaul, an old man appears at the gate of the unnamed narrator, a school-aged boy, and asks to observe the bees in the yard. He says that he is not a beggar but a poet named Black Wordsworth, a brother to White Wordsworth. This initiates a friendship between the poet and the boy. They take walks together, and Wordsworth invites the boy to his small house in the midst of an untended garden. He also tells the boy a touching story of a husband and wife who are both poets. She becomes pregnant but dies before the child is born, and the poet resolves as a result to never cut the garden. Wordsworth also tells the narrator that he is working on the greatest poem in the world.

One day the boy comes to visit and he observes that Wordsworth is dying. The old man tells the boy that he made up the story about the couple and the greatest poem in the world, and now that the boy knows this he can never come back. Later, when the boy passes by, he sees that Wordsworth's house has been torn down and the garden has been ripped up to make room for a large two-storied building.

A coming-of-age story involves the growth of the protagonist from youth to maturity. "B. Wordsworth" fits this category of literature. One of the first things that the old man tells the boy is that he too is a poet, and over the course of their friendship the boy begins to believe him. Through their interactions and conversations, Wordsworth impresses upon the boy the value of nonconformity and the importance of an artist observing things from a fresh perspective. The boy is skeptical at first but soon begins to realize that the old man is not an eccentric crackpot, but rather offers profound insights into the nature of life and art.

At the end, when the dying Wordsworth seems to refute everything that he has told the boy, Naipaul leaves uncertainty in the minds of his readers. It is possible that Wordsworth's intention is to definitively send the boy away so that he will not be traumatized by Wordsworth's death. Whether the poet's stories were true or not is ultimately not important. What's important is that he has given the boy the heart of a poet and awakened his senses to observe the world in a more vivid way.

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The short story "B. Wordsworth" (by V. S. Naipaul) is a coming-of-age story about a young boy who encounters a "stranger caller" at the home of his mother. The stranger asks to watch the bees that inhabit the palm trees in the yard. The stranger "[speaks] very slowly, as though every word was costing him money." The man is a self-avowed poet and tells the boy that he is writing "the greatest poem in the world," at a rate of one line per month.

The shared appreciation between the boy and the man is their affinity for poetry, or, more broadly, personal observation. The man tells the boy that the boy, too, is a poet (though the narrator gives us no explicit reason for the stranger's conclusion). The boy and the stranger become friends, and, on one occasion, the poet/stranger waits for the boy after school on the corner of the street. He invites the boy to come to his yard and eat mangoes (which angers the boy's mother, when he arrives home late).

The poet and the boy share another formative experience, lying on the grass and looking up at the sky. The poet encourages the boy to "think about how far those stars are from us." The narrator reports that he "had never felt so big and great in all [his] life." The poet teaches the boy to appreciate nature and its bounty (i.e., fruit, grass, stars). The poet also tells the boy an oblique story of a relationship between "boy poet" and "girl poet," who died "with a young poet inside her." The narrator interprets this to be autobiographical.

The end of the story reveals the aging poet telling the boy that his poem is not going well. On his deathbed, he offers to tell the boy a "funny story" and announces that the story about the boy poet and girl poet was untrue, as well as the claim that he had been writing "the greatest poem in the world." The narrator "ran home crying, like a poet, for everything [he] saw." He reports visiting the home of the poet many years later and finding that it has been destroyed and replaced.

Despite the grand deception employed by the poet, the boy concedes through his narration that indeed he learned from the poet to cry and to see. The subtext of the poet's ruse is that being a poet is, independent of writing poetry, a lifestyle. For reasons once unknown to the boy, the poet claimed an affinity with him and, in so doing, convinced the boy of his own unique poetic sensibility. The stranger/poet, though deceptive and inscrutable, is a catalyst for the boy's coming of age. He teaches him to embrace his emotion and powers of observation.

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