What is the irony of the story "Dusk" ?

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In the story "Dusk" there is irony. It is ironic that the main character, who believes himself to be a good judge of character, gets deceived by the young man who shared the park bench with him. Gortsby believes that the time of day known as dusk brings out defeated and shady characters. Those who are depressed or rejected by society come out at dusk to the park. Since it is almost dark, the defeated or shady characters feel they won't be recognized by society:

 “Dusk” opens on Norman Gortsby, the character from whose perspective all the story’s events are seen. 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.

While Gortsby is feeling confident in his philosophy, an old man sits down first. Gortsby imagines that he receives no respect at home. In fact, he lives in a depressed state, according to Gorstby.

Gortsby believes people like the old man live defeated lives:

In any case, Gortsby enjoys sitting on a bench and passing sardonic judgment on the other people in the park at dusk.

The first old man who sat next to Gortsby leaves. A younger man comes and sits down. The younger man tells an incredible story. He is lost and cannot find his way back to his hotel. He had gone out to buy a bar of soap. Gortsby tells him his story would have been credible if he had had a bar of soap with him. Gortsby perceives that the younger man is lying and is trying to get money from Gortsby.

After the younger man walks away, Gortsby finds a bar of soap under the park bench. Immediately, Gortsby runs after the younger man to give him his soap and a loan of money. 

As Gortsby returns to his park bench, he sees the older man looking for something:

He notices the old man who had also been sitting there earlier. The old man is now searching for something. When Gortsby asks if the old man has lost anything, the man replies, “Yes, sir, a cake of soap.”

The irony of this story is that Gortsby who is skilled in his perceptions of defeated people actually falls for the younger man's story. Gortsby loans the younger man money he will never see again. Ironically, Gortsby falls for the younger man's trap. It goes to show that human nature is gullible. Gortsby is not wiser in all his experiences of dealing with defeated people at dusk. 

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Comment on the ironic ending of the story Dusk.

The ending of “Dusk” revolves around two interrelated ironies, both of which stem from Norman Gortsby’s condescending behavior and egocentric worldview. These interrelated ironies offer the reader a sort of lesson, reminding us of the dangers of judging ourselves to be too clever—a crime that ultimately leads to Gortsby’s defeat. 

The short story opens...

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with Gortsby at a park where he is taking pleasure in the supposed defeat of those around him. A young man approaches him, explaining that he is a visitor who is unable to remember the name or location of his hotel. The man explains that he left the hotel to purchase some soap, and he asks Gortsby if he would be willing to lend him some money. After the young man is unable to produce the aforementioned soap, Gortsby decides that the tale is too fanciful and thus a lie. The young man leaves Gortsby behind, but moments later Gortsby finds a small soap on the ground. Gortsby takes this as evidence that he was mistaken, and he leaves to find the man so that he can loan him some money.

Gortsby takes the encounter as a reminder to trust others, noting that “It’s a lesson to me not to be too clever in judging by circumstances.” This “lesson” is another moment of Gortsby’s condescension, and the irony becomes clear a moment later when an old man comes by looking for his misplaced soap. The soap that Gortsby found and interpreted as evidence was nothing more than a coincidence: it was mistakenly dropped by another and of no relationship to the boy. Part of the irony of the ending revolves around this sudden epiphany so soon after Gortsby’s “lesson.”

The other irony of the ending is the way that it produces a reversal of the story’s opening. In the opening of the short story, we learn that Gortsby is in the park at dusk because he believes that it provides him with the opportunity to look out at the “men and women, who had fought and lost.” Gortsby takes a

certain cynical pleasure in observing and labeling his fellow wonders as they went their ways in the dark stretches between the lamp-light.

While Gortsby is at the park to objectify and take pleasure in what he might refer to as the losers around him, the ending of the story inverts this dynamic. The young man takes pleasure—and coin—from Gortsby, transforming him into an object in his scheme. The ironic twist of the end stems fully from Gortsby’s own condescending views of those around him, transforming him into a victim of his own ego.

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What is the irony in the story "Dusk"?  

The main irony in "Dusk" has to do with Norman Gortsby's self-deception and subsequent enlightenment. As the story begins he is sitting on a park bench observing the passing parade of humanity and feeling, as the narrator states,

. . . not disinclined to take a certain cynical pleasure in observing and labelling his fellow wanderers as they went their ways in the dark stretches between the lamp lights.

He thinks of them as "the defeated," but he doesn't feel any sympathy. He himself is young and relatively prosperous. He must have a good position with some commercial firm and is relaxing after another day's work. He notices an elderly gentleman on the bench beside him who also looks "defeated" but has no pity for him either.

Gortsby is an urbanite. He has developed a hard shell. Obviously, he has spent a lot of time on park benches studying humanity; otherwise, he wouldn't have so many opinions about people who haunt the dusk. Anyone who looks reasonably prosperous and sits on park benches regularly is bound to be approached by panhandlers and grifters. It is important to understand that he is definitely not a wealthy gentleman of leisure; otherwise, the loss of one sovereign would not be important. It would not be a learning experience, and Gortsby's learning experience is story's whole point and purpose.

Gortsby is self-confident. He is not afraid of strangers. He is not the kind of person to jump up and dash off if a stranger sits beside him and starts a conversation. He will listen patiently and politely to panhandlers' appeals and grifters' hard-luck stories, and even to propositions of damsels in distress--but when it comes to handing over money he is adamant. His philosophy might be expressed simply as: "I have to work and work hard for my money. Why shouldn't you do the same?"

When the young grifter plops down beside him and tells a complicated story about losing his hotel, Gortsby listens attentively. Then when the stranger indicates that he needs a loan, he finds out that he is up against a stone wall.

"Of course," said Gortsby slowly, "the weak point of your story is that you can't produce the soap."

When the grifter leaves in a huff, after realizing that he has been wasting his breath, Gortsby happens to find the wrapped cake of soap on the ground by the bench. This is where the irony comes in. He experiences a change of heart. He feels ashamed of himself for insulting a gentleman in temporary need. He realizes he has become too cynical and skeptical as a result of living and working in the  competitive environment of a big city where money is everything.

But after he catches up with the young grifter and gives him a whole sovereign plus the cake of soap he found, he sees an elderly gentleman

. . . poking and peering beneath [the bench] and on all sides of it, and recognized his earlier fellow occupant.

When the old man explains that he lost a cake of soap, Gortsby realizes that he has been a sucker and has looked like a fool. The irony in the story is contained in the fact that Gortsby was right about his original attitude towards humanity when he was cynical, skeptical, and cold-hearted, and that he was wrong when he became soft-hearted, generous, and sympathetic.

Gortsby goes from being hard-hearted to being soft-hearted and  back to being even harder-hearted. He has learned not to trust anybody and not to assume other people's burdens. This is the message that Saki, a Tory and a reactionary, wanted to convey.

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Discuss the irony in "Dusk" by Saki.  

There is no irony in “Dusk” until the end. Gortsby is observing the men and women he thinks of as “the defeated,” but he is not feeling sorry for them.

The scene pleased Gortsby and harmonized with his present mood.

Gortsby is not one of the defeated himself, but he is not a wealthy gentleman of leisure, either. He probably has a good job at some bank or brokerage firm. He has gotten off work and is resting on a park bench before going home to a modest apartment. It is important that he is characterized as a man who has a little extra spending money but is not wealthy, because the loss of a sovereign (five pounds) will be painful when it happens.

He notices the unhappy expression of the elderly gentleman sitting beside him but does not feel sorry for him either. Then when the old man leaves and the young con artists plops down, Gortsby is on the defensive. He listens to the hard-luck story like a connoisseur of such stories, but his response shows he had no intention of parting with any money.

“Of course,” said Gortsby slowly, “the weak point of your story is that you can’t produce the soap.”

Then after the young stranger leaves in a huff, Gortsby finds a package of soap on the ground and suddenly feels ashamed of himself for the cynical, skeptical, calloused attitude that living in the big city has caused him to develop toward his fellow man. He hurries to catch up with the young man and gives him a sovereign and the cake of soap.

This is where the irony comes in. Gortsby feels guilty and ashamed. He tells himself:

“It’s a lesson to me not to be too clever in judging by circumstances.”

He is going to be a changed man. He is going to try to feel sympathy and Christian charity towards the “defeated” people he observes all around him. But then when he passes the bench where he had been sitting

. . . he saw an elderly gentleman poking and peering beneath it and on all sides of it, and recognize his earlier fellow occupant.

“Have you lost anything, sir?” he asked.

“Yes, sir, a cake of soap.”

Gortsby realizes he has been swindled. What makes it ironic is his understanding that he was right in being cynical and skeptical and mistrustful in the first place. Not only that, but he now sees that this elderly gentleman might be another swindler. The old man might have been planning to tell Gortsby the same story about losing his hotel, but, being older and more experienced in his profession, he may have procured a cake of soap to substantiate his story and left it near the bench deliberately, intending to come back and use it as a gambit to start up a conversation. The irony of the story points the moral that you can’t trust anybody and you shouldn’t feel sorry for people.

Saki, whose real name was H. H. Munro, has been described as a Tory and a reactionary. Such a man would have been opposed to government handouts for the indigent and a strong believer that people should learn to take care of themselves. Munro may have been a Social Darwinist, one who believes in survival of the fittest and that the weeding out of inferior humans only contributes to the improvement of the species.

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