What is the significance of dusk in the story "Dusk" by Saki and what role does the cake of soap play in the story?
The story takes place at dusk. This is the time of day when it is just getting dark. The significance of the time of day is that the defeated people come out at dusk. It is a time of day when the defeated folks will not be recognized. They can wander about without feeling others are scrutinizing their clothes, their lifestyle.
Gortsby is feeling a bit defeated himself. He is out at dusk sitting on a park bench. The sense of people living defeated lives and coming out only at dusk is Gortsby's philosophy. An older gentleman sits down on the park bench beside Gortsby. Gortsby at once assumes the man is feeling dejected. He assumes the older man gets no respect at home.
The older man leaves and a younger man sits down. He begins to tell Gortsby a sad story about being lost. The younger man claims that he left his hotel to buy a bar of soap. He claims that he left his wallet in the hotel. Now, he cannot find his way back. He fears that he will have to sleep outdoors tonight.
Gortsby would have fallen for the younger man's story had he had a bar of soap to corroborate his story. Without a bar of soap, it is clear that the younger man is lying. He is a scam artist. Feeling even more defeated, the younger man gets up and leaves. Then Gortsby just happens to see a bar of soap underneath the park bench.
Gortsby chases the young man down, gives him his bar of soap, and loans the young man money to get another hotel. The bar of soap corroborates the younger man's story. It serves as evidence that the younger man is indeed telling the truth.
Walking back past the park bench, Gortsby notices the older gentleman looking for something:
As Gortsby walks back, he passes the bench where he had been sitting. 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.”
Gortsby has been scammed. The younger man is an excellent scam artist. He's a charlatan. He also is very lucky. By chance, the older gentleman dropped his bar of soap. Ironically, Gortsby is a good judge of character who fell for the younger man's scam.