(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Conjurer Made Off with the Dish” is a subtle metaphor told in first-person narration about the loss of a young Egyptian boy’s innocence and his need for parental protection. One morning the boy is sent out by his mother to buy a piaster’s worth of beans for breakfast. There follows an account of all the things that happen to the boy as he tries to complete this seemingly simple errand. However, even after several visits to the neighborhood bean seller, his mission is unsuccessful.

The first time the boy is sent out to buy the beans, he does not know or has forgotten whether the beans need anything on them and, if they do, whether it should be oil or cooking butter. On returning better informed to the store the second time, he is still unable to specify which kind of oil he needs—linseed, vegetable, or olive. On his third visit, following a scolding by his mother, the boy is unable to find the coin that she had given him to pay for the beans. After his increasingly irate mother gives him another piaster, threatening to recoup it from his money box and to break his head if he returns empty-handed, the boy is diverted from his destination by a conjurer’s show. He is attracted by the man’s sleight of hand involving rabbits, eggs, snakes, and ropes. However, the conjurer, incensed by the boy’s refusal to pay after watching the performance, hits him on the back. On reaching the bean seller’s store, the boy realizes that he no longer has his mother’s dish to carry the beans. He retraces his steps, suspecting the conjurer of having made off with the dish. However, when he...

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