Student Question

What is a character sketch of Gortsby in the story "Dusk" and why is he in the park?

Expert Answers

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Norman Gortsby is a young man who apparently has a good job in some office in London. He is not married. Otherwise he would have gone home instead of sitting on a park bench at "thirty minutes past six." He has probably been cooped up indoors all day at work and is enjoying the outdoors for an hour or two before going home to a furnished room. He is not rich by any means but he is better off than the people he sees around him in the dusk.

Money troubles did not press on him; had he so wished he could have strolled into the thoroughfares of light and noise, and taken his place among the jostling ranks of those who enjoyed prosperity or struggled for it. 

Gortsby is obviously intelligent. He enjoys watching the passing throng and analyzing them on the basis of their appearance. He considers himself a good judge of people. Perhaps he has the sort of job that requires him to judge people. He might work in a bank or a law office. He seems to be a long-time city dweller. He is somewhat sophisticated, but not as sophisticated as he thinks he is. He probably dresses well, which is one of the things that attract the young grifter who plops down beside him.

Gortsby doesn't mind talking to people. That is one of the reasons he is sitting on a park bench. He is willing to talk to anyone who cares to strike up a conversation, but he is wary of strangers because he knows full well that people who sit down beside you on park benches frequently end up asking for money. At that late hour there should be plenty of benches on which no one is sitting, so Gortsby would have good reason to be suspicious of anyone who sat down beside him. 

Gortsby is not exactly a social climber, but he probably has aspirations to climb a rung or two farther up the social ladder. This is what motivates him to chase after the young stranger when he finds the bar of soap and believes he made a mistake in not offering to lend him enough money to rent a room for the night. The grifter's story makes it appear that he is from a family of landed gentry and that he doesn't know a soul in London. Gortsby fears he may have lost a golden opportunity to form a friendship with a man of his own age and superior station just by lending him a sovereign for a day or two. Gortsby can imagine being invited down to the young man's home for shooting ducks and meeting people who might be useful to him in achieving some upward mobility. This is exactly the impression the young grifter had intended to create with his hard-luck story.

Gortsby was scudding along the dusk-shrouded path in anxious quest for a youthful figure in a light overcoat.

He is falling all over himself with apologies and explanations, trying to make up for his cold rejection earlier.

"Here is my card with my address," continued Gortsby; "any day this week will do for returning the money, and here is the soap — don't lose it again it's been a good friend to you."

Gortsby is destined to be a sadder and wiser young man when it turns out that he never hears from the man he befriended. 

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