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Saki's "Dusk" employs a distinct writing style and various literary techniques characterized by specific language choices


Saki's "Dusk" uses a distinct writing style marked by irony, satire, and concise language. The narrative employs vivid descriptions and sharp dialogue, enhancing the story's themes and character dynamics. Saki's choice of language often includes subtle humor and keen observations, creating a rich, engaging reading experience that reveals deeper social commentary.

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What writing style and literary techniques does Saki use in "Dusk"?

The short story "Dusk" by Saki opens with a man named Gortsby sitting on a park bench at dusk, contemplating the type of people around him in the park at that time of day. An elderly man next to him gets up to leave, and the young man who takes his place tells Gortsby that he left his hotel to buy a bar of soap but afterward was unable to find the hotel again. He expresses concern that he will have to spend the night outdoors unless he can find someone to lend him some money. Gortsby asks the young man to produce the bar of soap, and when the young man cannot, he walks off in a huff. Gortsby then finds a bar of soap on the ground under the bench, hurries after the young man, apologizes, and lends him the money. Upon returning to the bench, though, he finds the elderly man searching for the bar of soap he has lost.

This story is told from a third-person limited point of view. That is, Saki focuses only on Gortsby and what he is thinking, and everything else that happens is observed from his perspective. This is crucial because of Saki's intention to misdirect the reader just as Gortsby is misdirected by the circumstances within the story.

The style of the story is subdued. Saki uses simple language to tell his tale, because he plans to have the actions of the characters surprise his readers, rather than the language itself.

The main literary technique that Saki uses in "Dusk" is misdirection, and he uses it in two main areas. First of all, his description of Gortsby's opinion of what type of person comes out at twilight turns out to be misdirection. Saki contrasts the well-off people who frequent the brightly lit avenues with the unfortunate people down on their luck who frequent the park under cover of dusk. Gortsby is feeling defeated, and he sympathizes with the others around him who are also defeated in some aspect of their lives.

Into this atmospheric scene enters a con man, and the story abruptly changes from a moody description of the city's unfortunates to a battle of wits between Gortsby and the young man. Gortsby supposes that he has exposed and bested the young man when he asks him to produce the soap, and he really has. However, Saki is again misdirecting his readers, much as a magician uses sleight of hand to do their tricks. Gortsby finds the soap, runs after the man, and lends him money. Only when he returns to the bench and finds out that the elderly man owned the soap does he realize that he was not as clever as he thought and that he was ultimately duped by the con man.

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What writing style and literary techniques does Saki use in "Dusk"?

Saki's prose style clearly owes a certain amount to the aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century, particularly the work of Oscar Wilde and Max Beerbohm. He tends, however, to be less poetically descriptive, favoring dryness and brevity over florid vocabulary. In "Dusk," it is notable that the atmosphere he describes at the beginning has everything to do with the title of the story but little to do with the plot—except, perhaps that a man would probably be more anxious about having no place to stay in London as the dusk draws in. Saki uses light and noise as symbols of success or participation in life, whereas Gortsby prefers the quiet and dim light that are connotations of dignified failure.

The dialogue is crisp and light, with the young man emphasizing that he is not a beggar by refusing even to ask directly for money. The closest he comes is the following circumlocution:

"Unless I can find some decent chap to swallow my story and lend me some money I seem likely to spend the night on the Embankment. I'm glad, anyhow, that you don't think the story outrageously improbable."

He threw a good deal of warmth into the last remark, as though perhaps to indicate his hope that Gortsby did not fall far short of the requisite decency.

The desperation remains firmly below the surface, to the extent that Gortsby does not even directly refuse. He merely suggests that he might be more likely to help if the young man were able to produce the bar of soap. This restraint in the dialogue reflects the unemotional style of narration. Repetition is judiciously employed to emphasize coincidence, as when Gortsby reflects that the young man should have produced a cake of soap "wrapped and sealed with all the solicitude of the chemist's counter" and this phrase is repeated almost exactly when describing the cake of soap he finds. The sequence of coincidences and apparent coincidences with a final twist is typical of Saki's technique, which in this particular story involves such a sudden and paradoxical inversion of the protagonist's thoughts that it seems even closer than usual to the works of O. Henry.

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What writing style and literary techniques does Saki use in "Dusk"?

While Saki's techniques are conventional, his sympathies are not.  In his short story, "Dusk," as in many of his writings, he satirizes the same people that he has entertained with his writing.  Norman Gortsby is a gentleman of some wealth whose complacency in his judgments of people is satrized.  As Gortsby sits on the bench in the park, Saki describes the unsuspecting man with irony:

He was in the mood to count himself among the defeated.

The ironic twist at the end of the story in which he believes that he has been proven wrong about the young man, priding himself of his graciousness in returning the soap and making him the loan of a sovereign, clearly pokes fun of his attitudes as the old gentleman returns as the actual owner of the soap:

Poor boy, he as nearly as possible broke down," said Gortsby to himself.  "I don't wonder either; the relief from his quandary must have been acute.  It's a lesson to me not to be too clever in judging by circumstances."

Even when Gortsby humbles himself and displays compassion, Saki's satire is unrelenting.  For, he retraces his steps to find the elderly gentleman search for his lost soap, thus providing readers with the surprise ending that the young man is, indeed, a swindler.

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What type of language is used in Saki's story "Dusk"?

In his story "Dusk," author Saki employs light/dark imagery to create a certain mystery in his narrative; in addition, his skillful utilization of irony and satire enhances the startling effect of his story's ending.

For instance, the mysterious tone is established with the light/dark imagery in the exposition of the narrative as Saki writes of the "faint moonlight," "shadowed gloom," and the "gloaming hour" which disguises the "unconsidered figures" who move with "bowed shoulders."  In this atmosphere of abject figures in the twilight, Saki's character of Norman Grotsby, who takes cynical pleasure in watching the others, seems somewhat superior since he has only failed in what Saki terms a more "subtle ambition."  With this subtle word choice which suggests Grotsby's superiority, and his demonstration of mental acumen as he detects the flaw in the young man's tale of being lost after stepping out of his hotel for soap, the satiric irony of Gortsby's error in thinking that the soap discovered under the bench after the young man departs belongs to him is startling.

In order to further enhance the irony and satire, Saki's diction creates credibility on the part of the young man.  For example, Saki writes that the young man possesses a "look of disarming frankness," and he makes "an eloquent pause."  When Gortsby does not seem to believe him, the youth displays "a suggestion of resentment in his voice."  Further, this diction disarms the unsuspecting reader as the youth 

threw a good deal of warmth into the last remark, as though perhaps to indicate the hope that Gortsby did not fall short of the requisite decency.

Thus, the diction of the narrative about the young man who talks in the shadows of twight to the cynical Gortsby, who seems the superior man of the dialogue, enhances the satire of human nature as well as the startling irony of the last line of the story.

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