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‘Dusk’ is a short story written by Saki. It is a combination of the author’s own musings, an encounter with a stranger and the what came out of it.
About the Author:
Saki (1870-1916) is the pen name of Hector Hugh Munroe. Born in Myanmar, he was a British writer, later becoming a prominent journalist. Famous works of his include ‘The Open Window’, ‘The Interlopers’ and ‘Gabriel-Ernest’.
The theme of this short story revolves around the proverb ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. This can be vividly noticed as the story intricately weaves in guile and subtle deception that can be attributed to human nature.
The story begins with Norman Gortsby sitting on a bench in the park, musing. It was dusk. He feels that dusk is the hour of defeat and proceeds to give examples of the same. Sitting in the dusk, he considers himself defeated too, even though he was not financially burdened. This acts as a premonition, or rather, foreshadowing to the story.
The Young Man:
Norman notices an old man seated in the bench next to him. He looked dejected and as Norman puts it, defeated. As he left, a young man takes his place. In contrast to the shabby old man, he is fairly well dressed. He looks troubled.
When Gortsby ventures to ask what the trouble was, the young man narrates his problem. Being new there, he had only then found out that the hotel he had been supposed to stay in had been taken down. Moving to another hotel on the behest of a taxi driver, he finds to his dismay that he had forgotten to pack his soap. As he did not prefer the ones provided by hotels, he decides to buy a soap, only to find that had lost his hotel. Presently, he stated glumly that he had no money and no place to spend the night. Naturally, Gortsby doesn’t believe him.
The young man understands that he doesn’t believe him. He states that he his tale is indeed unbelievable. He dejectedly states that unless anyone believes him enough to give him some money, he should take to the streets for the night. Gortsby replies to this that while he had been in such a predicament himself, he finds that the young man being without the soap hints that he must be lying. The young man tries to locate his soap in vain, declaring that he must have lost it. Realising that he didn’t believe this, the young man leaves, his head held high.
Upon his leaving, Gortsby finds a soap on the ground. Realising his mistake, he finds the man, gives him the soap and some money with an apology. He further gives him his card with his address for him to return the money later. Accepting both, the man leaves hurriedly. When Gortsby returns, he finds the previous old man searching for something. When asked what it was, he replies that he’d lost his soap.
This is a story that has a hint of humour. Gortsby finds himself ironically defeated in the very same dusk he felt defeats people!