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Poison Short Story Analysis

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Robert Starrs

on 3 March 2015

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Transcript of Poison Short Story Analysis

Poison Short Story Analysis
By: Roald Dahl

Major Conflicts
Literary Devices
Timber Woods
Harry Pope
Harry--his motivation is the mystery. Harry is the antagonist, the one who causes conflict for the protagonist. The ambiguity in the story, that starts in medias res, makes it difficult to know Harry's motivation. On the one hand, Harry might have fallen asleep and dreamed the snake advancing across his torso. On the other hand, there might have been a snake that advanced, completely traumatized Harry, and departed--and it may or may not have been a krait. Some readers are of the opinion that Harry is playing a deliberate practical joke but this is not a widely held opinion and is inconsistent with textual evidence.

But he didn't move. He didn't even turn his head towards me, but I heard him say, 'Timber, Timber, come here.' He spoke slowly, whispering each word carefully, separately, ... 'Stop. Wait a moment, Timber.' I could hardly hear what he was saying. He seemed to be straining enormously to get the words out.

Doctor Ganderbai
About the Author
About the Author
Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916. He grew up in South Wales. In 1932, Ronald Dahl graduated from Repton. After graduation he joined the Royal Air Force before settling down in Washington D.C. to become a writer. Some of his books are "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach". Roald Dahl died on November 23, 1990.
By: Robert Starrs and David Zakhary
"He was still speaking like he'd been shot in the stomach." (simile)
"He was lying there very still and tense as if though he was holding on to himself hard because of pain." (simile)
"Mr. Pope, are you sure you even saw the snake in the first place?" (verbal irony, sarcasm)
Setting and its Significance
*The setting of "Poison" by Roald Dahl is in Harry Pope's bungalow in India. It is set in a time when the Europeans are forming colonies. This effects the characters attitudes.
Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Some of her books were "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "On the Pulse of Morning." Along with being a writer, she was also an actress. She died on May 28, 2014 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Point of View
Roald Dahl writes "Poison" in first person point of view--a character in the story tells the story. Readers know this from the beginning because the story opens with Timber's words,

"It must have been around midnight when I drove home, and as I approached the gates of the bungalow."

For this particular story, first person works extremely well because the narrator, Timber, is a friend of Harry (the character upon whom the plot and theme are centered). Timber witnesses objectively for the reader the interaction between Harry and Dr. Ganderbai, and allows the reader to interpret how poorly Harry treats the doctor because of his own racism.
- One of the major conflicts in the story is the krait that is on Harry Pope's stomach. It had conflict between itself and Harry. Since it is not really there, then it signifies that Harry has conflict with himself.

- Another conflict is Harry Pope being racist throughout the story to the doctor saying that it was his fault.

Doctor Ganderbai is the protagonist of the story. This is indicated by such things as the attention given to describing the Doctor's equipment and medical manner. His motives are clearly revealed so that his transparency contrasts with Harry's ambiguity. Ganderbai is clearly a conscientious and caring man of medicine. His medical ethics include the ruse of keeping his patient, who is clearly in a dangerous situation, calm and optimistic even though there may be little real reason for calm or optimism. He is motivated by an equanimity and self-assurance that are a blend of inner character strengths and professional excellence.

Timber Woods is the narrator and third-party observer of and witness to the incident with the snake. The question of his motives isn't a large one as he is presented as a trustworthy narrator who honestly conveys events without bias--other than his natural concern and worry. In other words, there is no reason presented in the text for Woods to make his friend look other than he is nor to make the doctor look other than he is.

The overall message of the story is that racism is a poison that infects everyone around you with hate.
It's only in the last few paragraphs, though, that you realize that Dahl's real point is about racism. Harry Pope is perfectly willing to tolerate Dr. Ganderbai as long as his life is in danger, but as soon as Ganderbai dares to question the white man, Harry lets his true colors show. One other theme is that many problems are not really as big as they seem and are simply a mental battle to be dealt with.
- Timber Woods, the narrator, arrives home at his bungalow to discover his partner, Harry Pope, lying in bed and acting strangely. Harry is whispering and sweating all over. He tells Timber that a krait - an extremely poisonous little snake - crawled onto the bed and is now sleeping under the sheet on Harry's stomach. Timber gets a knife from the kitchen in case Harry gets bitten, which he'll use to cut the skin and suck out the poison. Harry tells him to call the doctor. Doctor Ganderbai agrees to come at once. Once he arrives, he quickly decides that the first thing to do is inject Harry with some snakebite serum. Carefully, Ganderbai rolls up Harry's pajama sleeve and ties on a rubber tourniquet. Harry is struggling not to move or cough. Ganderbai smoothly inserts the needles and administers the serum. Outside, the doctor tells Timber that the serum is by no means a guarantee of safety. They decide to try to anesthetize the snake. The use chloroform to soak the mattress beneath Harry. The process is agonizing and takes a long time. Eventually they begin to slowly lift the sheet off Harry. They see no sign of the snake. "It could be up the leg of his pajamas," says Ganderbai. At that, Harry goes berserk and leaps to his feet, shaking his legs violently. When he stops, they realize that he hasn't been bitten and the snake is nowhere to be seen. "Mr. Pope, you are of course quite sure you saw it in the first place?" asks Ganderbai. Harry turns red and asks if Ganderbai is accusing him of being a liar. When the doctor doesn't reply, Harry begins screaming horrible racist insults at him. The doctor quickly leaves. Timber stops the doctor outside and apologies for Harry. He thanks the doctor for his help. "All he needs is a good holiday," Ganderbai says quietly before driving off.
Maya's mother owns a store. Due to the time period the family that works at the store is constantly mistreated. The racism continues to escalate. Maya realizes how much these white people are hurting her family and more specifically her mother.
The End
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