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The Umbrella Man - ROALD DAHL

Short story analysis oral presentation of THE UMBRELLA MAN by ROALD DAHL.

Esther Tang

on 25 March 2013

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Transcript of The Umbrella Man - ROALD DAHL

ROALD DAHL The Umbrella Man By Bridget Hwang 8A The Umbrella Man is a renowned short story by much-celebrated children's books author, Roald Dahl. He wrote many novels and a huge number of short stories, which all continue to be enjoyed by children of all ages. His stories describe oddities and outcasts across many spectrums, usually ending with the most unexpected twist. "Roald Dahl is the master of surpise endings" "He had an eye for the unusual" "Storytelling genius" A Brief Summary :) Set in the streets of London, the story is told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl, who, with her mother, are in a bit of a pickle. Having left a café, it began to rain quite hard. Unfortunately, they didn't have an umbrella with them, and while waiting for a taxi, they were approached by a small, but extremely polite, gentleman. He asks the mother to do him a favour, and being the suspicious person she is, she suspects something fishy. The small man, having forgotten his wallet, wanted to swap his 20 pound silk umbrella, for a 1 pound note, enough for a taxi fare to take him home. In great need of an umbrella to shelter them, the mother soon relents and trades a pound note for the silk umbrella. The old man takes the note and says good bye, but does not look like he was going to catch a taxi, instead he was walking briskly in another direction. Immediately suspicious again, the mother and her daughter begin to give chase, and see him enter a pub called THE RED LION. Curious about what he would do, they watched from outside. Together, they watch as the small gentleman buys a treble whisky with the pound note the mother gave him, to her outrage. They watch as he puts the glass to his lips, tilting it higher and higher, until he finished it all in one shot. They thought he was mad, to have given away his 20 pound silk umbrella just for a one pound drink. After he finished his drink, they watched as he went back to where is hat and coat were hanging. He put on his hat and coat. Then, in the most cool and casual manner that you would hardly notice anything, he lifted one of the wet umbrellas off he coat rack, and exits the pub. Caught utterly by surprise at his actions, the mother and child watch dumfounded as he scurried of down the road with the stolen umbrella, to complete the transaction for a pound note again. This time it was a tall, thin man, and as soon as he got the pound, he trotted off for another whisky, never going to the same pub twice. Characterisation Roald Dahl is able to effectively give a clear image of his characters, by his descriptions of their physical apperance, and the way they act and talk. The Mother By the way the mother acts towards strangers, and her reaction to the old man asking her a favour, immediately tells the reader she is a suspicious person. When she talks, she seems "very cool and distant" or talks in a "sharp tone" suggesting that she is a person not likely to be deceived. "You can always spot a gentleman because of his shoes" and "The nicer the man seems to be, the more suspicious you must become" also gives the reader an insight into her personality. The Girl This short story is told in first person perspective, through the eyes of the little girl. Dahl tells the story like it is an recount, focusing more on the other characters than the narrator herself. But through her thoughts and speech, the readers can uncover what type of girl she is. We can tell that her personality is quite different from her mother's, and that she is likelier to believe the old man's lies. She says "I felt quite embarrassed by my mothers sharpness" . The Old Man The main character of this story is actually the small, old gentleman with the superb manners. His character is the most interesting because we get to see a different side of him by the end. In the beginning, he is ambiguous, and as the reader, we only see his outer façade. He is also the only character who we get a physical description: " He was a small man and he was pretty old. He was well-spoken. He was well-dressed. This man had beautiful brown shoes. He was a real gentleman". Dahl has lead us, as well as the mother and her child, to believe he is a refined English man. But as the story progresses, Dahl expertly reveals the old man's true nature, one that is of a mere trickster. Setting Tone: The whole simplicity of the plot as well as the language is what I liked about 'The Umbrella Man' the most. It was clear and concisely written, not confusing me at all. For a short story, the plot was kept simple as well, introducing only three important characters. What I like about it The setting of this story is very much evident from the beginning of Dahl's The Umbrella Man. As mentioned before, Roald Dahl's style of narrative is almost like a recount style, clearly stating when, where and how the following events occurred. From the start, readers are told, from the child's perspective, where the events took place: "My mother took me up to London to see the dentist." "After that, we went to a cafe." Readers would imagine the setting as an everyday scene on a busy London street. This leaves the readers in suspense, or in wondering, of what could possibly happen in an everyday situation. The scene changes slightly shortly after, as the rain starts. This, also very natural setting, allows the reader to imagine a grey, busy city with rain teeming down onto buildings and pavements, people with their children, dogs or shopping bags, hurriedly looking for shelter as a colourful burst of umbrellas suddenly bloom open. Dahl used none of that above descriptive language and imagery, but was still successful in conveying this setting to the readers. Why is this? Because, just by mentioning "by the time we got up to leave, it was about six o'clock. When we came out of the cafe it had started to rain." ,these simple sentences can equally conjure the same imagery as it is something everyone would have seen before. The scene changes once again, as the mother and daughter follow that swindling man. Dahl describes this chase in a very repetitive way, which is somewhat amusing. "She took my arm and we crossed the street together. Then we turned left. He turned right down the next street. We came to a corner and turned right."" At the next crossing, the little man turned right again. Then he turned left. Then right." Although, some say his writing is childish and lacks description, his fast pace and alternating directions does not fail to set the scene of an intense chase. This rapid style urges the reader to continue reading to find out where the little man is going. Then, the little man reaches the pub called THE RED LION. This is another change of scenery; "the room we were looking into was full of people and cigarette smoke, and our little man was in the middle of it all." This setting also does not need extensive description because readers are likely to be able to imagine this setting very easily.

Overall, we know that Roald Dahl is not a man in favour of writing very much on settings in short stories, but likes to keep it clear and simple, almost every time leaving it to the reader's mind to conjure it up themselves. The tone of this short story is very factual and curt. Dahl uses short, punchy sentences to tell his story, making it a little humorous, emotional and very rather informal. Overall, his tone is very engaging for the audience. Being a children's writer, Roald Dahl uses simple language, but in a way where he is able to keep the story interesting as well. Simple language can be effective as well because it makes the story much easier to comprehend. In this example, it also suits the perspective it is told from - a twelve year old girl. You would not expect a modern, young girl to talk in an advanced, olden-literature language because that would be out of character. An obvious characteristic of Dahl's works are his devilish twists at the end. In this instance, Dahl works on building up the character of the small, old man as a kindly gentleman,but he turns out to be a swindling man. He also shows the mother as a suspicious person to subtly hint that the man is not what he looks like. A praise-worthy characteristic of Roald Dahl's writing is always his realistic dialogue. Dahl knows how to efficiently convey the speaker's words without seeming too unrealistic. He also knows how to empathise with and put himself into the character whether it be an old man or little girl. This aspect of his writing also makes it very believable. Effective dialogue: Writing Techniques What made it successful I first read this short story as an 11 years old, so it must have been very successful for it to remain in my memory for a whole 3 years. So why was it so successful? I believe 'The Umbrella Man' is a very carefully constructed narrative with a defined introduction, body and conclusion. The pace at which Dahl lets the events unfold is neither to fast or too slow. In addendum, what led this short story to be popular is the particular subject Roald Dahl chooses to write about. In short, it is unique; something only Dahl would think about.
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