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Roald Dahl - Taste

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Darya Kharitonova

on 7 May 2014

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Transcript of Roald Dahl - Taste

The story is set in Mike Shofield's house in London, England. Particularly in the dining-room area, at dinner time in the evening, which is vividly described by the narrator and character in the story;
"...the table was laid for a feast. The tall candles, the yellow roses,...shining silver, the three wineglasses to each person,...faint smell of roasting meat..."
'Taste' is about two men: Mike Schofield and Richard Pratt. Richard visits Mike's household as a respected and frequent guest, and almost every time of his visits the two men make the same bet and Richard unusually always wins.

In Mike's house, is a study that contains wine that holds a diversity of types of wines from various places in the world. Richard Pratt is a well-educated gourmet who is particularly good at guessing the names, types and origins of different wines just by tasting them. And so the bet in the story, is if Richard can guess the wine that Mike has picked accordingly due it's rare and insignificant origins; making it impossible to guess what it might be. Richard nevertheless correctly guesses the wine but an old and faithful maid of Mike's family beholds a pair of spectacles that belong to Richard. She carefully says that Richard has left them in the study that he visited before the dinner and bet. Mike is furious for being cowardly deceived.

Though it is not explained at the end, we as the readers understand, that Richard entered the study and looked at the wines' labels and misleadingly proclaimed he could guess the wines by himself.
The character that opposes Richard Pratt is Mike Schofield, but acts as a 'good guy' and Richard acts as the opposite. Mike is an amiable and jovial middle-aged man, who seeks to be a man of culture due to his unimpressive career as a stockbroker. He likes to show his knowledge of culture topics, especially to Richard Pratt, who Mike seeks praise from such a well educated man in the culture domain. Mike is quite wealthy due to his job with plentiful of food and wine and a faithful maid in his house, these attributes are emphasised throughout the story.
Supporting Characters
There are some supporting characters that do play a role in the story but aren't as significant as Mike Schofield and Richard Pratt. Such as ~
The narrator
accompanied with his
The narrator plans and elaborately describes every detail in the story which gives us readers the ability to paint in our minds the picture and form opinions of each character. The narrator is a kind and well-mannered man and analyses situations immensely in profound detail.
"Except that, to me, there was something strange about his drawling and his boredom: between the eyes a shadow of something evil, and in his bearing an intentness that gave me a faint sense of uneasiness as I watched him."

Mike's wife - Mrs Schofield
is a respectful and also friendly woman. She protests a couple of times against the bet the two men stubbornly created due to her etiquette but fails to do so anyway.

Mike's daughter - Louise
is a gentle and courteous 18 year old young woman. She disapproves of the bet as she is involved in it; if Richard wins he has Louise as his wife and if Mike wins his family claims two of Richard's houses. From the beginning the narrator conveys that Richard is very interested in Louise implying that Richard may have feelings for her.
"He was completely engrossed in conversation with Mike's eighteen-year-old daughter, Louise. ...smiling at her... As he spoke, he leaned closer and closer to her, seeming in his eagerness almost to impinge upon her,..."

Mike's maid
is an elderly woman who worked in Mike's household for many years. She speaks very little in the story but she significantly produces a twist at the end of the story: she withdraws Richard Pratt's spectacles and states that he left them in the study before dinner indicating that he checked the wine label and therefore misleadingly he proclaims that he can guess the wine by taste and smell alone, when in fact he can't.
First Impressions of Richard Pratt
Our first impressions of Richard Pratt are largely influenced by the view of the narrator who portrays him in a negative light. So therefore we see Richard as a repulsive, arrogant and to some extent a phony character due to his actions e.g.
"He leaned back in his chair, held his hands up level with his chest, and placed the fingertips carefully together. He was becoming ridiculously pompous, but I thought that some of it was deliberate, simply to mock his host."
He does not change his behavior throughout the course of the story so we maintain the opinion of him from when we first read about him.
Roald Dahl
The main character is Richard Pratt as he is mostly described than any other character in the story. Richard is a famous gourmet and president of a small society who organises dinners with exceptional dishes and wines. He also takes particular pleasure in elaborately describing and discussing various wines, giving him a scholarly reputation.

The narrator with extreme detail describes how Richard looks like.
"...something distinctly disturbing about the man's face, that shadow of intentness between the eyes..."

"...the full wet lips of the professional gourmet... a pendulous, permanently open taster's lip..."

Because of Richard's misleading knowledge he acquired a pompous attitude and excess arrogance that is evident throughout the story.
First Impressions of Supporting Characters
Our first impressions of the supporting characters do not differ except for the maid. The maid throughout the course of the story quietly serves the guests, and is rarely mentioned. She is described as a minor figure that stands in the shadow, being unimportant of the main occasion so we as the readers do not think much of her, just a minor character who will prove to be insignificant in the story. But perhaps Roald Dahl did this intentionally because when the maid finally reveals herself but in a reserved manner at the end about what Richard has done, the first impression of Richard Pratt worsens into the readers thinking of him as just a plain phony. For what we think as a talent that Richard possesses, simply does not exist anymore due to the maid revealing but not literally saying it that he has cheated. And so in the end we change our impression of the maid as being a witty and significant character as she has changed the expected ending of the story.
Protagonist's Problem
How Is The Problem Solved?
Unexpected Or Creepy About 'Taste'
In the story 'Taste', it explains every well-thought and planned out scene throughout the course of the narrative. Towards the end we get a sense that Richard Pratt has won the bet and named the wine correctly due to the uneasiness and hesitation of Mike as explained by the narrator. But the unexpected twist imparts, with the help of the house maid, that Richard has falsely played the betting game; he went into the study before the dinner and bet and checked the wine label and explains to the other guests and hosts that he is able to guess the wine on taste and smell alone but it turns out he really cannot. This is an unexpected twist that is quite surprising yet this twist is not literally said to us so we readers must work it out ourselves but we are able to do that with enough evidence given to us.
Richard Pratt's problem isn't clear but starts at the beginning where it is evident as described by the narrator that Richard is profoundly interested in Louise. He is about fifty years of age and somewhat lonely and would seem to want a companion to share his glory and riches with. In the bet he asks Mike of Louise's hand in marriage, indicating he has a need for her, his confidence that he will win is obvious by the pompous way he acts, satisfied that he will walk away with a beautiful bride thus "solving" his loneliness.
In the end we readers think that Richard Pratt has won by correctly guessing the wine label of the rare wine he has drank, but a unexpected twist at the end changes the fate of Richard completely. The maid reveals but not literally that Richard has cheated so therefore Richard does not get the bride he so badly wanted. Alas the protagonist's problem isn't solved yet we expected that it would.
Rise In Tension
In the narrative 'Taste' there is definitely a rise in tension carried out through the story. As the beginning of the tension, the narrator explains how the two men, Mike and Richard had a tiff over the making of the bet.
"'So you don't want to increase the bet?
'As far as I'm concerned, old man, I don't give a damn,' Mike said....
'Even ten thousand pounds?'
'Certainly I will, if that's the way you want it....'"
The gradual rise in tension is clear once the narrator starts to explain of the process of how Richard is tasting and guessing the wine, so we readers are concerned and interested if he's going to guess correctly.
"The point of the nose entered the glass and moved over the surface of the wine, delicately sniffing...And now, without swallowing again, he drew in through his lips a thin breath of air which mingled with the fumes of the wine in the mouth and passed on down into his lungs..."

Roald Dahl in the short story 'Taste' merely gives any foreshadowing giving the readers a complete surprise of the twist at the end. The twist which is produced by the maid is briefly described as an unimportant character and so readers would think that she would not contribute that much in the story let alone the ending.There were no evident clues there would be a twist at the end but there were clues that expectantly Richard will succeed due to his reputation, confidence and profound knowledge.
"This - is a very gentle wine, demure and bashful in the first taste, emerging shyly but quite graciously in the second."
Are There Details That Are Unnecessary?
I think there aren't any details that aren't unnecessary even though every small and big thing that is written about, are elaborately written. I think every detail that Dahl has written contributes to the connections of the events because it paints the readers' a good picture of what is happening and plays a big part in the explanation of the important rise of tension.
The climax of 'Taste' is where the story ends; it is where Mike finds out that Richard has gone and checked the wine label and falsely said he could guess the wine by drinking it. This realisation is dawned by the help of the maid who beholds Richard's spectacles left in the study to him, vividly indicating to the readers and the rest of the characters that Richard has cheated. So the story ends at what is going to happen to Richard and how is Mike and the other characters going to react and do.
Roald Dahl's Main Idea
I think Dahl's main idea was to portray an interesting scenario that surrounds a serious bet involving two houses and a hand in marriage with an unexpected twist to the protagonist and antagonist. So Roald Dahl may wanted to imply that you musn't believe everything that is said or shown to you and instead must think rationally and what you think is right.
Comment of Human Nature
Roald Dahl may have wanted to say that human nature can be filled with egos and phoneys so people should be careful not believing everything that is shown and said to them for their own good. Otherwise bad consequences can likely occur. Human nature also includes careless, gullible people such as the antagonist Mike, maybe the idea was for people to be aware of their surrounding situations and not be ignorant.
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