Friday, July 19, 2019

Dahl Study: The Umbrella Man

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

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"The Umbrella Man" from Collected Stories (read 7/5/19)

A young girl and her mother are in town when they get caught in a rainstorm. They were trying to flag down a taxi when an old man came up to them. He was well-dressed with a nice umbrella. He told them that he didn't have his wallet, but needed money for a taxi fare. He had walked to town, but was now too tired to walk back home. He wasn't begging for money, but rather wanted to sell them his umbrella. He told them it was silk and cost him twenty pounds, but he'd sell it for one pound, just to get taxi fare. The mother bought the umbrella and she and her daughter huddled beneath it to stay dry. The daughter noticed the old man practically running down the street, and commented that he didn't seem as tired as he claimed he was. The mother is suspicious, and they follow the man down the road. He disappears into a pub, so they stand in the window and watch him. He orders a drink at the bar, pays with the mother's pound, and downs the drink. As he leaves, he snags an umbrella from the stand near the door. The girl and her mother watch him walk down the street to sell that umbrella to another unsuspecting stranger, then head towards another pub to do the same thing again.

"The Umbrella Man" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 7/12/19)

I like the show version of this story better than the written one. It starts from the Umbrella Man's point of view, though of course we don't know him as such at this point. He is just checking into an inn, asking where he might find a list of the nearby pubs. He goes up to his room and marks a map of pubs, then listens to the radio, getting frustrated to hear it's supposed to be a beautiful day. The next day, we are shown a man and his wife waiting for a train. Another man walks in and purposefully puts his umbrella on the table and settles next to the couple. They all know each other, but when the husband leaves to check on the train, it is revealed that the wife is having an affair with the other man. The man wonders if the husband suspects anything, but the wife assures him her husband is oblivious. They all get ready to get on the train and the man makes a point of coming back to grab his nice umbrella.
     The woman gets her hair done and it starts pouring as soon as she leaves the salon. The Umbrella Man finds her huddled under and overhang and offers to sell his umbrella to her. She takes him up on it. Later the husband and the man having an affair with his wife meet while waiting for the train home. The man is soaking wet and the husband asks what happened to his umbrella, since he was so smart to bring one that morning. The man said it got stolen at a pub. He then mentions something about the wife getting her hair done, and the husband laughs that she will look like a drowned rat since she thought it was going to be a beautiful day. The wife comes up at that moment, looking wonderful and holding the umbrella. She tells her husband to not get mad because she didn't buy a new one at full cost, and starts to tell him the story. He cuts her off and gets angry because he has suspected an affair, and now this is proof to him. He thinks she and the man met at lunchtime and he let her use his umbrella that afternoon. He starts a fight and the wife insists a man sold it to her and tells her husband what the Umbrella Man's game was. She drags him to the police station to prove it.
     While at the police station, the man insists his umbrella was stolen and he would never have an affair with the man's wife because he loved his own, etc. It hurt the woman's feelings, so when the Umbrella Man is brought into the station, she says it wasn't him. She lets her husband leave talking about a divorce, and the man she was having an affair with is mad she denied it and got him in trouble, too. She realized neither man cares about her.

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