Tales of the unexpected: Parson’s Pleasure by R. Dahl
What is the job of Mr. Boggis??
Mr. Boggis is a dealer in antique furniture with his own shop in Chelsea. His income is not large, and generally he doesn’t do a great deal of business, but because he always buys cheap and sells dear, he manages to make quite a tidy little income every year.
During the past few years, Mr Boggis has achieved considerable fame among his friends in the trade by his ability to produce unusual and often quite rare items with astonishing regularity. But his friends don’t know anything about his secret:
Every Sunday Mr. Boggis drives through the landscape and looks for large farmhouses and country houses to buy old valuable furniture. But not as Mr. Boggis himself because country folk are suspicious. They do not let anybody enter. So Boggis has to play another person, not a dealer so he plays an old parson.
So today he drives through the countryscape. It’s a lovely spring-day and he first goes on the top of a hill and looks for the best houses. He starts with an certain house. Now he can use his talent in buying. He can slide smoothly into whichever mood suit the client best. He can become grave and charming for the aged, sober for the godly, masterful for the weak, and so on. He is well aware of his gift, and uses it shamelessly on every possible occasion. But in this first house there is not any valuable furniture. So he drives on to the next house.
There nobody is at home; he looks through the windows and sees a very old and valuable chair. So he wants to come there again in the evening.
The next farm is very small and looks rambling and dirty. He doesn’t have much hope to find anything there. There are three men standing in a close group in a corner of the yard: Rummins, his son Bert, and Claud. The three men are very suspicious of Mr. Boggis. They think he wants to poke his nose into their business. They try to tell him that there isn’t any valuable furniture in their house. But Mr. Boggis uses again his talent of convincing so at last they let Mr. Boggis enter the house.
And there it is: an original Chippendale Commode (a sort of table) surely worth ten thousand pounds! So he has only to buy it as cheaply as possible to drive home and he would be rich. But that’s not so easy: "These people may be ignorant, but they are not stupid!” Now he tries to show them that this commode is a rather cheap reproduction. He screws out a screw and replaces it unmarkable by a new one and tells them that this commode is one of thousands, not worth more than twenty pounds. But perhaps he could use the legs for another table. He continues to convince them of the worthlessness of this commode. And the three men become very fascinated. So he finally manages to get the commode: for twenty pounds.
Very happy he walks to his car, which is some way off. Meanwhile the three men are discussing. They think it will not go into his car and are afraid that he will not buy it then. They remember that the parson told them that he only wants to use the legs and that the rest is only firewood. So they cut off the legs and finally attack the legless carcass of the commode with the axe.
Elements of irony
The sentece "these people may be ignorant, but they are not stupid!" will become very true at the end of the story! It is ignorant that Rummins, Bert and Claud sell the Commode for twenty pounds but they are not stupid although they don’t realise it: They destroy it so that Boggis doesn’t have any advantage either!
"There was no point in calling on the prosperous." This remark of Boggis’ is significant in the context of the story as a whole He said it and now he has to do it. He wanted to become rich and now he isn’t. Now he has to live without this prosperous.
I really liked the way the story is written. You can really imagine the faces of the people when Boggis tries to convince them of the worthlessness of the furniture. And I also liked the black humour. That means the twist at the end of the story, which is not expected by the reader.
About the author
Although Roald Dahl's parents were Norwegian, he was born and brought up in Great Britain, and has always written in English. He has lived and travelled in many different countries and began writing short stories in the United States, during the Second World War.
As a writer, Dahl has concentrated on short stories and become a very distinguished craftsman able to write stories which are often very amusing but at the same time also involving an unexpected and bizarre twist of events. In Parson's Pleasure there are very amusing and excellently written passages of prose, and gradually the reader becomes completely absorbed by the devious Mr Boggis's attempt to persuade the apparently ignorant farmers to part with their extremely valuable commode for almost nothing.
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