Deception and Word Combinations

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Unit four
Text four
DANGEROUS CORNER
By John Boynton Priestley
(Three fragments from the play)
John Boynton Priestley (1894— 1984) is one of the outstanding English authors of today. His early books (1922-26) were of a critical nature. It was the success of his novel "The Good Companions" (1929) which brought him world fame. In early thirties Priestley began his work as a dramatist. "Dangerous Corner" (1932} — one of the series of Seven Time Plays — was his first effort in dramatic art. Priestley's other most famous novels are "They Walk in the City", "Angel Pavement", "Wonder Hero", "Far Away". "Let the People Sing". "Bright Day" and many others. I

The scene is laid in a cosy drawing-room. Several men and women — some of them members of the same family, others their intimate friends — are idly discussing a wireless play they have just heard. The host and hostess of the party are Robert Caplan and his wife Freda. Cordon: What did you hear?

Freda: The last half of a play.
Olwen: It was called "The Sleeping Dog".
Stanton: Why?
Miss M.: We're not sure — something to do with lies, and a gentleman shooting himself. Stanton: What fun they have at the B.B.C.!
Olwen (who has been thinking): You know I believe I understand that play now. The sleeping dog was the truth, do you see, and that man — the husband — insisted upon disturbing it. Robert: He was quite right to disturb it.

Stanton: Was he? I wonder. I think it a very sound idea — the truth as a sleeping dog. Miss M. (who doesn't care): Of course, we do spend too much of our time telling lies and acting them. Betty (in her best childish manner): Oh, but one has to. I'm always fibbing. I do it all day long. Gordon (still fiddling with the wireless): You do, darling, you do. [101] Betty: It's the secret of my charm.

Miss M. (rather grimly): Very likely. But we meant something much more serious. Robert: Serious or not, I'm all for it coming out, It's healthy. Stanton: I think telling the truth is about as healthy as skidding round a corner at sixty. Freda (who is being either malicious or enigmatic): And life's got a lot of dangerous corners — hasn't it, Charles? Stanton (a match for her or anybody else present): It can have — if you don't choose your route well. To lie or not to lie — what do you think, Olwen? You're looking terribly wise... Olwen (thoughtfully): Well — the real truth — that is, every single little thing, with nothing missing at all, wouldn't be dangerous. I suppose that's God's truth. But what most people mean by truth, what that man meant in the wireless play, is only half the real truth. It doesn't tell you all that went on inside everybody. It simply gives you a lot of facts that happened to have been hidden away and were perhaps a lot better hidden away. It's rather treacherous stuff. ... II

The conversation drifts to Martin Caplan, Robert's brother, who committed suicide six months ago. Robert insists on knowing certain trifling facts relating to the day of the suicide. Yet, what looks trifling and innocent enough at first, leads to graver and still graver discoveries. Finally Robert is confronted with facts whose ugliness he finds himself unable to bear. In the beginning of the fragment that follows Olwen, a friend of the Caplans, argues with Robert pointing out to him once more that half truth is dangerous. Olwen: The real truth is something so deep you can't get at it this way, and all this half truth does is to blow everything up. It isn't civilised. Stanton: I agree.

Robert (after another drink, cynically): You agree!
Stanton: You'll get no sympathy from me, Caplan.
Robert: Sympathy from you! I never want to set eyes on you again, Stanton. You're a thief, a cheat, a liar, and a dirty cheap seducer. Stanton: And you're a fool, Caplan. You look solid, but you're not. You've a good deal in common with that cracked brother of yours....
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