Tricksters

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A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their confidence. A confidence artist is an individual operating alone or in collusion with others who exploits characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty, honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, naïveté, or greed. In ‘The Umbrella Man’, by H.H Munro, the author shows that even an ordinary man, with the right tactics, can fool a suspicious person, the narrator’s mother in this case. This story is narrated by a young girl and we are able to see things, people and events from her perspective. The girl's horror at her mother's treatment of the old man, the assessment of her mother as a cold mannered woman who looks down even at boiled eggs and old men and the surprise at the antics of the old man are presented with simplicity and lightness. The first part of the story evokes sympathy for the old man and a dislike for the mother. But as the story proceeds, we realize that the old man is not so naive and that the mother's first impression of him was right. The story revolves around irony and deception.  We can appreciate the irony, the gap between appearance and reality, all the more keenly. The central irony concerns the way in which the old man insists that they take the umbrella for the money that they give him, and the way in which the girl is concerned that they are taking advantage of the old man.

The irony of the story is that of course they are not taking advantage of the old man--in fact, he is taking advantage of them to get more money for another drink from a pub. The irony is heightened by the mother's lecture to the daughter on being able to judge people correctly as the old man walks away, a lot faster and spryer than before. The mother is so pleased to have ‘judged’ the old man, she thinks, whereas she has been ‘taken in’ like so many others before. He is an elaborate con man who has successfully fooled them and manages to fund his drinking by stealing umbrellas and then selling them to unsuspecting individuals. In ‘The astrologer’s Day’ by R.K Narayan, the writer very deftly and precisely builds up the atmosphere and unfolds the true character of the protagonist, the astrologer, who has actually committed a dangerous crime. He is working in a busy, unnamed city, and the author establishes that, in reality, he is a charlatan. The unique thing about the astrologer in the story is that he does not actually cheat people via his business. As mentioned in the story, he had a working knowledge of human ties ,and therefore whatever he says to his customers is not wrong. and at the end of the day he is just a man earning his living. The story takes an unexpected turn, when, the old foe of the astrologer, the very man he thought he had killed and thrown into a well, comes to his stall for advice. The astrologer recognizes him and tells him about an event that happened in the man’s past. Calling the customer by name, the astrologer recounts how the customer had once been stabbed and left for dead, but had been saved by a bystander. The astrologer tells the customer that he must stop looking for the man who stabbed him so long ago, because to do so would be dangerous, and anyway, the perpetrator had since died. The customer, not recognizing the astrologer, is impressed and leaves. The astrologer now, knows that he has been relieved of a great load; he had once thought that he had killed someone, but had today discovered that the victim was well and very much alive. Lifted from the dreadful burden of being a murderer, the astrologer goes to bed, and has a peaceful sleep. The next story refers to H.H Munro’s ‘Dusk’ which is another deceptive story in which a confidence trickster, Norman Gortsby, is shammed by another confidence trickster during the time of dusk. Keeping the atmosphere in mind, dusk is the time when people who are defeated and disillusioned and depressed, who take a cynical view of life, come...
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