Draw a character sketch of Mr. Oliver as depicted in Ruskin Bond’s short story “A Face In The Dark”.
Or, What are the positive and negative character traits of Mr. Oliver?
In the story “A Face in the Dark” Ruskin Bond has presented the protagonist Mr. Oliver as an Anglo-Indian teacher in a reputed English public school in Simla, Himachal Pradesh, India. The story being very short in length, the author has avoided detailed descriptions of his appearance and feelings. Moreover, Mr. Oliver speaks very little in the course of the story. But still we get a vivid picture of Mr. Oliver’s character from the story.
From the context of the story we can say that Mr. Oliver is a man of knowledge and skills to have got the position of a teacher in a school which had been called “Eton of the East“. He also seems to be professional and able at his business and that is why he has been teaching there ‘for several years’. Oliver is also a realistic man as the narrator mentions —
Oliver was not a nervous or imaginative man.
We see Mr. Oliver taking the usually lonely path through the pine forest while returning to the school compound from the Simla bazaar even late at night. That only supports the narrator’s comment on him not being nervous. He is seemingly courageous enough to take that lonely way while other people are afraid of the eerie sound made by the wind through the pine forest. We also find Mr. Oliver’s common sense in carrying a torch with him.
From the few words that Oliver utters in the story we find Mr. Oliver as a man of discipline. He does not like the boy being out at that evening as it is against the rule of the school.
‘What are you doing out here, boy?’
‘Well, what’s the matter?’ he asked, his anger giving way to concern.
‘What are you crying for?’
‘…Tell me the trouble. Look up!’
However, the discussion so far has been with the positive traits of Mr. Oliver and there are some negatives too. Oliver probably gets a bit too angry with the boys who fail to maintain discipline or neglect their studies. The narrator mentions his anger when he says “his anger giving way to concern…”. Moreover, Mr. Oliver is not-so-friendly as we see him go to the bazaar and return to the school all alone. He probably liked to maintain distance from others and that is why he took the lonely forest path to the school.
And last but not the least, Mr. Oliver is a human being living in the real world. Like all others, he also has feelings, emotion, fear and what not? We know he is more courageous than many people out there, but that doesn’t prevent him from being terrified at the sight of the boy’s ’round smooth head’ with no eyes, ears, nose and mouth. He runs blindly through the trees calling for help while his torch falls from his trembling hands. By depicting what happened to Mr. Oliver in the story “A Face in the Dark”, the author probably indicates that no man can be totally fearless no matter how courageous and logical he seems outwardly. Bond shows that even a man with a sound mind like Mr. Oliver has some fantasies with the paranormal in some corner of his mind.