A Face in the Dark Analysis by Ruskin Bond
This uncanny story of a lonely man living a solitary life away from his country and culture has more to it than the direct narration of the story lets on. It is apparently a simple spooky story written to scare people into not venturing out alone in the wild after dark. However, critics will agree that the climax of the story relates an intriguing message which can be interpreted through many different explanations. To understand the deeper meaning it is important to look at the story from a psychological perspective instead of just the supernatural.
As we know, the human psychology can be a matter of deep complexity and must not be treated lightly. The mind is powerful enough to make us see things we do not comprehend, drawing images from the sub-conscious. Some interpret the story in terms of loneliness and despair and its effects on the human mind. Humans associate emotions with people. Individual emotions like anger, love, sympathy, friendship are allocated to individual people who incite these emotions within us. Therefore each emotion has a face. The fact that the main protagonist of the story was a lonely man living without love gives us an insight into his psychology which is empty and derived of any emotion because he has no one to share them with. Hence, his subconscious mind forces him to face his worst nightmare by making him see people who have no faces or individuality. The lack of face is directly related to the lack of people he can depend and trust upon. The actual horror of the story is the fact that these people Oliver sees around him, do not exist in reality.
A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond: Themes
The story A face in the dark is a widely popular tale and many people have read it and commented upon it. One thing that remains common in every critic’s perception is the basic theme of the story which connects the entire plot. This theme is said to be the human instinct for love and companionship. In certain ways, the ghost of the boy reflects the primal character of Oliver. It’s like the little boy lost in the dark wood is the ghost of Oliver himself. Just like the little boy, all Oliver wants is to be consoled and treated with love while he cries for some shred of familiarity on the inside. He too feels alienated and scared in this country which is not his own. The faceless boy is a symbol of lost individuality and it represents Oliver’s inner conflict that he has lost his own individuality, living away from home for so long.
It might also be important to remember that the story in its raw essence is supernatural in context and themes of fear of the dark and spooky appearances are appealing to the reader. The twist at the end of the story is particularly chilling and can induce goose bumps if read alone in the silence of the night.
A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond: Character Sketch
The story revolves around the character of Oliver who at the beginning seems like a well-educated and rational man. He is a teacher at a boarding school and deals with his students in a kind and just manner. Though he is a compassionate person, his character has been shown to have a certain amount of control and restrain. The man adheres to a strict routine and lives his life without any excitement or exceptions. He is often lonely and misses the warmth of a family but he almost never expresses these feelings to anyone. Oliver had perhaps stored all these emotions within him and did not give them much thought which is why his mind played tricks on him in the woods and showed him exactly what he was trying so hard to suppress. In the act of simply existing and surviving in life, he had forgotten to find the courage to be true to himself – even if it meant carving out his own identity in a land of strangers.
When Oliver sees the featureless face of the boy without eyes and nose and ears, he loses all his calm and composure and runs away like a cowardly child, screaming for help. All of a sudden he had lost control over his rational senses and his mind had given in to the terrors of the night. The once wise and sensible teacher felt paralyzed with fear and shock. An important clue about his character is the event upon which he meets the watchman. Only in the company of another person does Oliver feel a little better and hopeful. He was almost filled with joy at the sight of the watchman but he loses this hope when he sees the blank face of the watchman. He is once again reminded that he is isolated in the world and is only surrounded by other lost lonely souls like him.
Ruskin Bond writes poignantly beautiful tales which are often based in the northern regions of India, like Shimla and Dehradun. These places are anyways popular for their scenic beauty and the author adds a mystical element while writing about these places in his stories to add the charm of unknown. He has a real talent of creating an illustrious picture about the feel and the atmosphere of the setting through his words which fascinates the reader. Once the reader gets comfortable with the theme of the tale, he introduces seemingly ordinary characters with ordinary lives.
Slowly, and carefully the author then proceeds to bring up interesting plot twists which reveals the extraordinary side of his character’s personality making it a thrilling experience. The supernatural elements in this short story are inspired by the eeriness of undisturbed nature and it evokes the reader to believe in strange happenings. According to Bond, he considers himself a visual writer. The trick is to imagine the story like a film before penning it down and this technique makes all the difference.