A Face in the Dark Summary by Ruskin Bond

When Ruskin Bond was only four years old, his English parents got divorced and his mother married an Indian man. After this incident, due to various circumstances, Bond spent his childhood relocating and settling in many different places. His grandmother’s house in Dehradun was where he found the actual solace of a home. While at school, he performed well in sporting events and debate competitions but he was also an extremely gifted essayist. Even from an early age he was known for his versatile talents. Over the years, Bond has gained immense popularity for his literary works and is a much loved writer, both nationally and internationally. The author had written his first novel, The Room on the Roof at the tender age of seventeen. It was later published in the year 1956. He received the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards for his contribution in the field of children’s literature.


Ruskin Bond once made a very quirky statement, saying, “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time.” This witty statement has been widely appreciated and quoted by his readers. In fact the story, A face in the Dark has a similar outline where the idea of fear and control over fear gets blurred in the strangeness of one dark night.

A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond: Setting & Plot

The prose, A face in the Dark, was published in the year 2004 in a collection of short stories by Ruskin Bond. Set in the misty landscape of Shimla, the plot of this story and the style of writing are both very simple and pragmatic. There is an element of supernatural mystery created by the author to spook the reader. Bond uses the darker aspects of nature like eerie sounds, crooked branches and pine trees all shrouded in the misty atmosphere of the hills to create that ghoulish sensation. Although the story begins on a completely ordinary note, it gradually and creepily develops into a horrific tale of ghostly occurrences. Like the author’s other ghost stories, this tale of haunting also includes weird coincidences and surprise endings. It offers an insight into human nature and the ways it is affected by difficult situations.

A Face in the Dark Summary by Ruskin Bond

The central protagonist of the story, A face in the Dark is a British man called Oliver. He is an enthusiastic and kind teacher at a prestigious school in Shimla. He is extremely devoted to the wellbeing of his students and attempts to educate them in the best possible way. He spends most of his time at the school or the library with pending work because he has no family of his own and is thus very lonely in the world. This lack of a wife and children haunts him but he goes on with his daily life without much fuss.

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He has a strict everyday routine which he follows with diligence. It involves waking up in the morning for school and then going over to the market on his bicycle in the evenings. While returning from the market, he often takes a small detour as a form of refreshment from his dull life. This path is a road through the wild which is always teeming with pine trees and wild life. As the dusk falls very quickly in the hills, it gets dark by the time he comes back to the school. Oliver never allows himself to be afraid of the dark and always carries a torch with him wherever he goes.

On one such evening, when he was simply following his routine and taking a detour while on his way back from the market, he heard the sobs of a child in the dark. He stops on his bicycle and tries to find the source of this sound among the brambles and bushes of the wild. That is when he discovers a small boy sitting crouched in the dark and crying into his palms. Obviously, the kind-hearted school teacher is surprised and overwhelmed to see a young school boy sitting all alone and crying so he asks him questions about his whereabouts. He goes on to advice the child to leave this place immediately as it might be dangerous for him to be out late in the hills after dark.

Even after trying to console him, the boy does not heed to any of the things Oliver says and continues sobbing in a relentless strain. The compassionate man still couldn’t leave the child alone and continues to coax him into talking and telling him his problems. The boy eventually decided to stop his sobbing and look up. As the light from Oliver’s torch reached the boy’s face, he was startled to see that the boy had no eyes or ears or mouth on his face. His face was a featureless mound of bare skin and this revelation scared Oliver beyond expression. Somehow, at that very moment the torch in Oliver’s hand goes off and he is left standing in the dark with the faceless crying boy.

After the initial shock was over, Oliver gathers all his courage and decides to flee from that place. He drops his torch and turns around to run as fast as his legs would allow. His mind was at once both blank and filled with terror, he didn’t even care that he was howling. As he ran towards the school screaming for help he came across the school watch guard at the gate who stops him and asks him what happened. Panting, the poor scared man relates his encounter with the little ghost boy in the jungle to the watchman. Relief washed over him as he felt much better in the presence of the watchman.

However, just as he was regaining his composure, Oliver sees in the light of a swinging lantern the face of the watchman which was as featureless as the face of the ghost boy. The story ends on a peculiar note as the wind blows the lamp out leaving Oliver once again in utter darkness.


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