Lit. NotesShort Story

Summary of “The Night Watchman’s Occurrence Book” by V.S. Naipaul

We are told in the opening of the story that Mr. Inskip, the manager of the C Hotel found the night watchman, C. A. Cavander sleeping in the rocking chair and dismissed him. Then the new watchman comes to the hotel. His name is Charles Ethelbert Hillyard”. He is informed by the manager how earlier watchman was dismissed. “This is the third occasion on which I have found C. A Cavander, Night Watchman, asleep on duty. Last night, at 1245 a.m., I found him sound asleep in a rocking chair in the hotel lounge. Night Watchman Cavander has therefore been dismissed”

When the new watch man Mr. Hillyard is given the charge, he is given a book too in which he is to write everything that would happen in the hotel during the night. “Night Watchman Hillyard: This book is to be known in future as ‘The Night Watchman’s Occurrence Book’. In it I shall expect to find a detailed account of everything that happens in the hotel tonight. Be warned by the example of ex-Night Watchman Cavander. W. A. G. Imkip, Manager.

Mr. Hillyard starts his work and always tries to please the manager and does everything according to what the manager says. Nevertheless he cannot please the manager and is in confusion what will please his superior.  It is the situation of the night watchman, Charles Ethelbert Hillyard, who is struggling to know what the manager, W. A. G. Inskip, actually wants him to do.

From the beginning, the manager has a habit to find guilt in the night watchman. When Hillyard starts to write the initials of his name after writing it elaborately for several days, Inskip becomes angry with this though it makes sense to him. It is humor because it shows that the manager is angry about such an unimportant matter like writing initials. Besides, Inskip becomes angry with Hilliyard’s way of writing. Inskip writes,

 “You are in a habit of writing Nothing Unusual. Please take note and think before making such a statement”.

Inskip knows what Hillyard means by “Nothing Unusual” but he wants him to clarify this, which is also unnecessary. Besides, from a less educated night guard, Inskip cannot expect everything like an educated man which is why he is a night watchman. In this sense, Inskip seems not well educated because he does not know what to expect from a night watchman. Even though Hillyard clarified the matters as the same way as the manager says, the manager never satisfied with Hillyard.

The manager blamed Hillyard for not writing the details of the minor things that happens in the hotel and the time of the police’s visits there. He also blamed Hillyard for not waking a guest in the morning for his flight though Hillyard did, for the robbery in the hotel, and for the damage of bicycle saying that it is Hillyard’s job to prevent such things.

The hotel manager always humiliates Hillyard in this way which shows his lack of knowledge about the impossibility for a night watchman to keep his eyes on all matters of a hotel. Therefore, Hilliyard writes,

“I don’t have four hands and six eyes and I want this extra assistance with Mr. Wills and party sir”.

This saying of Hilliyard demonstrates that he has admirable education than Inskip because he has much more practical sense than Inskip. All these examples show the lack of knowledge of a hotel manager and his having less wisdom than a night watchman, whereas the manager is supposed to have more wisdom than the night watchman, which is in sense, humorous and satirical too.

At the end of the story we see there comes an acting manager, Robt. Magnus, in the occurrence book in the place of Mr. Inskip. Magnus also makes Hillyard confused about his job because he wants him to write everything as briefly as possible, whereas Inskip wanted him to write each and everything elaborately even the minor matters.

At first, Inskip used to write everything briefly which Inskip did not like, and for which Inskip told Hillyard to write everything elaborately. But later, again Magnus told him to write briefly which shows that at first Hillyard was right at writing and Inskip did wrong in finding mistakes in his writing which is the biggest satire in the story.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button