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Critical Appreciation of "The Night Watchman’s Occurrence Book” by V.S. Naipaul

Critical Appreciation

This is an odd story that is told through an artifact, the log kept by the night watchman and his managers. At first, the text feels like a dead thing, all the action has happened in the past, the momentum stalled through the limitations of this point of view. However, the dialogue and that takes shape after the first few entries are as lively as any present-tense action scene.

Besides the underlining racism and classism, there is also an employee vs. employer motif that all three are tangled up like a bowl of spaghetti. You can remove one noodle without impacting the rest of the dish. The new night watchman has received no training. He is just told to log everything that happens after the bar is closed.
The struggle that unfolds between the night watchman and the manager becomes a heated one. The nightwatchman wants to please the manager, but the manager is inept and inconsistent in his requests. The nightwatchman can do nothing but fail.

The brilliance of this story is that it asks you to take sides as any story does where a conflict is introduced. However, the reader of this story does not know where to stand. At times the reader must stand with the racist employer; the night watchman’s failings are too grand to be overlooked. And at times the reader will no doubt stand with the night watchman; the manager’s incompetence to show true leadership cannot be forgiven.
The story throws light on an important aspect of modern-day cosmopolitan life. It tells us how people behave differently with different people in a hotel. How the junior staff is treated and how the people belonging to this category are expected to make everyone happy. As in the story both the managers, Mr. W.A.G. Inskip and Rob Magnas, want the poor night watchman to act according to their variant wills.

We come to know about the nature of the nightlife at a hotel named C Hotel. As we go through the story, it reveals many mysterious activities executed at the hotel. Most of the people staying there are in habit of drinking. And Mr. Wills is one of those drunkards who always cross the limits. According to Mr. Hillyard, Wills is a mysterious person, and one night he went out of the hotel perhaps to the America Base for some important work. In the same way, Mr. Hillyard reports mysterious activities regarding the ‘gentle man’ living in room no. 12. One night there was a row in the bar room of the hotel where some people were trying to kidnap their desired person. These types of details give a touch of realism to the story. These sorts of activities are also a source of satire on modern nightly city life.

When the new manager comes and asks Mr. Hillyard not to write in detail, he becomes humorously precise. This precision of the report creates an excellent comic effect. He reports, “C. E. Hillyard take over duty at C——Hotel all corrected 12 Midnight Bar close 2 a.m. Mr Wills 2 Carib, 1 bread 6 a  m. Mr Wills 1 soda 7am. Night Watchman Hillyard hand over duty to Mr. Vignales with one torchlight 2 fridge keys and Room Keys 1, 3, 6, and 12. Bar intact all corrected no report. C.E.H”

The type of narrative style of the story is written not only from one person’s point of view but also from others’. This style of writing helps the reader to hear each person’s voice which seems dialogue among them. And this narrative style made all the humor described above more humorous because it shows what actually happens in the occurrence books among people which makes it much more practical.

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