The CuriousPages Sketchbook

The story: Prize Money, by WW Jacobs

My comments on the story Prize Money, by WW Jacobs.

I like the uncertainty. Did he make up the story about the money, just to get them back and make them pay for the hamper twice, or did he not make it up?

The other uncertainty is whether he did or did not cheat in the way suggested. At the time I read that, I thought that he obviously had not, and that it was paranoia on the part of the others.

When I consider the first point, I think that it seemed out of character that he would have concocted the story of the money, so that they would have to pay him the cash; this seemed too devious, and previously I had assumed that he was an innocent, and that he innocently won the hamper. But then, when considering this, I thought that another option would be to assume that he was guilty of cheating. This would have taken a very shrewed calculating mind. Yes, this is possible, and if he had done this, it would have been probably that he would have dreamt up the scheme about the missing money, to cheat them even further.

I like the fact that the writer has left these things vague; either circumstance is possible; it’s up to each reader to make up his own mind about it.

If the writer’s intention was that Bob Pretty had done all this cheating, then I would have expected there to be some clues in the early part of the story to hint at this.

I’ve just read back the opening paragraphs and there couldn’t be any bigger clues than the ones given. As I read them back now, they seemed so clear, but on first reading through the story I had not taken them in, or had forgotten about them a few pages in.

When I read a story like this, with so many characters, I find that the names of the characters don’t start to mean something to me until the story is almost over, not until I’ve started to get to know the charactgers, do their names then mean something. And then, when looking back at the opening, the meanings were all clear this time round, because I now knew the characters. So the writer’s subtly is aided by the reader’s inability to memorize small detail, and also by the fact that some of the words don’t really mean anything when you read them the first time round. It is these factors that make a story worth reading over a few times—along with quality in the writing and characteriztions and a reasonable amunt of wit and humour.


Read the story here.


7 November 2008



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