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Essay The Man in Black by Goldsmith—Summary

Introduction of the Essay:

In the essay, The Man in Black, the writer presents a true picture of the society of his age. His society was the victim of many shortcomings. It was broken economically and morally. Due to the worst economic state, the common people were reduced to the state of beggary. The writer believed in indirect reform, so he, in the essay, introduces the character of the man in black. He presents him as his best friend.

Essay The Man in Black by Goldsmith—Summary
Essay The Man in Black by Goldsmith—Summary 

Summary of the Essay:

Although the writer was great fond of making friends and developing intimacy, yet he had intimacy with a few persons. He was extremely happy to be the friend of the Man in Black. The man in black always found a special place in the heart of the writer. The nature of the man in black was abnormal. He had some strange qualities. He was a humorist. In spite of being a generous and kind - hearted, he tried his best to conceal his noble qualities. He felt ashamed in revealing his noble qualities. Outwardly he looked stern and a wonderful example of stinginess and wisdom, but within his heart, a stream of humanity flowed. His heart was filled with boundless love but his conversation expressed mean merciless thoughts. Some pretend to show that they are great embodiment of humanity and they also present themselves as the great well - wishers of human beings. They show their false generosity. There are also many others who boast of their noble virtues and whenever they get opportunity, they expose themselves publicly. But the man in black was the only man that felt great ashamed to have natural benevolence. He took as much pains to hide his feelings as any hypocrite would do to conceal his callousness. But his feelings of kindness and generosity were so dominant and expressive that they could not be easily concealed. Whenever he was not on guard, his real feelings were exposed and even an ordinary observer could notice his real feelings. During this visit, the writer and the man in black began to talk about the provision that was made for the poor in England. The man in black seemed surprised how people had become so foolish as to help the beggars, while the p government had made sufficient arrangements for the poor. He told the writer that in every parish house, the poor were supplied bed, fire, clothes and food free of cost. In the opinion of the man in black, it was sufficient to fulfil their needs. If he were at their place, he would desire no more. He was greatly surprised at their discontentment. He condemned the judicial system which was extently responsible in increasing the number of the vagrants and these vagrants were the burden upon the hard working people. He also condemned those who were encouraging idleness, extravagance and imposture. They deserved a prison in place of help.

When the man in black was discouraging the writer from helping the beggars, just then an old man who was wearing rags of fine clothes, appeared before them and requested to have pity on him. He convinced them that he was not an ordinary beggar, but he was forced into beggary because of his dying wife and five hungry children. His story could not make any influence upon the heart of the writer, but the man in black was moved with pity. The false story of that old man created a sort of commotion in the heart of the man in black. The expression of mercy was clearly visible at his face. He wanted to relieve his five starving children, but he did not want to do so in the presence of his friend. Just for a moment, the narrator pretended to look another way, the man in black gave a silver coin into the beggar's hand secretly and warned him to work hard for his family in place of making trouble for passengers. The man in black was under this impression that nobody had seen him helping the old man. They moved forward and the man in black continued to utter reproaches against the beggars and vagabonds. He told the writer that he had great practical wisdom and he was able to find out if the beggar was real or cheating. He told about women robbed by beggars. He had hardly finished his speech against the cheating beggars when a sailor with a wooden leg appeared before them. He also desired for their pity. The writer, without taking any notice at him advanced. But the man in black stopped there. He called the writer and told him that he would show him (the writer) how he could detect an impostor at any time.

The man in black assumed a serious look and in a stern voice he asked the sailor how he became disabled for the service. The sailor replied in the same tone that he was an officer on a private ship of war. He had lost his leg in defending those who did nothing at home. He was full of bitterness because he received no pension or compensation for the loss of his limb. He was left to his fate to die or live on beggary. On hearing the pathetic story of the sailor, the importance of the man in black at once disappeared. Now, he had nothing to ask him more. He wanted to relieve him in any way and he began to think the method of helping him so that he might be unobserved. He threw his furious glance on the match boxes which the sailor carried in a string at his back. The man in black asked him the price and condition of selling the matches, but he did not wait sailor's reply and settled the bargain himself. The man in black offered the sailor only one shilling. The sailor accepted one shilling gladly and he was also happy with this deal because the man in black had purchased a cheap thing at higher cost. To prove the utility of his purchased matches, the man in black gave many arguments that the matches were very cheap. He gave a detailed account upon the savings from lighting the candles with a match instead of throwing them into fire. The man in black continued his speech on thrift and matches until his attention was attracted by a beggar woman whose condition was more pathetic than the former beggars. The woman in rags had a child in her lap and another on her back. Even in such a miserable condition, she was trying to entertain others by singing songs. Her voice was mournful, so it was difficult to determine whether she was singing or crying. Her appeal was so pathetic that the man in black was unable to resist her under any circumstance. His conversation was constantly interrupted by the frequent appeals of the woman for help with the result that his mask of stiffness dropped off and he was once again in his real self. Without caring the presence of the writer, he immediately applied his hands to his pockets in order to relieve her, but he had spent his whole money on the former two beggars. After being failure to find any shilling in his pockets, the man in black became more miserable than the woman herself. His pain and tension were clearly visible over his face. Seeing no way to help her, he gave those bundles of matches which he had bought from the sailor with a wooden leg.