10- The Duchess And The Jeweller
- 1. How did Oliver Bacon, the jeweller rise from a poor boy of dirty streets to the richest jeweller of the country?
Or Describe Oliver Bacon’s rapid progress in life?
Oliver Bacon, the jeweller was born in a poor family. As a child he used to play marbles in dirty, narrow streets. As a boy he used to sell stolen dogs in White chapel to fashionable ladies. Once he was arrested by a dog owner and going to be killed when his mother saved him. She requested the man not to kill him. She scolded her son and forced him to find some job. He, therefore, began to sell cheap watches at a shop.
Then he came to Amsterdam (Holland) and began to sell diamonds on commission. These diamonds were probably stolen. From this business he made a handsome fortune. Then he went to a jeweller’s shop in Hatten Garden (London) with the scales, the safe and magnifying glasses. Here, he moved among jewelers who discussed prices, diamonds and gold-mines. Then he owned his own shop at Bond Street, London. He rose to be the richest jeweller in England. His shop was famous in Europe and America. He got a villa at Richmond overlooking the river Thames. It was a well-decorated flat with the best chairs, sofas and silken curtains. There were red roses hanging by the walls and Mademoiselle, a young girl used to pick one every morning and stick it in his buttonhole. Later on he shifted to a fashionable quarter of the city. He moved in the highest circles of society, but still was not satisfied with his lot. 242
Q.2. Describe the meeting between the jeweller and Duchess.
Or Why did the Duchess go to the jeweller’s shop?
An old Duchess (the wife of a duke) comes to the jeweller’s shop to sell ten pearls. She puts them before him. He picks one of the pearls to see if it was false or true. She tells him that she is selling these without the knowledge of her husband for the sake of her daughter. He asks her, “How much?” She demands twenty thousand for them. The jeweller was about to push the bell to call his assistant to examine-the pearls when she exploits his passion of love for her daughter Diana with whom he is in love. She invites him to spend the weekend at her house as Diana would be there. She even begins to weep. The jeweller withdraws his hand from the bell and is lost in Diana’s sweet memories. He immediately writes a cheque for twenty thousand pounds and hands it to the Duchess. After she has left, he examines the pearls. They were false. But nothing could be done now. He was prepared to do anything for Diana’s sake.
The jeweler and the Duchess both cheated each other. Both were evil and corrupt as the writer says, “They were friends, yet enemies — each cheated the other, each needed the other, each feared the other.” 210
- 3. “The characters of the Duchess and Oliver Bacon, the jeweller depict loss of faith in human values.” Discuss. (P.U. 95)
The characters of the Duchess, and Oliver Bacon depict the moral bankruptcy and decadence of English society during the early 20th century. Both of them are liars, dishonest, clever and corrupt. Both know the weak points of each other. The actions and behaviours of both flout human values. But the Duchess is more loathsome than the Jewler.
The Duchess does not have income enough from her husband’s estates to maintain her false standard of living and her evil habit of gambling. She, therefore, steals her husbands’ jewels and sells them. She has sunk so low that she sells fake pearls. She abuses her husband before the jeweller and to exploit him even sheds crocodile tears. She even uses her daughter to grab money from the jeweller and asks him to spend the weekend with her daughter. Thus she does everything at the cost of human values. Abusing of her husband and offering of her daughter depict the height of her meanness and evil nature.
Similarly the jeweller has risen from filthy boy of dark streets to the highest position of a jeweller simply because of his dishonesty, stealing, cheating and corruption. Despite having every comfort of life, he is not satisfied. He wants more riches. His love for the Duchess’s daughter blinds him so much that he gives twenty thousand pounds to the Duchess for fake pearls.
Both depict distrust and doubt found among politicians, businessmen and higher classes for one another. Both the Duchess and the jeweller distrusted each other. “They were friends, yet enemies _ each cheated the other, each needed the other, each feared the other.” 269
Q.4. “The Duchess and the Jeweller mentions a change in the English society.” Discuss. (P.U. 95)
The story depicts the change in the English society at the turn of the 20th century. The landed gentry or the aristocracy who had been controlling the destiny of England right from the beginning were sinking day by day with the rise of industrialization, democracy and commerce. The rising middle class or the commercial class began to control the affairs of the country. The aristocratic people were involved in financial difficulties. They were not able to maintain their castles and traditional standard of living. To keep up their appearances they committed theft and fraud.
In this story the Duchess represents the sinking aristocracy and the jeweller stands for the rising commercial class. The Duchess does not have income enough from her husband’s estates to maintain her false standard of living and her evil habit of gambling. She, therefore, steals her husbands’ jewels and sells them. She has sunk so low that she sells fake pearls. She even uses her daughter to grab money from the jeweller and asks him to spend the weekend with her daughter. The jeweller, on the other hand, has risen from a filthy boy of slums to the wealthiest jeweller of the country. He is financially better than most of the aristocrats of the day. He lives in a fashionable house in a posh area of the city and moves in the higher circles of society.