The Duchess and the Jeweler by Virginia Woolf

The Duchess and the Jeweler by Virginia Woolf

The story “The Duchess and The Jeweler” demonstrates the tussle between the rational and emotional forces in the mind of man. Whenever the emotional forces burst out, they take away everything, and man’s experience and reason cannot withstand them. It also depicts that the high ups are coming down facing moral decadence, and the commoners have taken the lead in spite of their psychological fixations.

Oliver Bacon, the richest jeweler in England, is famous all over Europe and in America for the variety of pearls. He lives in a highly modern flat, richly furnished. There are silken curtains over the windows and all the fine wines are places on the sideboards made of mahogany. From the middle window, he can look at the fashionable cars that are parked in Piccadilly. The showroom of the cars on the main road presents a wonderful look from his flat. He takes his breakfast at eight o’clock following his routine. THen a manservant presents him his dressing-gown and opens letters from the ladies of high-class families who want to visit his firm for the sale or purchase of jewels. Then he sits by the fire and reads the newspaper for a while. He has hung a portrait of his mother whom he greatly loves and respects.

One day before going to his jewelry shop, he begins thinking about his past life. He dismantles himself from the position of a rich jeweler and remembers himself as a poor small boy who lived in narrow streets in the slum area of London. There was a time when the height of his ambition was to sell stolen dogs to fashionable women in White Chapel.

Once he was about to be ruined in the business then his mother wailed and urged him to change the course of his life. She always advised and guided him in worldly affairs. Now he has achieved this high position after passing through many stages. He sold cheap watches for some time. THen he has been smuggling diamonds and pearls on commission. Then he opened his jewelry shop. He had become known in his business circle as a smart and well-dressed young man THe fortune had favored him and he made progress in business by leaps and bounds.

With the increasing prosperity, he has changed his appearance. Now he lives in a well-furnished flat and he exercises great influence in the high social circles. He very often addresses the picture of his mother and tells her that he has kept his word in acquiring worldly riches. But at heart, he is still dissatisfied. He wants to rise higher and higher in the world of business.

His long nose resembling the trunk of elephant quivers to express dissatisfaction. Like a hog who is in the pasture rich with truffles still it smells a bigger, a blacker truffle under the ground farther off so is Oliver always in the rich earth of Mayfair another truffle, a blacker, a bigger farther off. He walks down his flat as a sad dissatisfied man and reaches his shop near Bond Street that is famous in Europe and America. After reaching his shop, he first checks his jewelry and diamond in his safes of the private room and then sits in his office.

The Duchess of Lambourne comes to the jeweler’s shop. His assistant Mr. Hammond brings the duchess in, dressed in bright shiny clothes full of perfumes. She is fat, and past her prime age. She wants to sell her false diamonds at a very high price of twenty thousand pounds. The jeweler is well-acquainted with her, as she already sold him false pearls.

The jeweler pretends to be unaware of the false nature of pearls and pays the high cost because he is tempted by Duchess to enjoy the company of her young daughter Diana. The author calls them friends as well as enemies because they try to deceive each other for their personal ends. Both of them are the victims of bad habits and they are symbols of decaying human values among the rich. They are friends because they serve each their purpose. They are enemies because they are aggravating the weakness of each other’s character and spoiling each other as human being.

Oliver Bacon shakes hands with the duchess and is told the purpose of her visit. She opens the wallet and produces ten pearls to be sold for a huge amount of twenty thousand pounds. The jeweler is reluctant to make a payment without testing the pearls but the duchess cunningly appeals to him on the amount of old friendship. She weeps as well as then asks him to spend the weekend on her estate and enjoy long rides with her youngest daughter, Diana, in the woods. This shows the basis of mutual relationship among the rich classes.

After the departure of the duchess, the jeweler checks the pearls in the light by his lens. The pearls are false and rotten at the core. Now he realizes the blunder committed by him. He regrets and begs pardon from his mother and then murmurs to himself it is going to be a long weekend.

Technique of Story

The author employs the stream of consciousness technique. Through this technique, she gives a psychological analysis of the character. It means the disorderly flow of impressions and sensations through the human consciousness. The writer describes this flow of impressions in the mind of the Jeweler. She brings out the impressions of sub-consciousness through the internal monologue. The character speaks to himself while he remembers his past experiences and reactions In this story, the emotional life of Oliver Bacon is depicted through his past experiences as he reproduces them to himself. The development of his character progresses continuously till it merges in his present. His present has erupted out of the past and there is complete consistency in the various stages of character and his present behavior in society. there is a stress on the inner conflict of man with himself. The emphasis is on the personal development of man from past to present. It depicts the justification and rejection by the Jeweler as he succumbs to passion and forgets his mother’s advice.

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