The short story Man from the South was written by the famous British novelist, screenwriter and short story writer Roald Dahl. He was born in Cardiff in Wales in 1916 by Norwegian parents. Dahl is most know for his numerous short stories with black comedy and his collection of children's books. Some of his books is inspired by his own life; for example Boy and Going Solo, in which he describes his childhood, which was filled with both laughter and sorrow, his time working for the Shell Company, and his time in the Second World War where he served as pilot, and was shoot down and nearly died.
The short story is centred around a little old man from the South, Carlos, and a young boy, who, by accident, meet by the pool in a hotel. The little old man offers the young man a bet; if the young ma successfully lights his lighter ten times in a row, without failing ones, he will receive the little man’s Caddilac, but if he fails the little man will chop off the man's little finger. While the young man is manipulating the lighter they are interrupted by a woman; presumably the little man's wife, who confesses to them that the little man is mentally disturbed and that he has chopped of more than 47 fingers. It is later reviled, when she reaches out for the keys for the Cadillac, that four of them is her own.
The main characters are the little old man, the young man and the narrator.
The little old man seems strange and quite scary. He wears a immaculate white dress and a Panama hat, and he has small, uneven teeth, which are slightly tarnished. The narrator can not quite determine whether he is Spanish or Italian, but he has a strong accent. He smokes cigars and behaves with a great deal of pride; a behaviour which makes it easy for him to manipulate people to do as he pleases. The young boy is an American cadet and his portrayed as an ordinary boy. He has a long freckled face, a birdlike nose and pale-reddish hair, and the narrator suspect he is about nineteen or twenty years old. He seems polite; he asks politely if he can sit down, and he appears to be sure about himself and his abilities.
We see the story though the narrator’s eyes and for that reason we do not learn that much about him. It is not easy to say whether he is on holiday or maybe a business trip, but he do enjoy sitting by the pool, taking a cigarette and a beer, and observing other people.
The story takes place in a hotel, and the fact that the young people are bathing and the sun is shinning, suggest that it is summertime and quite warm. It takes place after the invention of the Cadillac, and while girls were still wearing bathing dresses instead of bikinis. The leaves were hissing and crackling, which might suggest that they are dry and therefore it might be early autumn.
The theme of the short story is that you should not blindly trust everybody around you, because it can get quite dangerous and you can not ever be sure what other people's intentions truly are.
Personally, I liked the short story a lot and I feel that it was written in a clear and well formed way, which made it easy to understand and grasp. The language was plain and straightforward. I think it was fun and exiting, even though it was a bit to long.