B. Wordsworth by V.S. Naipaul
In B. Wordsworth by V. S. Naipaul we have the theme of admiration, identity, curiosity, friendship, control, freedom, uncertainty and coming of age. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed male the story is a memory piece and after reading the story the reader realises that Naipaul may be exploring the theme of admiration. If anything the narrator appears to admire Wordsworth though the reality may be that Wordsworth may not necessarily be who he says he is. He suggests that he is writing a poem that will be the greatest poem in the world however as the story progresses Wordsworth admits to the narrator that there is no poem. However it might also be significant that Wordsworth denies the story about the girl poet as the reality may be the girl poet may have been Wordsworth’s wife and the sudden loss of her is something that Wordsworth may have never overcome. Wordsworth was a young man at the time and had the future in front of him. However his life appears to have become one of loneliness since the girl poet’s death. If anything Wordsworth’s wife may have been his inspiration and it is possible he has not written any poetry since her death. Wordsworth is also a curiosity to the narrator. If anything the narrator is intrigued by the life that Wordsworth lives and it is a life that is completely different to the one that the narrator lives. The narrator’s life is being controlled by his mother yet when he is with Wordsworth he feels free.
Wordsworth’s instruction to the narrator to drop the pin in the water might also be symbolically important. The narrator expects the pin to float however it is clear to the reader that it will sink. It is possible that Naipaul by introducing the pin into the story is highlighting the uncertainty that comes with life and the fact that nobody really knows what will happen. It is as though the narrator is being taught to learn by his mistakes. The fact that the narrator also notices that Wordsworth’s home has been demolished after he has died and that the garden is no longer there, having been replaced by concrete, could be Naipaul’s way of highlighting the importance of nature in a person’s life. How an individual might need to take some time out from life and enjoy the natural world around them. Just as Wordsworth and the narrator manage to do. It is also possible that by telling the narrator that he is the greatest poet in the world and that the narrator is a poet too. Wordsworth is attempting to instil confidence into the narrator. To allow him to think that anything is possible.
If anything Wordsworth acts as a role model to the narrator. He guides him to the best of his ability through life allowing him to make mistakes and to learn at the same time. Something that does not occur when it comes to the narrator’s mother’s influence over the narrator. Where she may represent the conflict that exists in the narrator’s life. Wordsworth on the other hand has a positive impact on the narrator. Opening the narrator’s eyes to the benefits of nature. Prior to Wordsworth meeting the narrator there is no suggestion that the narrator may have appreciated the beauty of nature. It may also be a case that just as Naipaul is suggesting that nature is often under appreciated. So too may poets be. Wordsworth is an educated man. Something that is noticeable by the way that he speaks. However when he tries to sell a poem. The narrator’s mother doesn’t want to buy it. It is as though Wordsworth (or all poets) are disconnected from those around them due to their occupation. When the reality is a poet may be more connected to the world than the average person.
The end of the story is also interesting as it appears as though the narrator comes of age when Wordsworth dies. He has lost what some critics might suggest has been his best teacher and he knows that life may never be the same again. No longer does he have the opportunity to hear the life lessons that Wordsworth might teach him. Instead there is a sense that the narrator is returning to a life that is not as attractive to him. However what is clear to the reader is that the narrator has never forgotten Wordsworth. He may have forgotten some of the constellations with the exception of Orion but he has never forgotten Wordsworth. The reader left suspecting that the narrator’s time with Wordsworth has been time well spent. Even if Wordsworth did confuse the narrator before he died and told him that there was no poem nor was there a girl poet. If anything Wordsworth has made an impression on the narrator and at the same time taught him to appreciate nature and to be confident within himself.