Here Comes Mr Oliver by Ruskin Bond
In Here Comes Mr Oliver by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of loss, letting go, kindness, loyalty and gratitude. Taken from his Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a young boy called Bond (assumed to be the author) and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of loss. Mr Oliver though he has lost his dog to the panther has also lost so much more. He has lost a companion and a friend. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Mr Oliver appears to be exceptionally low in his mood after Hitler has been taken away from him. This may be important as Bond may be highlighting the fact that Hitler was Mr Oliver’s only friend. Without him he is at a loss as to what to do. If anything Mr Oliver’s world revolved around his relationship with Hitler. Something that many dog owners would understand. It seems to be a case that not only was Hitler Mr Oliver’s friend and companion but he was the only good thing in Mr Oliver’s life. The reader aware that previously Mr Oliver had been stood up by his bride to be on his wedding day. The pain of which is most likely still fresh in Mr Oliver’s mind.
It is for that reason that the reader suspects that Mr Oliver has such a close bond to Hitler. Any void that Mr Oliver may have felt in his life was being filled by Hitler. Which may leave some readers suspecting that Mr Oliver may have never let go of the fact that he was abandoned at the altar by his bride to be. It might also be significant that though Mr Oliver is also the Scoutmaster he still nonetheless detaches himself somewhat from those he is in charge of. Just as he does with his pupils in his classroom. It is as though Mr Oliver is drawing a line between his personal life and his professional life. He wants to help others but at the same time he knows that there has to be boundaries. He cannot be everybody’s best friend. True he gives some of the students including the narrator grace marks but this may be more to do with trying to push the narrator towards a pass grade. To help the narrator to improve himself. However it is difficult for the students in the school not to feel something for Mr Oliver. They see him every day and they know he is a fair man who has not been treated fairly. If anything the kindness the children show Mr Oliver is mirrored by the kindness that Mr Oliver shows them.
It is also possible that Bond is highlighting the lengths a man (Mr Oliver) will go to in order to find some happiness. Though some may not consider a dog to be a suitable replacement for a wife. Mr Oliver is still nonetheless happy. If anything Hitler is part of Mr Oliver’s life. He takes him everywhere he can and is as loyal to Hitler as Hitler is to him. It is as though both master and dog are dependent on each other. Something that is clearer to the reader when Hitler is taken away by the panther. Mr Oliver becomes a shell of the man that he once was. No longer as energetic in his teaching and if anything prone to bouts of depression. This could be important as Bond may be suggesting or highlighting just how important Hitler was to Mr Oliver. He was everything to him. He was a source of joy and may have helped Mr Oliver to forget about any negativity that might stem from his past.
The end of the story is also interesting as Mr Oliver remains indifferent when it comes to the narrator thanking him for the grace marks. Though the reader knows that Mr Oliver has been generous to the narrator he does not admit to being so. This could be important as Mr Oliver as he did throughout the story remains professional. He knows that he cannot be seen to give preferential treatment to the narrator nor can he be seen to be grateful to the narrator. If anything Mr Oliver as a teacher has to remain indifferent. However the fact that the narrator and his friend received grace marks leaves the reader suspecting that Mr Oliver is grateful to the narrator for what he has done. Though Hitler is gone forever Mr Oliver has the opportunity to be happy again with the dog that the narrator and his friends got for Mr Oliver. If anything there is a sense that both students and teacher care for one another though cannot necessarily say as much due to the formalities that are in place. Though Mr Oliver is a man of authority he cannot be seen to favour some children over other children. Even if he wants to. However the grace marks in the maths test suggests that Mr Oliver has shown his appreciation even if he cannot admit it.