Bartleby The Scrivener: Summary, Analysis, Quotes, Review and Free PDF

Bartleby The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street is a short story or novella written by American author Herman Melville. It was first  published in two parts in the November and December 1853 issues of a magazine. It tells the story of Bartleby – a scrivener (a clerk or scribe) who works for a Manhattan lawyer and grows increasingly enigmatic as the story progresses.

“Happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay, but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none.”

Seeing what we want to see and feel commands so much power on us humans that we are even more blinded to what we don’t want to see or feel widening the gap between happiness and misery disproportionately.

This is an excerpt from ‘Bartleby the scrivener’ the first short story by the American writer Herman Melville, first published in Putnam magazine, way back in 1853.

Bartleby the Scrivener: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story revolves around an unnamed Manhattan lawyer and his mysterious new hire, Bartleby. As their relationship revolves, the personality of Bartleby still remains an enigma to the narrator and the readers alike.

The narrator of the story is an unnamed, unambitious elderly man that has a snug law-copying business He has two scriveners in his employ already: Turkey and Nippers, both of whom are eccentric – while the former is more civil in the first half of the day, while the latter in second. Another employee, Ginger Nut, who is a young office boy completes the staff.

As the business grows, the narrator advertises for the position of another scrivener- Bartleby: more forlorn and calmer than his other staff. In the initial period of his employment, Bartleby seems very meticulous producing high-quality work in high volumes, never taking lunch breaks and continues to remain reticent and oblivious to the banter or the tantrums of his other colleagues.

Bartleby the Scrivener book cover
The cover of Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street

One fine day, upon being asked by the narrator to proofread, Bartleby responds with ‘I would prefer not to’, and after that, it becomes his response to pretty much everything that is asked of him. This irks the narrator as well as the other employees, but Bartleby’s stance remains steadfast in that matter.

The volume of his work declines at a steady pace until one point where he does absolutely nothing but stares at a brick wall out of his office window all day long. Having had to come to work one Sunday, the narrator notices that Bartleby had started living in the office premises.

The mystery surrounding his constant presence in the office premises and his continual staring at the brick wall deepens and the narrator, thinking that if word spread it could bring bad reputation for his business. In order to devise a plan to mitigate this risk, he makes several futile attempts at trying to know more about him or reason with him to leave the premises.

Neither money nor the prospect of working someplace new appeals to Bartleby and he continues to live in the office. The narrator was compassionate enough not to have him forcibly removed from the premises.

Left with no choice, the narrator moves office to another location without letting Bartleby know the whereabouts.

Although thinking the narrator rid himself of Bartleby, the mystery surrounding his permanent presence at the premises is not solved, until one day, the new tenants come to mention to him the inconvenience that Bartleby’s presence was causing them – he continued to sit on the stairs all day and slept in the doorway at night.

herman melville portrAIT
Herman Melville – the author of Bartleby the Scrivener

The narrator is again brought in to reason with Bartleby, going to the extent of inviting him over to his own residence to live with him, but his request fall on deaf ears. The narrator eventually comes to know that he was forcibly removed from the premises and imprisoned nearby in the Tombs.

He goes to visit Bartleby in prison, to find him even quieter than usual. He bribes the turnkey to make sure that Bartleby gets enough food. He comes back later another day to check on him only to find out that he died of starvation.

He comes to know afterwards through rumors, that Bartleby used to work in a “dead-letter” office (a dead letter office is a facility within a postal system where undeliverable mail is processed). 

The narrator attributes that to be the reason why a man of his temperament, having worked in an even darker environment, might have sunk deeper into depression.

The story closes with narrator’s exasperated sigh “Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!”

Bartleby the Scrivener Analysis

To think that all this novella received was critical disdain at the time of its release confuses me and pains me at the same time. I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Bartleby’s and author’s life – if Bartleby’s dispassionate No to the kind of work that he didn’t want to do was any indication of the kind of work that was demanded of Melville- but maybe that’s taking my imagination too far.

Regardless, this short story raises many poignant themes- As relevant as they are now, almost two centuries from when Melville first brought the story to life.

Bartleby The Scrivener Quotes

I might give alms to his body, but his body didn’t pain him –it was his soul that suffered, and his soul I couldn’t reach.

The narrator feels- and rightly so- that Bartleby doesn’t respond to any requests or temptations because his soul is broken. His complete denial to accept any assistance or to find solace in sharing leaves him completely isolated-leaving little chance for people around him to be able to help him, feeling guilty and helpless themselves in return.

“Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.”

How many times have I seen a person being driven completely crazy , and I mean grinding-teeth crazy -by someone that only resists passively, no debating, no reasoning, no active participation in the argument, but sitting back peacefully and saying No to everything that is asked.

If I was the narrator I would have gone crazy far before Bartleby dies of starvation.

“I would prefer not to”

Maybe that was the only thing that Bartleby felt he did, that made him empowered. Having the ability to say Yes or No to things that he did or didn’t want to do. Bartleby is an enigma. Offices should be kinder to their Bartlebys. I am going to be kinder to myself.

Thank you, Mr Melville, for giving me that voice.

I can now say ‘I would prefer not to’ aloud.

“Happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay, but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none.”

Seeing what we want to see and feel commands so much power on us humans that we are even more blinded to what we don’t want to see or feel widening the gap between happiness and misery disproportionately.

Bartleby The Scrivener PDF Free Download

You can download a PDF copy of  Bartleby The Scrivener by clicking here.

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The Most Dangerous Game: Short Story, Summary, Characters, Theme, Plot Analysis

The Most Dangerous Game is a short story written by Richard Connell. Also known as “The Hounds of Zaroff”, this story was originally published in 1924. It revolves around an American man passionate about game hunting who realizes, after a series of events, what it means to be a hunter or a huntee – and the ethicality surrounding it.

“The world is made up of two classes – the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters”

This is a statement from Sanger Rainsford, the protagonist of Richard Connell’s remarkable short story The Most Dangerous Game. This one statement is intensely significant as it underlines the carelessness we experience as hunters; but once the tables turn, it’s a different story.

The Most Dangerous Game: Summary and Plot Analysis

This story derives inspiration from the big game hunting that was very popular among affluent Americans back in the 1920s.

Rainsford, a big time game hunter from New York is travelling to Rio de Janeiro in a yacht. In a conversation with a fellow passenger Whitney, Rainsford reveals that he believes that the world is only made up of hunter and huntees and prides himself in being a hunter.

While Whitney does show a little remorse about games they kill and wonders if the prey feels fear, Rainsford stands by his indifference to his prey and is prideful about being a hunter and not a huntee.

Noticing the jitteriness of the crew, Whitney wants to sail past the mysterious island as soon as possible. He theorizes that sailors can sense danger and that is because evil “emanates in waves like light and sound”. While Whitney retires for the night, Rainsford stays back on the afterdeck to smoke his pipe.

Three gunshots in the distance make him curious, and after losing balance ends up falling into water. The yacht quickly disappears into the night leaving him stranded in the middle of nowhere.

He decides to swim in the direction where the gunshots came from and finds himself hearing an animal in agony silenced by a pistol shot. Thoroughly exhausted, he falls asleep.

Once awake, he sets off searching for food in the jungle and chances upon a chateau (a large house). He knocks on the door and finds himself face to face with a burly guy named Ivan who is just about to show him the way when another man General Zaroff ushers him in.

Rainsford finds Zaroff very welcoming, having been offered a room and lavish dinner. The general’s dining hall showcases mounted heads and trophies flaunting his prize from his hunting adventures all over the world.

In the conversation that ensues, Rainsford comes to know of general’s childhood in Crimea, his game exploits all over the world and how he feels that game hunting had become progressively more boring for him over the years.

He also goes on to point out that this monotony had recently been alleviated for him since he figured out a new kind of animal to hunt- the one he believes has courage , logic and reasoning.

Rainsford eventually connects the dots and realizes that the general is referring to human beings and is horrified and indignant at Zaroff’s inability to see hunting humans as a murder. He politely declines General’s request to come hunting with him and goes to bed, terribly disturbed.

He meets Zaroff at lunch again and comes to know that the sailors that he lures to the island for hunting do not present enough challenge for him to exercise his hunting skills. He is now excited by the idea of hunting a world renowned game hunter – Rainsford himself!

Baffled and scared by General’s request, Rainsford asks to leave the island, a request that General immediately denies, instead approving his leave in return for a 3 day hunt, with Rainsford being the prey.

On Day 1, General identifies Rainsford’s location easily but chooses not to kill him to prolong the duration of pleasure he derives from the hunt. This leaves Rainsford terribly scared with very little hope to be able to escape the island.

On Day 2 , Rainsford puts up more of a challenge to Zaroff using the Malay mancatcher (a kind of booby trap to catch a human), doing so much as wounding Zaroff, who promises to kill him him the next day.

What happens at the end of the story of The Most Dangerous Game?

On Day 3 – the final day of the hunt – through a series of events, Ivan (General Zaroff’s assistant) is killed and hounds are let loose that push Rainsford to the edge of the cliff. He chooses to jump into the ocean than handle the hounds.

Upon return to his room later that night, Zaroff finds Rainsford concealed behind the curtains. Zaroff congratulates him on winning the game, but he insists that the game is not over yet and that he intends to fight Zaroff. Zaroff accepts his challenge and declares that the loser of the fight will become food to the dogs while the winner will sleep in Zaroff’s bed.

The story concludes with Rainsford saying that the General’s bed was more comfortable than anything that he had ever slept on (which suggests that Rainsford killed General Zaroff).

The Most Dangerous Game Characters

Sanger Rainsford: The protagonist. A world-renowned big game hunter from America. He’s a level-headed, intelligent and experienced man who combines his mental and physical ability to outsmart General Zaroff.

General Zaroff: A Russian expatriate who lives in a big house on an island. He is an accompolished hunter who has lost all interest in hunting animals because it has gotten ‘boring’ over the years. Now he enjoys hunting prey that are smart and have a formidable mental abilities – humans.

Ivan: General Zaroff’s assistant. He is mute and has a formidable physical stature. His stature is so fear-inducing that Zaroff’s captives prefer to flee and give Zaroff a chance to hunt them down than a certain, torturous death at Ivan’s hands.

Whitney: Hunter and Rainsford’s travel companion. Feels a little remorse about killing prey and suggests that the hunted feel fear while Rainsford is completely indifferent to how the prey feels.

The Most Dangerous Game Theme

The main theme of The Most Dangerous Game is fear, competition and perseverance. The author has a done a remarkable job at blurring the line between the hunter and the hunted. He has shown – through the protagonist’s journey through the story – that the one thing the prey always feels, irrespective of who it is, is fear.

In the beginning of the story, Rainsford is shown to be oblivious to the fear of the prey he hunts. In fact, he prides being such an accomplished hunter. But as the tables turn and Rainsford ends up becoming a prey himself, he realizes the nerve-wracking fear of a prey which gives him perspective and a real taste of what’s it like to be the hunted (instead of the hunter).

The story also indulges in the idea of competition. Both General Zaroff and Rainsford are skilled hunters, which is demonstrated at regular intervals in the story. On the first day of the ‘hunting game’, the General effortlessly locates Rainsford but chooses to ‘spare’ him. The subsequent days, Rainsford fights back and ultimately trumps the General.

Furthermore, The Most Dangerous Game is a story of perseverance and survival. The protagonist never gives up despite the challenges that he’s faced with one after the other.

Is The Most Dangerous Game a true story?

The Most Dangerous Game was published back in 1924, around 100 years ago. Till that point, there was no true story or reported case on which the story could have been based.

But decades after its publication, there was a particularly notorious case in Alaska which involved multiple victims hunted by the perpetrator – Robert Hanson.

Known in the media as the ‘Butcher Baker’, Hanson was an American serial killer who was caught and convicted in 1983. He was then sentenced to 461 years and a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He died in 2014. (Source)

The Most Dangerous Game Movie

8 years after the publication of the story, a movie of the same name was released in 1932. The film is based on the same premise of a big game hunter who lives on an island and hunts human prey for sport. The film stars the lead stars of King Kong – Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong, alongwith Joel McCrea and Leslie Banks.

the poster of the movie the most dangerous game
The poster of the movie The Most Dangerous Game

Another movie, The Frozen Ground (2013), is loosely based on the story of The Most Dangerous Game. The film stars Nicolas Cage and John Cusack in lead roles. It tells the story of an American serial killer who abducts and kills female victims to satisfy his sadistic ‘thrill’ of hunting.

The Most Dangerous Game Review

This power packed story line from Richard Connell never ceases to amaze me. It will not be an overstatement for me to say that this book rekindled my faith in short stories.

Not to forget, the ethical dilemma and the amazing quotes the book presents. If I had to pick quotes from the book that stood out the most for me, those would be.

“The world is made up of two classes – the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters”

And Further in the same conversation…

“Don’t talk rot, Whitney, you’re a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?”

Connell has so brilliantly given an altogether differing spin on the perspective that was used when this line was first said in the story.

The journey from Rainsford being an acclaimed hunter, absolutely indifferent to his prey’s feelings, to him being the hunted – shocked and terrified – is an amazing journey to follow and learn from.

What I really like about this message is its poignance and relevance to our everyday conversations where our own viewpoint is all that we care about.

In my random readings, I have come across this phrase very often: “the world does not revolve around you.”

I guess I need to pause and take notice.

A Man Called Ove: Summary, Plot Analysis, Review and Quotes

A Man Called Ove is a fiction novel that was originally published in 2012. It is written by Fredrik Backman – a Swedish writer and blogger. The novel revolves around a 59-year old man whose name is Ove. It tells the story of love, friendship, compassion, grief and the importance of friends and community in coping with loss.

“He had never understood the need to go round stewing on why things turned out the way they did. You are what you are and you do what you do, and that was good enough for Ove. He didn’t quite know what he should say to avoid seeming uneducated and stupid, but it proved to be less of a problem than he had thought. She liked talking and Ove liked keeping quiet.”

That’s Ove, I say this name like I know the person, I have talked to this person, I have met this person in passing, I have seen this person in a mall.

Hell! I have even been this person at times (minus the age – I would like to call myself younger than him, added to the fact that women don’t age!).

I am talking about A Man Called Ove (Swedish: En man som heter Ove): it is a 2012 novel by Fredrik Backman, a Swedish author, columnist, and blogger. It was published in English in 2013.

The English version reached the New York Times Best Seller list 18 months after it
was published and stayed on the list for 42 weeks.

A Man Called Ove: Summary and Plot Analysis

A Man Called Ove is a story of love, friendship, compassion, grief and an ultimate ode to the importance of friends and community in coping with loss.

Meet Ove (pronounced oo-vaa) – a curmudgeon, i.e. a bad tempered person, especially an old one, the kind of person who will call a idiot an idiot on his face, ‘who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window’.

He is a creature of habit with unrelenting principles, routines and temper ready to go off at the drop of a hat. A man with zero political correctness and zero tolerance. People in his community call him – ‘the bitter neighbor from hell’.

It is very easy to mistake him for that, unless you start looking closer.

picture of the cover of a man called ove
The cover of “A man called Ove”

What you will find on closer inspection will certainly throw you off… your expectations.

You look at this human portrait a bit closely and you start noticing that there is a sadness in his life manifesting in a variety of forms – a difficult childhood, absence of a motherly figure growing up, being orphaned at a very young age, losing of a baby, having wife suffering from a life altering accident, losing friendship of a close friend, losing his wife and a series of failed attempts at taking his own life.

You begin to realize that it’s a miracle for this man to be alive, let alone having the amount of sanity he does.

He is convinced that he is going to end his life, it is simply a matter of when until one day, where a chatty young couple – his new neighbors – accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox.

From that moment on, things begin to change.

What’s unravelled is a comic yet heartwarming tale of defiant cats, unexpected friendships, unwanted roommates, playful little girls with lots of crayons, rescued
friendships and finding, exposing the Ove that his wife had fallen for.

You not only start to understand why Ove is who is, but love and start rooting for him.

Want to read A Man Called Ove?

A Man Called Ove is available on Amazon if you want to get yourself a copy. You are welcome to use the links given below to order a copy of the book:

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4 Reasons why you should read “A Man Called Ove”

I picked up this book as my typical romance dose of the month having read rave reviews about it, but came to like it for reasons far beyond than that, to the extent that I might even sound like a raving barking lunatic going on and on and on about it.

1 – Funny One Liners

I literally rolled on the floor laughing when I read these – “that time Rune drove a Volvo, but later he bought a BMW. You just couldn’t reason with a person who behaved like that.”

Here’s another one:

“Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.”

I like this quote for two reasons; first- it makes me one of the smarter people as per Ove’s definition and second, I get the required ammunition to get back at all my tall friends for years of teasing me over my ‘minuscule’ stature.

2 – Timeless wisdom

I – “Ove, only a swine thinks size and strength are the same thing. Remember that.” And Ove never forgot it.”

This piece of wisdom imparted to Ove from his father reiterates something that I have always known but seem to forget as the years passed me by. I am sure this would have come in handy as a reinforced principle of thought growing up amongst a bunch of bigger bullies.

II – “And if you don’t know the story, you don’t know the man.”

Simple, yes, but hits the right spot. It is very easy to judge a person for what they are or have done to us today completely ignoring the story behind it. I have been guilty of doing that way too many times in my life than I would like to count. This reinforces my belief that a little patience and empathy goes a long way in having better conversations and relationships, no matter what kind they are.

III – “Has never liked the feeling of losing control. He’s come to realize over the years that it’s this very feeling that normal folk like and strive for, but as far as Ove is concerned only a complete bloody airhead could find loss of control a state worth aiming for. He wonders if he’ll feel nauseated, if he’ll feel pain”

Pardon my use of strong words but I am in complete agreement with Ove’s viewpoint here. Or maybe I am saying that simply because I am a ‘chicken’? I like to be in control and the idea of losing it completely freaks me out. Maybe time will change that. Who knows?

But for now, Ove wins!

3 – Sarcasm

“His heart is too big.”

If you thought that Ove was always on the giving end of sarcasm, you are wrong. He was on the receiving end as well and when that happened, it was twice as hilarious. When Ove was hospitalized for a medical emergency and doctor tells Pravaneh that it’s the size of his heart that is the problem, she almost rolls on the floor laughing.

“Ove points at him with exasperation. “You! You want to buy a French car. Don’t worry so much about others, you have enough problems of your own.”

I am not sure if this is Ove or Fredrick Backman himself , but this cracks me up every single time. Ove’s biting sarcasm on everything auto is mesmerizing as much as it is laughworthy.

4 – Of Love and Loss

“It’s a strange thing, becoming an orphan at sixteen. To lose your family long before you’ve had time to create your own to replace it. It’s a very specific sort of loneliness.”

“Then Mum died. And Dad grew even quieter. As if she took away with her the few words he’d possessed.”

“One finds a way of living for the sake of someone else’s future. And it wasn’t as if Ove also died when Sonja left him. He just stopped living.”

I loved the book for its sarcasm, laughter, fun and friendships, but I hated it too. Although, the reason for it is more personal than literary, this book made me cry. I was quick to judge Ove for the harsh person he was in the initial pages of the book, but as more and more was revealed about his past making him what he was, it teared me up.

As if losing his mother at such a young age was not bad enough, losing his father and all family before he was barely an adult is such a sad state for a child, or anyone for that matter to be in. I was happy when he found the love of his life, but then having lost a child and then losing her to a sickness again was so saddening.

All in all, this book led to be a major eye-cleanup exercise for me.

In all these years, I have realized that a book is much more powerful when you feel all the emotions the writer intended for you to feel.

“Love is a strange thing. It takes you by surprise.”

And so does this awesome novel by Fredrick Backman.

The Missing Piece Meets The Big O: Summary, Meaning and 4 Life Lessons

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O is a short story (conveyed through poems and drawings) written by Shel Silverstein. It was first published in 1976. The story revolves around a “Little Piece” who is looking for its perfect match that would ‘complete’ it.

“I was hoping that perhaps I could roll with you…”

“You cannot roll with me,” said the Big O, “but perhaps you can roll by yourself.”

This exchange between the Little Piece and the Big O captures the essence of a heartwarming tale of self-love and discovery in ‘Little Piece meets the Big O’ by Shel Silverstein.

He nudges us lightly to the unexplored lane of self-love. His genius lies in the simplicity with which he has relayed his heartwarming tale. Behind his simple words lies the profound truth that there is no such thing as a perfect match.

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O: Summary, Meaning and Plot Analysis

The book is centered around Little Piece – who is looking for its perfect match that would complete it.

Cover of The Missing Piece Meets The Big O
Cover of The Missing Piece Meets The Big O

it saw all kinds of pieces coming up to it; some fit but couldn’t roll and some that could roll, but didn’t fit. It learned to avoid the hungry and fragile ones, found and let go of the over-analyzing ones and even tried to make itself attractive for the ones it liked.

None of that worked until it found one that fit, atleast at the start. All was well until the missing piece began to grow. Both of them were not expecting or ready for that to happen.

This was heartbreaking for the missing piece and eventually they both part ways, making the missing piece alone again. The Missing piece again finds someone that it thinks might be a perfect fit. It has now found the Big O.

It proposes to roll with it only to be told in response that it could try rolling by itself. It finds the idea strange, the idea of a pointed missing piece to be able to roll by itself, nevertheless, she tries to explore that idea and Lift-Pull-Flop… Lift-Pull-Flop…. it was able to roll by itself!

an image of a page from missing piece meets the big O

Why I love The Missing Piece Meets the Big O?

This tale is an amazing testimony to the simplicity with which Silverstein has driven the profound message home in so few words, the way he has named these characters: the Missing Piece, the Big O… it’s genius!

The number of myths that this tale has busted, the quintessential silver lining and not to forget the happy ending!

Want to read The Missing Piece Meets the Big O?

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O is available on Amazon if you want to get yourself a copy. You are welcome to use the links given below to order a copy:

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4 Life Lessons from The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

There is no perfect match

While the missing piece feels alone waiting for something that will come along and complete itself, it inherently assumes that it is not complete by itself. It thinks that something more is needed for it to feel good about itself and it fails to look at the world without that assumption embedded in it.

How many times have we turned into a ball of wax when we see Tom Cruise confessing to Renee Zelleweger in Jerry Macguire – ‘You Complete me’?

Don’t stop trying

Other pieces took advantage, ran over her, some were too fragile to have plopped right in front of her; some it scared away with its flashy behavior, but never once did our little missing piece quit.

image of a page from the book the missing piece meets the big O
A page from The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

It kept the faith alive and even resorted to tricks to make her dream more achievable, like making itself attractive, it tried to solicit interest, it even asked people explicitly if they would take it along.

Be open to experimentation

Believe that what you end up getting might be different from what you envisioned, but in no way does it mean that what you end up with, is any less than what you had in mind before.

Every relationship, bitter or sweet, has a place in our lives

The Little Piece learnt from being ignored that it needed to do something to attract attention, when attracting too much attention, it realized that it was scaring the shy ones away.

When trying to appear attractive, it realized that it was taken advantage of and while Big O didn’t take it along with her, it learned the very important lesson of self-discovery and contentment.

Every experience, bitter or sweet makes us better.And what does not kill us makes us stronger.

We might start off in a relationship believing firmly in our hearts that this is the best and that nothing could go wrong with it. This may not be the case, as many of us discover in the course of our lives.

People grow out of their relationships… that’s the truth. While this realization is painful, it nevertheless makes us prepared to take our lives forward. Preparedness facilitates coping.

Albert Einstein once famously remarked “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”

He might very well be referring to Shel Silverstein.

Who Moved My Cheese: Summary, Plot Analysis and 3 Reasons To Love It

Who Moved My Cheese is a short story written by Spencer Johnson. It was first published in 1998. It is a motivational story about 4 characters – two of them are mice and two are humans (of very small size). It highlights the importance of anticipating change, adapting to one’s environment and not taking things for granted.

“The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.”

Too simple a truth, eh? For cheese and non-cheese lovers alike ! In his world renowned book ‘Who moved my Cheese’ Dr Spencer Johnson treats us with many simple truths like these, leaving us wondering – how could a business self help book be such that it applies to all areas of our life, and doing that in a language that may seem too simple but one that is still  heavy with abundance of life-changing truths.

Let’s jump right in.

Who Moved My Cheese: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story revolves around four characters- Two are mice named Sniff and Scurry and the other two are humans , about the size of mice themselves, called Hem and Haw. They live in a maze and depend on cheese for their survival.

In their cheese hunt, they chance upon a spot with supply of cheese enough to last their lifetime, they end up spending a lot of time there.

While the mice are agile and ready to move when the cheese disappears, the humans are stuck in their old ways, All they do is simply take the cheese for granted, sit back and brag about it.

Eventually cheese runs out.

book cover of who moved my cheese
Cover of Who Moved My Cheese?

While the mice moved on to find new cheese, Hem and Haw, too set in their old habits, are afraid of what lies out there in the maze and simply complain about them deserving more after all of their hard work.

Too scared to set out, Hem and Haw start blaming each other for their troubles. Over a period of time, Haw gets smarter and decides to explore the maze for more cheese.

Finding that Hem is hesitant to come along, Haw continues to explore further, leaving a trail of messages for Hem, if he ever decides to follow him.

Eventually, he does find a ton of cheese , deep in the maze only to find Sniff and Scurry there already. Learning from his past, Haw is now a vigilant explorer, he monitors the current cheese supply to avoid the same fiasco from happening again. He decides it best for Hem to explore by himself to find his way to him.

3 Reasons to love Who Moved My Cheese?

1 – Where you are and where you will be is your own doing

Times got tough for all four of them. They were all faced with the same challenge. Was the result same for all four? No!


Because each of them chose to respond to the situation in a different way. While Hem and Haw were busy in their blame games and petty squabbles, Sniff and Scurry were already resting with their newfound cheese chest. Haw finally did see the error of his ways and changed eventually to find himself rewarded, who’s to say what happened to our poor old Hem?

2 – Complacency is your worst enemy

Times do get easy and that’s when our worst enemy, complacency, strikes! We are blinded by comfort to an extent that nothing else is visible- even the dangers staring at us right in the face.

Amy Lowell, American Poet, was right on point when she said –‘ Happiness, to some, elation; Is, to others, mere stagnation.’

3 – Stay aware, Be Prepared

Stay away from ‘Bury your head in the sand’ syndrome. The first step in the preparation is to acknowledge that there is a need to change.Like Sniff and Scurry, be aware that the cheese could disappear and you might need to explore and find novel ways to get to the new and better cheese.

7 Wall Writings from Who Moved My Cheese?

The simplicity of this book is priceless. Consider, for instance, the lessons that Haw writes on the wall for Hem.

1 – Change Happens They Keep Moving The Cheese

Change is everywhere- work, home, our communities, you name it . Heraclites – the Greek philosopher – wasn’t wrong when he said “nothing is permanent but change.”

2 – Anticipate Change Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Regardless of us seeing change everywhere, how often are we caught by surprise? How often do we see ourselves complaining about it?

3 – Monitor Change Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

Are we ever proactive enough to see what lies ahead and what the impending change might entail for us?

4 – Adapt To Change Quickly The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese

Are we ready to make a move when the change happens? Are we prepared?

5 – Change Move With The Cheese

Are we changing ? Are we ready to reroute our actions around what the change calls for?

6 – Enjoy Change! Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

It could be difficult adjusting to change, let alone enjoy it at times, But are we those
nimble agile kind of people that can actually savour change?

7 – Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again They Keep Moving The Cheese.

Are we ready to change again and faster the next time?

So, we have Sniff and Scurry and Hem and Haw…. which one of those are you?

The Seven Lady Godivas: Summary, Plot Analysis and the Reason You’ll Love It

The Seven Lady Godivas is an adult illustrated novel – written and illustrated by Dr Seuss – that was originally published in 1939 and then republished in 1987. The novel tells the story of seven Godiva sisters, none of whom ever wear clothing. Wacky, scandalous and oddly unerotic despite the sketches of the nude ladies scattered all over the book, this novel would still make you wonder if you ever actually outgrew Dr. Seuss.

“You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink”

I am sure you have heard of this, but did you know that it is one of “horse truths”?

Confused, eh?

Enter Dr Seuss with his adult illustrated novel The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family. The novel that was first published way back in 1939, provides an account of seven lady Godivas in 11th century Coventry in attempt to explore (horseplay around) the origins of celebrated proverbs – “horse truths” in Seuss’ lingo.

He declares very early on in the book that ‘there was not one but seven lady Godivas and their nakedness was not actually a thing of shame” referring to the English woman Lady Godiva from the early 11th century that rode naked on the streets to gain a remission on Earl’s (her husband’s) exploitative tax practices.

Wacky, scandalous and oddly unerotic (despite the sketches of the nude ladies scattered all over the book), this novel would still make you wonder if you ever actually outgrew Dr. Seuss.

It’s interesting to note that the novel wasn’t successful when it was first launched way back in 1939. In fact, only 2500 copies from the initial print run of 10000, were sold, leading to Seuss calling it his ‘greatest failure’.

the book cover of the seven lady godivas novel
The cover of “The Seven Lady Godivas”

Sometimes the abundance of the sketches of the nude ladies does seem like a cheap titillating tactic, but believe me, this book is more than that.

You just got to put your ‘horse sense’ to work.

The Seven Lady Godivas: Summary and Plot Analysis

Lord Godiva of Coventry has deep admiration for his seven daughters, who do not wear clothes because ‘they chose not to disguise what they are’. He summons them to the castle to bid them goodbye before his departure for the battle of Hastings on a horseback which leaves the sisters nervous considering that the beast hasn’t been tamed yet.

Rightly so, they are proven right in a few moments when the horse Nathan throws him off itself – leading to the man’s instant death.

The sisters vow to study and chart horses and refrain from marriage till each one of them have a horse truth, a truth that makes horses safe for posterity.

This leaves the ‘Peeping’ brothers, the ones dating the seven lady godivas with nothing but a long wait ahead of them. The sisters set off for the truth one after the other and through a series of adventures and misfortunes, eventually come to an understanding about how this majestic beast operates.

Every proverbs that you may have heard till date, including ‘don’t put a cart before a horse’, ‘never change horses in the middle of the stream’ and so on… you would be truly amazed to see how Dr. Seuss has spun up stories around the proverbs to make sense of them.

Want to read The Seven Lady Godivas?

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Why I Love The Seven Lady Godivas

On the surface this book might seem like a very simple tale, maybe even a little sleazy looking at the illustrations, but beware, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Dive a little deeper and there are parallels that we can draw between the horse truths and our own, and how each of the godiva ladies and their adventures to find the horse truths, have a hidden message somewhere.

Sometimes serious and sometimes downright funny. Consider Dorcas Godiva for example, she thinks she must research her subject extensively and approach it a scientific way to pave a straight forward but sure shot way to get to her horse truth fast.

After trying a variety of options with the horse cart and being engaged in the “in the greatest horse-and-tree conflict that Coventry has ever known.”, she comes to realize – ‘never put a cart before a horse’.

So many times, in our lives we are so focused on the results that we end up underplaying the importance of our means to get there, only to realize in the aftermath that our mad race screwed up our priorities somewhere along the way.

Consider Arabella Godiva on the other hand, in her quest to uncover her horse truth, she overworks her horse so much that he ends up becoming a drunken bum. And when she stages an intervention by making him drink water from the pump, guess what?

The horse says-“I’ll die before I touch it.” And he does.

Does it remind you of a friend or a loved one that was completely unresponsive to your pleas to ‘do it in moderation’?

How many times have you felt the frustration of ‘sermon’-ing when there was no
response on the other sides.

The characters themselves are a window to the variety of people that we meet in our daily lives and depending on our preferences, we associate with.

Consider Lord Godiva, a liberal but an unprepared moron, Teenie Godiva, an overweight and a curious lady that took her chances even when the going was grim, Dorcas Godiva, uncertainty-averse and a meticulously prepared woman, Hedwig Godiva , an incredibly loyal , dedicated and tenacious woman that didn’t take short cuts, and wanted to do things the right away.

They all remind us of someone… or maybe ourselves.

We all have a little godiva in us, don’t we?

The Painted Veil: Summary, Review and 3 Things To Love About it

The Painted Veil is a novel written by W Somerset Maugham in 1925. The novel also inspired a 2006 drama movie of the same name (starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts). It is a story of love, betrayal, hatred, revenge and redemption.

“How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.”

Does this quote sound familiar?

It’s from The Painted Veil – a novel by Somerset Waugham published back in 1925.

This amazing tale of the ultimate triumph of love will take you on a roller-coaster ride of a range of human emotions – love, betrayal, hatred, revenge and redemption – none of which is any less than the other in intensity.

The Painted Veil: Story and Summary

The story revolves around Kitty Garstin, an outgoing upper middle class socialite and Walter Fane, an introvert bacteriologist and physician.

Kitty, much to the chagrin of her mother, has declined marriage proposal from quite a few prospective gentlemen.

Her mother now considering her ‘off-market’ convinces her to accept marriage proposal from Walter Fane, to which she half-heartedly agrees to avoid being upstaged by her comparably plain sister Doris. The newly married couple leave for Hong Kong shortly after.

Walter, a meticulous and principled man, is a devoted lover while Kitty is callous and indifferent to him.

It is not long before she gets attracted to Charlie Townsend, a tall, urbane and charming man and begins an affair with him.

Walter ultimately finds about Kitty’s infidelity and doesn’t confront either Charlie or Kitty, both of whom mistake it for his cowardice.

Kitty begins to despise Walter even more, but notices that there is an ominous change in his behavior towards her.

Walter ultimately asks Kitty to accompany him to Hong-Kong, she rejects the idea and conveys that she better be with Charles than accompany him.

the painted veil book cover
Cover of The Painted Veil. The novel inspired a 2006 Hollywood movie of the same name. It starred Edward Norton and Naomi Watts.

Kitty, upon being turned away by Charlie, heartbroken and disillusioned, sets out to Hong Kong with Walter. Initially bitter with the rejection, Kitty tries to contact
Charles to no avail.

She increasingly finds herself in the company of Waddington, who inadvertently ends up exposing Charles’ character.

While Walter completely dedicates his time to researching for the cure for Cholera-endemic, Kitty begins to discover his character and compassion in a whole new light, through her own observations and through the words of nuns and Mother Superior at the local church.

As the strained relationship between the two start to show the first signs of repair, Kitty now discovers that she is pregnant but not sure about the father of the child.

This time she is honest with Walter and lets him know.

Through an unfortunate turn of events, Walter falls ill and eventually succumbs to Cholera, with Kitty by his side.

While on her way back to Britain, she gets to know that her mother died. She persuades her father to allow her to accompany him to Bahamas, where she looks forward to raising her child.

3 Reasons You Might Love The Painted Veil

This book is an amazing read. I absolutely love it!

Granted that this view from a hopeless romantic can be biased on a topic concerning romance, but hey! I like this book for reasons more than that.

The book touched a lot of themes, the ones that stood out for me:

1 –  The characters are flawed

Kitty is the first character that comes to mind when I think of flaws, but if I scratch the surface a bit more, Walter does not lag far behind. While Kitty obviously crossed the line on occasions more than one, with infidelity and blatant disregard to Walter’s love for her, Walter upon discovering Kitty’s infidelity turns as un-Walter-esque as possible.

2 – A mismatched couple: Marriages can be challenging!

This one was not a surprise, considering how much I see this around me. Although it was clear from the start that Kitty had no remarkable affection for Walter. Walter on the other hand, fully aware of her shallowness, still was in love with her.

The marriage slowly started unfolding as both of them found it difficult to give up on the addiction to their own selves, by doing which they fill their relationship with

Kitty, a product of elite London society finds it difficult to understand her awkward bacteriologist husband. Their background, if anything, makes it difficult for the couple to have commonalities, driving them further apart.

3 – Forgiveness is key

Regardless of all the possible flaws their relationship – the shallowness, the infidelity, the mismatched ideals in life, opposite backgrounds- Walter and Kitty eventually did find a way to forgive each other. Both of them had to go on a painful journey of self-discovery to come together at the end.

Forgiveness couldn’t be stressed enough, and this does not just stand true for a romantic relationship. It’s funny how easy it is for us to hold grudges even when it means letting go of a relationship that may have meant so much to us in the past. Love comes in all shapes and sizes, forgiveness being the glue that it holds it together.

In the words of Mark Twain

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it”

Want to read The Painted Veil?

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Some common questions related to The Painted Veil

What is The Painted Veil metaphor for?

In the novel, the veil represents the set of beliefs that people live by. It’s a comforting illusion that impacts the way we see and perceive others. But when others behave in a way that is not consistent with what we perceive of them, our belief is shattered and the veil is torn apart.

What does The Painted Veil mean?

At a wedding, the veil is white, which represents the innocence and purity of the wearer. As the title of the novel suggests, the veil is painted, which implies that the wearer is not innocent any more. The novel takes a dig at how our society and the people that live in it are tainted.

Is The Painted Veil a true story?

There’s no proof that The Painted Veil  is a true story. It is a fictionalized account of a young English couple and their journey through a myriad of emotional difficulties and life’s turbulence.

Was Somerset Maugham a spy?

Somerset Maugham, the writer of The Painted Veil, was a member of Britain Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). He was recruited by an intelligence officer after his first novel had just been published. The officer suggested that Maugham’s knowledge of the German language and his reputation as a writer would be a perfect cover for his spying activities for the English.



The Old Man and The Sea: Summary, Analysis and Review

The Old Man and the Sea is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway. It was first published in 1951. It is a story of an old fisherman named Santiago who catches an enormous marlin (a type of fish) far out in the sea only to lose it and the pain that accompanies that loss.

“Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so.”

This statement by the old man from the Old Man and the Sea sums up the essence of this tale of poignant yet uncelebrated heroism in the face of a series of misfortunes.

old man and the sea novel cover
The cover of The Old Man and The Sea

This is one of the best works on Ernest Hemingway, touted as the major contributor towards him being awarded the nobel prize. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this novel.

To think of it, isn’t it ironical that a man’s story of a soul-wrenching loss got Hemingway the noblest prize of his life time?

The Old Man and the Sea: Summary and Plot Analysis

The protagonist Santiago is a fisherman, who is considered the most unlucky man of the village, having gone for months without catching a fish, so much so that people do not want to be associated with him, lest his bad luck rubs off on them.

This includes his former apprentice – a young boy called Manolin who has deserted him for a better, prosperous ship.

He carries the albatross of misfortune around his neck.

This apathy and distrust, however does not deter him from fishing. Rather on the contrary, he sets out to the open sea – off Florida coast – and goes farther than he usually does – in an attempt to catch fish.

He does catch one – only to find that the fish is far too big for him to handle by himself.

Restricted by resources and his old flailing body, but backed by years of experience fishing, Santiago decides to delay killing the fish, betting on his patience – he lets the line go slack, only to find himself being dragged out to the sea for three days.

He eventually feels as if he has developed a sense of kinship with this creature he has set his mind to kill.

marlin fish
Marlin – a species of fish

The fish eventually grows tired, which is when Santiago kills it. This magnanimous catch is still too early for the victory trumpets.

Santiago decides to drag the fish behind the boat. This proves not only to be a failure but dangerous – in the sense that the blood of the dead fish, attracts sharks to the boat.

Not only is there no hope to take the fish with him, which the sharks were feasting big portions of, flanking his ship from all directions , his life is also threatened.

The sharks eventually discard the ship, but not before every piece of flesh from the giant Marlin is gone, leaving behind a skeleton of his prized catch. The shark took away the fish and last remnants of any hope that the old man felt in his heart.

There is, however, a silver lining to this heroic yet grim tale of the old man, when looking at the big skeleton of fish on his boat, people seemed to have changed their perception of him and Manolin offers to fish with him again.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Want to read The Old Man and The Sea?

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The Old Man and The Sea: Review and My Thoughts

Old Man and the Sea is one of the most famous works by Ernest Hemingway.

Deceptively simple on the surface, this is a testimony to the vagaries of human spirit – a tale of bravery, heroism, optimism, pessimism and an old man’s struggle against the elements and his own demons.

This novel is an old man’s dance with success and failure taking turns, but throughout it, shines the human quality of perseverance and the man’s undying effort to fight against the elements and his own doubts.

What is the main theme of the Old Man and the Sea?

As Hemingway shows the old man fighting with the Mighty Merlin, holding the rope with every single morsel of strength his flailing body could muster, ignoring the cuts, the pain, the hunger and the sleep – fighting the mighty creature as if something more than his life was at stake, we are simply left to wonder how powerful a simple man can be, with the simplest of resources in the simplest of habitats.

That you can be more than what you think you are only when you think and accept that in your heart.

Its simple yet very profound- the realization that how the prospect of a looming death, whether of the body or the spirit – can leave a man invigorated, or rather much more powerful than before. This small novel from Hemingway is a tribute to the human spirit – with all its abilities – for its ability to feel love and jump back from loss- ever so powerful.

That, human at one with nature, is a magnificent beast that stands tall and bows down to nothing – not its own mortality and not to the magnificent demons of his own mind. We are all heroes of our own epic struggles – which we lose or we win every single day of our lives.

Scarred maybe, yet ever hopeful.

And yes, the old man was right when he said “Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so.”

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: Summary, Analysis and 3 Life Lessons

The Metamorphosis is a short story (novella) written by Franz Kafka. It was published in 1915. It was originally published in German and its title was Die Verwandlung. It is a story of a salesman named Gregor Samsa who wakes up one day to find that he has mysteriously transformed into an insect.

Franz Kafka, in his remarkable short story ‘The Metamorphosis’, takes you for a stroll into a world that is mundane yet surreal, absurd yet intriguing, defining a writing style much known and admired as Kafka-esque.

The Metamorphosis Summary

The story revolves around the Samsa family with Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman and the sole breadwinner for the family, as our protagonist.

He wakes up late one morning dreading the repercussions of not showing up at work on time, only to discover that he has somehow changed into a monstrous vermin.

the cover of the metamorphosis

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” Gregor thinks to himself.

He has lost all his ability to communicate with humans, which is extremely unsettling and unreal to him. His transformation is later discovered by his family members, and eventually his manager who had come to enquire about his whereabouts earlier that day.

The manager scared out of his wits upon seeing Gregor in his new form, immediately flees, while the family is left to grapple with the enormity of this new problem at hand.

Having been shoved and locked into his own room, Gregor gradually progresses from a state of disbelief (thinking that a good night’s sleep is going to make it all go away), to a reluctant acceptance of his new reality.

On the other side of the wall, the family was similarly horrified and perplexed about what the future held for them, with their son and his earnings out of the picture and what people would think, if their new misfortune came to be known to the world outside.

Gregor and the family, after a painful yet short phase of acceptance, begin to settle into a routine over the following weeks and months.

Gregor discovers his new form, his likes and dislikes. His newfound love for things rotten, which is confusing to his old self, but essential for his sustenance.

Grete, his sister and the only individual he feels still understands him, assumes the role of his primary caretaker, feeding him and cleaning his room.

In a series of events that follow, Gregor finds himself paralyzed by his father’s attack, limiting his capability to move. He slowly sees the growing family indifference towards him. He even sees her beloved sister’s changing behaviour towards him.

This starts his gradual descent to hopelessness and he starts to lose appetite for food and life.

A very short-lived respite for Gregor comes in the form of music when his sister plays violin for the guests/boarders. Gregor, inherently drawn to it, moves towards the living area and brings himself in full view of the boarders, the boarders now horrified, give their notice to the family to leave without payment.

Absolutely horrified by this turn of events, Grete, now vehemently opposes the idea of Gregor continuing to live in the house.

How does Gregor die in the Metamorphosis?

Gregor’s despair hits rock bottom, as his sister, the one he held dearest was now against him. He resigns himself to his room, famished and hopeless, never to see light of another day.

The family, when informed of his demise the following day, asks the guests to leave and takes a trip to the country only to find their new life purpose of finding a husband for Grete.

Although I started off reading the story with a sense of disbelief in the initial pages, I found myself hooked as it progressed, touched to the extent that I was visibly disturbed by the end.

Want to read The Metamorphosis?

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3 Life Lessons from The Metamorphosis

Although this story left me in pensive mode for quite a few days after I was finished , I could not help but notice that there are so many hidden lessons to learn from.

1 – Respect yourself

However clichéd it might sound, but a healthy self-respect for ourselves is vital for happiness and contentment. If we let other’s perceptions of us define what we think we are, how different are we from Gregor?

two hands holding yellow flower
If you don’t respect yourself, others have a hard time respecting you.

2 – Live in the present

Considering that Kafka wrote this story close to a century ago, It is scary how relatable this is. Gregor was always worried about his future, always worried for not being able to provide for his loved ones, so much so that he didn’t get time to even engage in a decent relationship,

Also when faced with the grim form he saw himself in, his first reaction was not something to help himself, but was to get to work as soon as he could. How many of us have seen Gregors like that around us, at workplace or otherwise?

3 – Love unconditionally

The first reaction that Gregor’s family has upon his transformation was isolating him to avoid him getting exposed and bringing a bad name for the family. He was shown love and consideration at very few occasions, far and sparse, if at all we could call it love,

When faced with a fearful situation, we always look to be comforted by the ones that we hold closest. When not finding solace there, it is natural to quickly fall into the depression trap.

So when we love unconditionally, we are not just doing a great service to the loved one but also to ourselves.


Snowflakes Vs My Eyes

Carl Reiner once said – “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”

I found it very un-romantic, who does not like snow!

The soft white bliss from the heavens to the earth in addition to being the perfect snow fights memory maker. After all, didn’t Markus Zusak (the author of The Book Thief) call a snowball in the face to be the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship?

Those were times, when I was enjoying my childhood in pure tropical bliss. At that point in my life, nothing was worse than a 40 degree Celsius. I used to dream about visiting a country where I could actually see snow in person, not on the screens.

Those were the only dreams that filled my days and nights.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I found myself in a cold country – cold and beautiful. My dreams finally decided to meet me in person. And guess what, like a crazy barking lunatic, I ran out at the first glimpse of snow – short of singing and dancing, giggling like a schoolgirl.

Your first snow is like your first love, that’s what they say. That’s exactly what it is. Your second love might be Barack Obama, the coolest of them all, but guess what? You are always going to sneak into your ‘first-love-memory-corner’ every now and then.

Long story short – snow started to look less and less dreamy as the years passed by – to the extent that I have actually started dreading a snow forecast now. Somehow, snowflakes now have the precision to hit my eyeballs as soon as I step out. Smack dab in the middle of my eye!

Have the snowflakes trained their algorithm for an eye ball landing over the years? Or were they always precise from the start or did I choose to ignore them earlier and just danced and sang like an idiot in the rain?

Is it the snowfall or is it me?

Do I agree with Carl Reiner now?

Hell yeah!