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Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Close Reading of "An Encounter": Can the encounter between the old man and the boy be percieved as an episode of masturbation?

"After a long while his monologue paused. He stood up slowly, saying that he had to leave us for a minute or so... after a silence of a few minutes I heard Mahony exclaim: I say! Look what he is doing! As I neither answered nor raised my eyes Mahony exclaimed again...I say... He's a queer old Josser!" (239-248)

Personally, I believe this is one of the many possible excerpts which seem to indicate the old man's act of masturbation, which he causes as a result of his eerie monologue in the presence of the two young boys. Mahoney, the more adventurous of the two, appears to be the kind of boy who at that certain age is fascinated by all things improper, gross, and/or disgusting, and he is the one who watches the old man and reports to the narrator. The Narrator, however, adopts a submissive posture, with his eyes downcast, head silently bowed. Perhaps this is the result of the percieved homosexual connection between the narrator and the young man. While Mahoney only reports on the old man's actions, the narrator appears to have a greater understanding of the reasons behind such strange behavior.


  1. Interesting blog James, and I completely agree. However, assuming that the narrator is one of the two boys, could this same scene and understanding of such strange behavior be read as a coming of age story?

  2. I agree the text indicates the man leaves to masturbate, but the narrator having a greater capacity to understand the indecency and perversion of the man’s actions isn’t necessarily supported by the text. The fact that Mahoney identifies the man as “A queer old josser!”(18) and disregards his monologue all together, leads me to believe that both Mahoney and the narrator understand it to the same degree, they just have different personalities. Because Mahoney leaves the narrator to listen alone, makes me believe that the more sensitive side of the narrator is the reason for his attentiveness. This is consistent through out the story since Mahoney is stopped from “charging” little kids because the narrator says they are too small. (15)

  3. I'm not convinced the old man left to masturbate. I'm not saying it's out of the question, but what other evidence suggests that particular act? I think the old man could have been doing a number of strange things.