“The Perfect Gentleman” is a story written by one of the most prolific writers of our times, Jeffrey Archer. The story features among others in a collection titled “A Quiver full of Arrows” and this one is a personal favorite as it lends the reader an eye into British stoic philosophy and the ideal every man and woman must strive to achieve in their lives.
The story begins with the narrator; an Englishman who works for a publisher, is in New York trying to track down an American author whose work they wish to publish in England. While there, the narrator meets an older gentleman by the name of Edward Shrimpton in one of the posh clubs in New York who is as you might have guessed “the perfect gentleman” of this story. I especially like how he is described; an older man who is quite fit for his age with balding hair and a well-kept mustache; a person who has achieved much success in his life and yet prefers to stay anonymous. A man who if called upon is very much capable of leading men into action, but also ready to stay in the sidelines and take orders. Edward takes kindly to the foreign visitor and invites the narrator for dinner the next day at the club.
Meanwhile, the narrator meets his uncle, a veteran of the club that night for drinks, and is keen to know more about the gentleman he met that morning. The uncle tells him of a strange event that happened several years ago that involved Edward and another patron of the club, that of how Edward lost an important Championship match of backgammon to a rather brash Harry Newman who was nowhere in his league. This event and the perception that the narrator’s uncle has on what really happened on that game sets the stage for the meeting the next day the narrator has with Edward.
The story moves deftly into the climax where the narrator urges Edward to spill the beans on what happened that night but has no luck. At this point, the author brings to the scene Harry Newman and creates a stark comparison of the two men who played the championship that day many years ago. Rather flamboyant and pompous, Harry intervenes at dinner and brings up the old story of how he humiliated a champion to victory in a match where the odds were stacked against him. The narrator is quite sure that this would certainly irk Edward and now he would know what really happened that night during the game. To his utter surprise, something totally unexpected happens.
The story explores the subjects of ego, validation, and compassion for a fellow human being and what true manliness means. The true man is the “gentle” man not because he is incapable of violence, manipulation, power, and strength, but chooses not to display these attributes out of compassion. A must-read for all those who want to know what true heroism means.
Course Leader- Athena Global Education
Nithin Kurian is an innovator and Design Thinker with experience in operations, customer success and consultancy in the Education and Information Technology sector, having worked in both corporate and startup environments. He envisages the growth of Ed-Tech ecosystems using human centered design and the efficient use of technology.
Scottish Qualifications Authority, UK
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