B. Wordsworth by V.S. Naipaul: Summary & Themes

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  • 0:05 Background on B. Wordsworth
  • 0:28 B. Wordsworth Plot Summary
  • 2:51 The Theme of Life's Beauty
  • 3:29 The Themes of Loss & Grief
  • 4:20 The Theme of Truth
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tina Miller

Tina has taught English, has an MFA in Creative Writing, and has several published novels and short stories.

This lesson looks at V.S. Naipaul's short story, 'B. Wordsworth'. We'll first take a look at its plot summary and then we'll examine each of its major themes one at a time.

Background on B. Wordsworth

'B. Wordsworth' is a short story published in V. S. Naipaul's collection of short stories, Miguel Street. We are whisked away to a Trinidad town where the main characters, the narrator boy and the title character, B. Wordsworth himself, build a friendship. In this summary and analysis of themes, you'll explore and experience life through a poet's and an apprentice poet's eyes.

B. Wordsworth Plot Summary

The events that unfold in Naipaul's, 'B. Wordsworth' are shown through the eyes of a young boy, the narrator, and he's unnamed. B., a stranger, approaches the boy to see the bees in his yard. At first, the boy is quizzical and asks various details of Wordsworth's life, like what the 'B' in his name stands for, and what B. does for a living.

It's at this point that we begin to learn B.'s poetic, and possibly fantastical, view on life. He tells the boy that B. stands for 'Black,' and that he had a brother, 'White,' with whom he shared a heart. B. says that he is one of the greatest poets of all time, yet he has never sold a poem. In fact, trying to sell a poem to the boy's mother was B.'s ticket off the yard. Yet, we know that the boy's and B.'s relationship will continue to grow: '. . . when B. Wordsworth left, I prayed I would see him again.'

The boy does not have to wait too long because he spots B. on Miguel Street a week later. As their relationship continues, B. and the boy spend their time together walking, talking, meandering around the seaboard; living as poets and life explorers. One day, B. shares a story with the boy. It is a story of two poets, a boy and a girl, and the death of the girl and the unborn baby poet she carried.

B. presents another secret, this one about a poem. This is not just any poem, like the type of poems he had tried to sell for four cents, but '. . . the greatest poem in the world.' He has been working on it for five years, one line, one month at a time. The previous month's line: 'The past is deep,' enamored the boy so much that he hangs onto the hope for more.

But there are no more lines. The boy remains optimistic for B. and his poetry business, yet B. is not as enthusiastic. The story begins to trickle to its end just as the boy witnesses B. slowly nearing his. They have one last meeting, and B. makes the boy promise not to visit again. In this last meeting, B. asks if the boy wants to hear a funny story. The story, not so funny after all, is that B. had lied about the girl poet and the baby. He had also lied about writing the greatest poem. And with that, he sends the boy on his way. The boy is left with a great memory of a great poet and not-so-great salesman.

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