A thing which had been discarded and, instead of having been disposed off with the other useless things, had found refuge in the solitary ward of Number 7. It was the most beautiful thing in the entire asylum, more beautiful than the bed of wild flowers along the wall of the compound.
The Umbrella Man is a short story about the inmate of an asylum. Insanity has caused him to lose his identity to a mere Number 7. He lives a monotonous and dreary life, almost numb in a place that has forgotten what beauty was.
There was just one possession that he treasured and that was an umbrella which he carried with him.
He felt lucky to have chanced upon the umbrella with yellow-and-red stripes. It had become his playmate.
All he wished for was rain, and yet the non arrival of it didn’t sadden him. Even though the author paints a very dismal picture on the surface, if we delve deeper, we can see that Number 7 is not quite without anything. The story weighs heavy with symbolism. Every night he talks to the image of a little child and comforts him.
For years, during his life in isolation in the asylum, the child never grew up. The man grew old.
In other words, Number 7 may have grown old, barely alive, but his inner self was still young and hopeful and that hope was not in vain.
Eventually, the clouds gathered up and rain splattered on the ground on the very day he is released. Number 7 is a free man and he is seen walking away from the prison of his mind into hope and freedom, a road he has never seen before, leaving nothing but wet footprints in his wake.
The analogy created between the umbrella and mankind is beautiful:
The umbrella was utterly worthless without the rain.
Likewise, what is mankind without hope?
With the absence of hope, a man is dead even before he actually dies.
The Umbrella Man is an ambivalent short read that talks about the intricate relationship between man and hope in life, and its vitality for survival.
My rating for this short story – 4/5 stars