Short Story #94: The Abominable Mr. Gunn by Robert Graves

Title:  The Abominable Mr. Gunn

Author: Robert Graves


Robert Graves - The Shout and Other Stories
The story tells of Mr. Gunn, a friar and teacher at the boarding school the narrator went to as a child.  It shows the ways in which Mr. Gunn acts miserably towards the students, assuming hesitations as a sign of wrong answers or poor character.  However, the narrator explains that what was most damming about Gunn was how he squashed out one's intuition and inner working knowledge of the world.  He provides his own personal experience but finds the best of example is to tell about young F. F. Smiley.  The young lad is in Gunn's class when he is assigned a mathematical problem.  He finishes it quickly and is relaxing while other students continue to work.  When Gunn confronts him about the boy's lack of work, the boy explains he came to the conclusion--but does not have the work to show it.  Furthermore, he figured out that the answer is wrong in the back of the book.  Gunn mocks this announcement and berates him before sending him to the Headmaster.  This happens a few more times before Smiley's will is ultimately crushed.  However, we also learn that the Brown Friars were disbanded by the police by the end of the school year.  


Grave's commentary upon that hint of inspiration and intuition that some students experience but then quickly learn to squash as a result of teachers who want to stay within the lines is an important lesson to be aware of as some students do feel the impact of such measurements and it limits their engagement and excitement in the world of learning (especially ritualized learning).  

Short Story #94 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/3/2014
Source:  The Shout and Other Stories by Robert Graves. Penguin Books, 1978.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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