Monday 22 May 2023

The Hack Driver

The Hack Driver

                                 By Sinclair Lewis

Analysis of the Chapter

·        The story ‘The Hack Driver’ is written by Sinclair Lewis, an American writer and playwright.

·        It is a humorous account and unpleasant experience from life of the narrator, a lawyer working in a law firm.

·        The chapter deals with the case of mistaken identity where Oliver Lutkins was taken to be William Mangnuson who he wasn’t.

·        The story conveys that life is uncertain and unpredictable and many times we have experiences contrary to our beliefs, thoughts and perception. It is often aptly said that “Appearances are deceptive”.

·        Oliver Lutkins is a life like character. We, certainly may find such characters in our life as this world of ours is full of such liars, tricksters and the people with fake faces and deceptive smiles.

Summary  / Synopsis

·        The story is about a junior assistant clerk in a law firm. He graduated with honours He hated his job. It was an unpleasant training period. He had to/go to dirty places to serve summons. Sometimes the powerful people or goons would beat him up. 

·        One day he was sent to New Mullion, a town forty miles away in the countryside. He had to serve summons on Mr. Oliver Lutkins who was wanted to be witness in a case and had been ignoring the summons. He was pleased to visit a small place like this.

·        New Mullion had muddy streets and wooden shops. There, at the station, the narrator met a hack driver who was about forty. The narrator told him that he had come to find Oliver Lutkins in the town. He replied that he had seen Lutkins about an hour ago. He offered to take the narrator to all the places where Lutkins hanged around, to find him.

·        The narrator found the man to be genuinely kind and helpful. He appeared to cheerful and friendly. The narrator agreed to pay him two dollars per hour. The hack driver told that if the narrator went to Lutkins to get money in his attire, Lutkins would become suspicious and wouldn't come near him. So, he suggested to go into the Fritz’s Shop and talk to him on his behalf. He warned the narrator to keep himself out of sight.

·        The hack driver told that his name was William Magnuson, called as Bill and his company was called ‘William Magnuson Fancy Carting and Hacking’.

·        He, next went into Fritz’s as Lutkins was fond of playing poker. The narrator stood behind. Bill came out and said that Lutkins had been there a little while ago but had left. He, perhaps, had gone to Gustaff’s for a shave.

·        They drove to Gustaff’s barber shop. Bill went inside and enquired about Lutkins. He was not there, too. Lutkins' credit was over at Gustaff's that's why, he might have gone to Gray’s for a shave. At Gray’s shop, they missed Lutkins by only five minutes. He was neither found at the poolroom nor anywhere else. They missed him at all places by 5-10 minutes.

·        The narrator, then suggested Bill to go to a restaurant. But Bill wanted to go home and get the lunch prepared by his wife for half a dollar. Then they took lunch at Wade’s Hill and enjoyed sightseeing while eating. The narrator also paid him for lunch hour. As they sat at the Hill, Bill described almost everything from the minister’s wife to the college boys as he had travelled lot of places in the town.

·        Now, Bill told the narrator to go to Lutkins’ mother. She was a real terror. She was 'about nine feet tall and four feet thick and quick as a cat'. Bill explained Lutkins’ mother why they had wanted to meet Lutkins. She went into the kitchen and came out with an iron rod of an old stove. She ran after them, shouted and laughed at them. They both being frightened ran away.

·        Now, it was time to catch the afternoon train. The narrator decided returning to New Mullion to practise law as he was charmed by the village and the simple and helpful people he met there, especially Bill Mangnuson. He imagined an honest and happy life there beyond the limits of universities and law firms.

·        The narrator was ashamed of not serving summons on Lutkins. The chief could have almost murdered the narrator for his failure, but he only ordered the narrator to go back to again find Lutkins to New Mullion with a man who knew Lutkins and was able to recognise him.

·        The narrator saw Bill at the station near his cart. The old tigress, Lutkins’ mother was there talking and laughing with Bill. The narrator pointing to Bill said that he had helped him find Lutkins. The man replied that that man himself was Lutkins and that’s why he could not find him.

·        Lutkins and his mother laughed out loud and requested him to have a cup of coffee in a neighbour’s house as that family is the only one that missed the joy of seeing him yesterday. Lutkins was served the summons eventually, The narrator was disappointed to find a village and people contrary to his imagination. His dreams to live in a peaceful village and with helpful villagers were shattered


The story ‘The Hack Driver’ established age old sayings, 'Appearances are deceptive' and ‘All that glitters is not gold”. At the end of the story the narrator was utterly disappointed as the man who he thought to be friendly and helpful turned out to a liar and a trickster. His perception of a simple village life and soft spoken and helpful villagers was shattered completely. All the villagers joined hands with Lutkins and made a big joke of him instead of helping him.   

Important Question Answers

Q. A lot of fiction writers have glorified grey characters such as cons and thieves. Justify the statement with reference to 'The Hack Driver'.

A. A lot of fiction writers have glorified clever cons like Lutkins in the story who with his gift of gab and remarkable talent of making stories impressed gullible lawyer. Other fiction writers have done the same in their creations i.e. Open Window, Dusk and movies like Bunty Aur Bubli and Dhoom. Hack driver was a liar and an unlawful person who doesn't obey the court's order. But he was presented as a smart, clever and pleasant personality who impressed the lawyer with his cheerfulness. On the contrary, lawyer who is a law abiding and simple man was described as a fool and gullible person.

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