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The Pink Bow Tie | Summary and Analysis

Summary of Pink Bow Tie by Paul Jennings

“Pink Bow Tie” by Paul Jennings is an interesting, fun-filled story that initially featured in his collection of short stories titled “Unbelievable”, which was released in 1987. The story is revolves around a young student who gets into trouble with the principal of his school for having dyed his hair blonde and has to therefore explain the strange circumstances involving a machine that could manipulate one’s age which led to the action for which he is being punished. The story is written in the first-person narrative from the boy’s point of view and so, along with a description of the events that happened with him, we also get a glimpse into his inner thoughts and responses to the things and people around him.

Pink Bow Tie | Summary and Analysis

At the very beginning, we are told that the narrator is sitting outside the Principal’s office of his new school, apparently waiting for a punishment for the second time in the two days he has been there. The first time he got into trouble was not for breaking any rules, but rather because he had made fun of an old man’s pink bowtie, unaware of the fact that the person he had so ridiculed was the Principal of the school, Old Splodge. What was intended as a joke turned out to be a cause of trouble for him for no apparent fault of his. As he thinks about this unfair treatment meted out to him, his attention moves to the Principal’s gorgeous, young secretary on whom he has a major crush, but owing to the age difference between them, sees no future with. It is then revealed that he was summoned to the Principal’s office for having dyed his hair blonde which was against the school rules. The old Principle, who is unwilling to accept his retirement which is due next year, already holds a grudge against the narrator for the previous incident and is all set to punish him once again.
As he addresses the boy and demands an explanation from him for breaking the school rules, the narrator tells him that he had not dyed his hair, which the Principal believes to be a white lie as he had seen the boy with black hair just the previous day.

However, the boy is ready with an explanation and begins to narrate the events that turned his hair blonde. He tells the Principal that while he was travelling by train the previous day some strange things occurred which scared him so much that his hair turned white with fright. He then describes his fellow passenger which included an extremely old lady, a mean-looking guy and a kid, approximately the same age as him, was smoking in the compartment, in total disregard of the law that prohibited underage smoking. He was soon confronted by the ticket collector for breaking the law but he did not stop smoking. Instead, he picked up a radio-like machine and turned the knobs after which, to everyone else’s utter surprise, he started ageing, transforming into a man right in front of their eyes. He tells the others that the machine he used was called an Age Rager and possessed the power to tweak the user’s age and make him grow as old or young as he desired. Handing over the machine to his co-passengers, he jumps off the train. The machine is immediately grabbed by the old lady who uses it to turn herself into a sixteen-year-old girl and after throwing the machine at the narrator, leaves the train. The narrator was quite timid by nature and refrained from any kind of violence as he was very easily scared. And so, upon getting hold of the Age Rager, he instantly hands it over to the mean guy to avoid any fight with him over the machine.

Now, this guy mishandles the machine as a result of which he turns into a small, one-year-old infant. The narrator attempts to retrieve the machine from him before any further mishap occurs but the boy is too stubborn and refuses to let go. He then turns the knob right up to the OLDER end and soon he starts getting older and older, eventually dying and being turned into a decaying skeleton. Scared out of his wits upon witnessing this gruesome sight, the narrator frantically tries to escape but is unable to as the doors are jammed. He is stuck in that horrible place, frightened to his very bones. In just fifteen minutes of this entire incident, his hair turns blonde due to the utter fright of the terrible scene he had just witnessed. With this, he ends his tale, claiming it to be the absolute truth behind what the Principle considered his insolence and disregard of rules.

However, the Principal refuses to believe him, finding the entire thing a cock-and-bull story made up by the boy to escape from punishment. But the boy proves his honesty by presenting to him the Age- Rager and thus, having no choice but to accept his tale, Splodge lets him go home with a warning that he shall be suspended from the school. Worried about his parents’ reaction when they come to know of his suspension, the boy anxiously waits for the arrival of the Principal’s letter but to his surprise, no such letter arrives. It appears to him that no action has been taken against him and he is saved because, in the coming days, nothing actually happens. The only unusual events that happened in those two weeks following his meeting with the Principal were that one, Principal Splodge seemed to have disappeared completely and two, Miss Newham, his secretary, got a new boyfriend. The story ends with the narrator being completely befuddled by the pink bow tie sported by Miss Newham’s new boyfriend. This highly unexpected twist, not only baffles the speaker, but also the readers who until this revelation were under the impression that the entire incident narrated by the boy was nothing more than a fragment of his imagination; a story concocted by him to save himself from getting punished. But as is insinuated in the end, his story was very much the truth and in all likeliness, Miss Newham’s new boyfriend was none other than the old Principal Splodge who had, upon acquiring it from the narrator, used the Age Rager to transform into a handsome, eighteen-year-old boy.

Pink Bow Tie is written in a simple, easy-going, and colloquial tone that reads almost as if someone is recounting an actual incident in front of an audience. It manages to keep the readers hooked until the very end with various exciting twists and turns right from the very beginning till the very last line.

Be it the revelation of the boy’s first encounter with the principal, his explanation for his blonde hair, the entire incident with the Age Rager or the ending twist- the story keeps surprising the readers with an absolutely unprecedented turn of events at every stage. These incidents not only make the story more interesting but also add to the element of humour. The entire chain of events that happens has been presented in a uniquely entertaining manner, especially because despite being so bizarre, they seem quite probable and thus, there is a constant tug-of-war in the reader’s mind between whether to believe it to be the truth or not which adds to the thrill of the story. All in all, the story is indeed very enthralling and manages to keep the readers at the edge of their seats throughout, without any dull moment at any stage. It is crisp, interesting and funny- a perfect example of Paul Jennings’ style.

 

 

 

 

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