Study Material of A shady plot (Summary, Character Sketch and Word Meanings)

Character Sketch

• John Hallock: He is an accountant in lumber company. He also wrote stories on supernatural theme for Jeniken’s magazine. However, he has no idea on this theme but eventually he ends up writing excellent stories. Later, he comes to know that ghosts are helping him in writing that stories. He is a hen-pecked husband who is always afraid of his wife, Lavinia.

• Lavinia: She is wife of John Hallock. She is a spendthrift as she has an alarming tendency to spend money on the latest fashions and trends. She is the one who purchases an Ouija Board and organized the Ouija party. She may come across as a vacuous wife, but finally displays genuine love and affection for her husband.

• Jenikens – He is the owner of magazine. He believed that John has excellent capability of writing ghost stories so he always calls him whenever he needs one.

• Helen – She is a ghost who is helping writers in writing ghost stories. In the past life, she is a writer who suffered miserable so, she founded ‘Writers’ Inspiration Bureau’ which give extended help to those writers who have no ideas. She is angry because the ghosts have to be at the beck and call of the Ouija board fanatics to answer their questions. This does not leave them with any time for their amusement or haunting others. So, she orders John to stop these things in his house.

Study Material and Summary of A Shady Plot NCERT Classs 10th

Summary of the Chapter

The writer, Mr Hallock, was told by his employer Mr Jenkins to write a ghost story. He told Mr Hallock to write a very horrifying story with supernatural elements because the public liked these kind of stories. The writer agreed to this proposal for no one else printed his stuff. He was surprised how he could have written the earlier ghost stories for he was not a specialist in this genre. Whenever he had decided to write a ghost story, surprisingly the plot had appeared from nowhere.

The writer sat down to pen the story, though no idea occurred to him. In fact his mind was wandering towards his wife’s shopping trips and other unghostly things. The writer loudly said, ‘‘This writing business is delightful, isn’t it?” and to his surprise a voice at the other end of the room said, “Yes it is.” The writer was surprised to see a figure taking shape gradually. It was a woman, tall and angular, with enormous fishy eyes, wearing spectacles. She came and stood before the writer. The writer wished to know why that woman had come. She gave a very surprising answer that the writer had only called her to help him in writing a story. Moreover she said that the ghosts were going on strike so the writer should stop bothering her for another plot. She elaborated that all the other stories that had been a hit had come from her only.

The ghost explained that she had been a writer in the earlier birth but now she had collected other ghosts like her and set up a ‘Writers’ Inspiration Bureau’. Now they extended help to a writer who had no ideas. The writer disagreed with the ghost’s views for he had never seen her before so how could she have inspired him. She explained that she had sat on the writer’s shoulder and had given him the plots. But now they were all fed up for being pulled out of beds at all times and had decided to go on strike. The ghost wanted the writer to call all his friends and stop using the Ouija board. The conversation of the writer and the ghostly figure was interrupted by the arrival of the writer’s wife who is surprised to see her husband sitting in the dark and talking loudly to himself. However, she was going gaga over a recent purchase she had made. On the writer’s query she revealed that she had bought Ouija board to help the writer to write the stories. She said that she wanted to make story writing easy for the writer from now onwards. The writer tried his best to dissuade his wife from keeping the ouija board but she refused to listen. The writer thought that he would reason with his wife later.

Next day the writer set out for his job. He worked as an accountant for a lumber company and could not give up his job and take to full-time story-writing due to financial problems. On reaching back home he was told by his cook to get ready and come down as his wife had invited some guests. When he came down eventually, he was surprised to see that their parlour was full of women belong- ing to his wife’s book club. They were sitting in two’s and between two friends there was a Ouija board. Immediately his wife appeared and she wanted the writer to be a partner of Mrs Hinkle, who was without any other friend.

Miss Hinkle took the writer’s fingers and started moving them on the Ouija board. Surprisingly the words spelt on the board were ‘TRAITOR.’ Mrs. Hinkle wanted the board to clarify as to who was a traitor. The Ouija board spelled out that it was Mr Hallock. On enquiring what the identity of the speaker was, the board revealed that it was someone with the name of Helen.

This fact created a furore in the entire room and the ladies along with the writer’s wife gathered around the writer and looked at him accusingly. All the Ouija boards signalled towards the writer. The writer could not answer. He fled the scene and went to sleep. Next morning, he noticed a slip of paper with the message that his wife was leaving him for good and her lawyer would communicate with him. The writer was shocked and surprised at this development. Meanwhile Helen, the ghost, reappeared and told the writer that she had been sent to ensure that his wife was going to get rid of that Ouija board. The writer was very angry and he retorted that the ghost had made the writer lose his wife, his home and his happiness. The writer’s wife Lavinia entered and told the writer that she was moving out. The writer was trying to shield and cover Helen, when his wife remarked that he was behaving very strangely. The Cook barged in and announced that she was not going to serve in a place where there were Ouija boards and activities relating to curses and charms. Lavinia was in no mood to be pacified. She sprang quickly to see who was standing behind her husband.

Helen did not disappear this time and boldly announced to Lavinia that she indeed was Helen. Lavinia felt very miserable to create such a ruckus and accuse her husband of infidelity. The writer felt inspired and realised that he had indeed hit upon an excellent plot for a ghost story.

Terms and Meanings from the chapter

• Contradict – deny
• Dunned - persistently ask for something that is overdue
• Cocky – overconfident
• Twilight - the time between dawn and sunrise
• Shirtwaist - a woman's blouse shaped like a man's shirt
• Driveling - speak nonsense
• Draped - sat in an indolent manner
• Reminiscent - with one's mind full of memories
• Ouija board - a board on which are marked the letters of the alphabet. Answers to questions are spelt out by a pointer or glass held by the fingertips of the participants, and are supposedly formed by spiritual forces
• Brogans - a heavy ankle-high work boot with laces
• Affection – condition (here)
• Rubbish – waste material
• Grin – smile
• Conceal –hide
• Affliction – disorder
• Premonitory - a foreboding.
• Huffily – arrogantly
• Bookkeeper – accountant
• Argify – argue
• Coyly - flirtatious but pretending to be shy or modest.
• Tugging- pulling
• Brow- eyebrow
• Corrugated – ridged
• Inexorable – unstoppable
• Simpered - smile in a silly, often coy manner.
• Abruptly – suddenly
• Suddenness – immediate
• Hoodoos - placing curses and charms to bring bad luck on some one
• Brassily – rudely
• Staccatoed - spoke in an abrupt, detached manner
• Contraption - a machine or device that appears strange
• Skeered – scared
• Coon - the one doing a menial job
• Waspishly - in an irritated manner
• Apparition – ghost
• Swoon – faint
• Bulliest – best

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