This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Mr. Mumsford” (1992) by Larry French. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.
Larry French is an American writer and photographer. He studied photography at UCLA. He is a member of the Florida Historical Society. His short story “Mr. Mumsford” was included in the anthology Flash Fiction: very short stories, published in 1992.
Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:
The children at the school looked at Bibs “like [he] was crazy” when he asked them if they knew his real name. The simile suggests that it had not even occurred to them to consider Bibs might have another name or that he might be bothered by them not addressing him properly. Like the principal, the children never realize there is a problem with their behavior in the first place and assume Bibs has gone crazy for suddenly claiming his right to be respected.
There is an instance of repetition which shows the principal’s character development. When Bibs lectures him about overworking himself and not spending more time with his wife, the principal realizes Bibs’ moral qualities and implicitly his own faults. This is why he repeats: “ ‘I do believe you’re right, Mr. Mumsford. I do believe you have a point there.’ ” (ll. 47-48). This remark is significant because it shows both the principal’s conviction that Bibs is indeed right and the way the principal now treats Bibs with the respect he deserves. Again the principal places himself on the same level as Bibs but not superficially, like before, when he deliberately tried to imitate his speech. This time, he recognizes that Bibs deserves to be treated with respect regardless of his education and social status.