Uncle Cornelius is a rich bachelor who lives his life travelling from one place to another luring women one after the other. He says that he can not hold a relationship with a woman for more than twelve hours and pities those married men who live with the same woman for years. Wherever Cornelius goes, he attracts the attention of women though to other men, he portrays himself as a harmless well mannered person who a father could entrust with his precious only daughter.
Cornelius is not only interested in women, but also interested in scorpions and other peculiar arthropods like spiders. As much as he wanted to travel to Jerusalem through the desert to have fun, he also was in a venture to hunt for a scorpion that he needed to replace the one he had with because it had an appendage missing. Even in the desert heat, he was eager to walk out of his car with the aim of finding a scorpion. When he finally saw one, he was so pleased indicating his love to hunt for scorpions. In his diary, he says that he enjoyed the adventure of removing the sand carefully from the barrow as much as one would love a treasure hunt.
The decision by Dahl to tell this story could be for entertainment purposes, but no one can deny that there is a lesson to be learned. Uncle Cornelius was not a good friend to Aziz despite all the things he did to make him comfortable in his house after being stranded in the desert for hours. Cornelius was quick to desire both the wife and daughter of his host even after Aziz expressed his concern for his daughter to him. Aziz was trying to alienate his daughter from the rest of the world because she was very beautiful and he feared that men like Cornelius would be eager to have sexual relations with her. The writer Dahl in this story is targeting men who live the kind of lifestyle lived by Cornelius. In addition to the riches, Cornelius was arrogant undermining the poor calling them beasts like the case of the man at the filling station and the one at the shop where he went to purchase water. Cornelius was quick to judge them by associating their looks to shameful and fatal diseases like syphilis. He only associated well with the rich like Aziz who had a marvelous house. He was able to judge him as a person he could relate to because he had an expensive car and because he was well dressed when he first saw him. The lesson from this short story is that it is important to treat people with respect despite their social or economic status. The desire to have it all could have made Cornelius contract a contagious disease for Aziz’s other daughter who was suffering form the worst case of Leprosy.
As much as acquiring knowledge and skills through extensive research and concrete examples is crucial, it is equally important to learn from other people’s experience. Though this, one can relate to the characters and learn a lesson from them. Most writers who carry out research of scholarly topics then write academic stories for students to read often do not capture the interests of the students so they might not read the story in the first place. Therefore, in my opinion, I would say without a doubt that learning from a fictional story like that written by Dahl, is legitimate.