B. Wordsworth – Summary

The short-story ‘B Wordsworth’ by Naipaul unfolds various events at its core through the eyes of an unnamed young boy, who is the narrator of the story.


A young boy, who is the narrator of the story, lived in Miguel Street. As a child, he had observed beggars coming to his home and crying for money, food and many other things. One day, a small man named B. Wordsworth approached the boy to see the bees in his yards.

Initially, the boy is quizzical and enquires details about this strange man. It is at this point that the readers begin to learn B. Wordsworth’s poetic and a possibly fantastic view on life. He told the young boy that ‘B’ in his name stood for ‘Black ‘and that he had a brother named ‘White Wordsworth’ with whom he shared a heart. ‘B’ told the boy that he was one of the greatest poets of all time, yet he had never sold a poem. In fact, he even tried to sell a poem based on mothers to the boy’s mother for four cents, but was shoved off. When ‘B’ leaves the boy’s place, interestingly he wishes to see him again, hence giving a hint that the relationship between the boy and ‘B’ will continue to grow.

Soon enough, the young boy happened to spot ‘B’ on the Miguel street, just a week later. As their relationship continues, ‘B’ and the boy spend their time together, walking, talking, meandering around the seaboard; living as poets and life explorers. One day ‘B’ shared a story with the boy; a story of two poets, a boy and a girl and the death of the girl and the unborn baby poet that she carried. B. also tells the boy about a poem. This poem, he exclaimed, wasn’t any ordinary poem like something that he had earlier tried to sell for four cents. Rather he claims that it was ‘… the greatest poem in the world.’ Sharing the details he said that he had been working on the poem for five years, till date; one line a month at one time. He shared the previous month’s line with the boy which read as; “The Past is deep.” The line enamored the young boy so much that he hung onto the hope for more.

But, no more lines come from ‘B’ although the boy was optimistic for B. as well as his poetry, yet B. himself wasn’t an enthusiastic person. The story begins to trickle to its end, just as the boy witnessed ‘B’ nearing him. B had shrunk in shape. The two have one last meeting wherein they express their emotions with tears rolling down their cheeks. B. made the boy promise to never visit him again. To soothe the boy, B. narrates him a funny story which wasn’t so funny after all. B. tells the boy that he had lied everything about the girl poet and the baby. He said that the story of him writing the greatest poem was a farce too.

With this revelation, B. sends the boy home. With a heavy heart, the boy left with a great memory of a great poet’ that he believed B. to be. About a year later, the boy walked along Alberto street but could find no sign of B.’s house. He realized that B’s house had been pulled down and had been replaced by a big, two-storied building. All the trees surrounding B’s house had been cut down and there was wreck and concrete everywhere. Everything belonging to B. or anything that spoke of B’s association had been erased, as though B. Wordsworth never existed.

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