‘The Wisdom of Solomon’ by Jeffrey Archer: Short Story Analysis
‘The Wisdom of Solomon’ by Jeffrey Archer is from his short story collection Cat O’Nine Tales which he wrote in connection with his prison sentence. He based this story on a real-life incident that he experienced or heard in London after his release. The allusion in the title of the story is to King Solomon of the Holy Bible who was famed for his wisdom. The person who plays King Solomon’s role here in this story is the female judge who judges the divorce proceedings of Fiona and Bob Radford. Her name is Mrs. Justice Butler. It is she who realizes that Fiona is a cheat and wants to take advantage of the naiveite of Bob. She, therefore, tricks Fiona in a very ingenious way. This is indicative that though all the odds were against Bob Radford, his truth shone out, and Mrs. Justice Butler was aware of his innocence.
Like most of Jeffrey Archer’s short stories, ‘The Wisdom of Solomon’ is captivating. It is narrated by the friend of Bob Radford who is probably the author himself. ‘The Wisdom of Solomon’ narrates in comical detail the negligence of Bob in marrying Fiona. It tells how he married her despite knowing she had divorced three husbands before him. The narrator wanted to warn his dear friend Bob about the woman called Fiona but was stopped in his tracks by his well-meaning wife Carol. Carol plays a very minor role in this story. She is the wife of the narrator and is mentioned only as a person who sort of ‘hen-pecked’ her husband. If not for her interference in her husband’s decision, Bob would not have had to undergo the turmoil that he did. Indeed, poor lustfully innocent Bob Radford fell head over heels in lust with Fiona of a murky background. The narrator tries to warn Bob about her but his wife Carol interferes in this matter. This would end up with Bob having to undergo a long divorce proceeding. He tries to negotiate an out-of-the-court settlement that comes to nothing. Then he undergoes a lengthy court proceeding where Fiona almost rips him apart and is ready enough to take all the wealth that Bob calls his own. Bob is heartbroken and depressed. He is so dejected and fed up with the entire court proceedings that he is ready to give Fiona everything that she wants if only she could stop torturing him and lengthening the court proceedings.
In legal terms, Bob Radford would not only have to pay his ex-wife alimony but also the injured party’s costs. With this strategy in mind, Fiona keeps on lengthening the court proceedings to drain more of Bob’s money and wealth. But first, the reason why Bob was married to Fiona. Fiona is described as a woman who was sexy, good looking, a blonde and had very long legs. The narrator even sees his poor besotted friend Bob staring at her the way one would stare at the sculptor Donatello’s nudes. Bob is around forty and Fiona is much younger to him. However, she marries him not only because he was a successful man in his own right but also because he had recently become the sole heir to his Aunt Muriel Pembleton’s seven million pounds and her brilliant art collection. It took the greedy Fiona just a month after meeting Muriel Pembleton when the lady was still alive, to agree to marry the much older and infatuated Bob. After a while, Fiona followed the marriage with a divorce. If you are wondering on what basis she wanted a separation, well, that is something intriguing. Fiona was very sharp at this ‘divorce your rich husband’ game. She stopped giving Bob her attention after which he started visiting the narrator’s house for lunch and playing squash. Fiona used these examples of his ‘ignoring’ her as the reason for the divorce.
We see Bob Radford as a very suggestible and passive character in this story. He has given up all hope of ever seeing his wealth again. His attorney is as passive as he is. The attorney’s name is Mr. Dexter and is no match for Fiona’s celebrated female divorce lawyer Mrs. Abbott. The narrator, when the court procedures started found that the presiding judge was another female, and felt that this was the end of his poor friend Bob. Mrs. Abbott and Mrs. Justice Butler looked at each other on that first day in court as if to say they were good friends and had been at the same university together. However, Mrs. Justice Butler sees through the schemes of Fiona and plays a trick on the wicked woman, worthy of being likened to what probably King Solomon would have done if he were presiding over the court proceedings. To summarize, this is what Mrs. Justice Butler does:
- She realizes that Fiona is stretching the case further and further to ruin Bob.
- She allows Fiona to get greedier and ask that she be allowed to make a list of Bob Radford’s assets for their equitable distribution.
- Mrs. Justice Butler at the next court proceedings asks Bob and Fiona whether they had mutually agreed to the distribution of the wealth.
- She knew Bob was not consulted and that he was just a defeatist and was giving in to Fiona.
- She knew Fiona had distributed the wealth and assets in such a way that she would get the lion’s share.
- Mrs. Justice Butler ratified one last time whether Bob and Fiona had mutually agreed to the equitable distribution of the assets. She even askes Fiona whether she felt that this list was fair.
- She then plays her trump card by saying that since Fiona made the list, it would be fair to allow Bob to choose which group should be his and which should be Fiona’s.
- Thus, Bob is given a chance to take back most of his wealth.
- The ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ is seen in Mrs. Justice Butler, who is the most unlikely King Solomon I have ever come across in literature.
- Bob is vindicated.
I love Jeffrey Archer’s short stories. I love his narration of people’s lives and his suspenseful prose which can be called dramatic as well. I hope to review more of his short stories and books. It was a pleasure to analyze this simple short story entitled ‘The Wisdom of Solomon’.
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