Twenty Minutes with Mrs. OakentubbIntroduction
Twenty Minutes with Mrs. Oakentubb is an effective little piece of emotional drama written by Frank Arthur. Frank Arthur is known for his achievements as a civil servant, novelist and scriptwriter.
It is a rare specimen of a melodrama filled with thrill and suspense. The play is notable for the skilful manipulation of suspense. The story is based on the theme of revenge, crime and punishment.
“Revenge renders ears deaf.”
- William Shakespeare
It was a stormy winter’s evening of 1955. A heavily wrapped lady entered the waiting room of a country railway junction, followed by a porter who lighted the fire for her, as it was very cold. Soon a male passenger also entered the waiting room and came near the fire in order to warm himself. The porter told them that they had to wait for 20 minutes for the arrival of the train, bound for Stainthorpe. After the departure of the porter the two passengers were left alone.
They were strangers to each other, but soon they started a conversation to while away the time.
The man told the woman of two half-minute meetings, which had the most profound effect on his life. The first meeting took place in June 1953 in Korea. He was severely wounded and wanted to die. He fainted and when he regained consciousness, he saw a young Korean girl bending over him. She smiled at him and her smile gave him the courage to live. He smile made him realize what his daughter would have been like if she had lived. She was killed along with her mother in a road accident. They were overrun by a car, which was being driven recklessly by Mrs. Judy Oakentubb. She was held guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to 18-month imprisonment but according to him it was a plain deliberate heartless murder. So, he was going to Stainthorpe in order to avenge the murder of his wife and daughter.
The woman told the man that his wife and daughter were killed in the accident. It was not a murder. But he did not agree. He said that she was drunk and was driving the car very fast to reach the coast from Stainthorpe. She led a bet with one of her companies to cover the long distance within 15 minutes while it could be covered in half an hour. She drove recklessly and killed his wife and daughter. So, it was a deliberate murder.
By chance he read the name of Mrs. Oakentubb, written on the label of the suitcase, which belonged to the lady who was conversing with him. He was sure that the lady, who was standing before him, was Mrs. Judy Oakentubb. He pulled a revolver from his pocket and pointed at her. Mrs. Judy Oakentubb recoiled and told him that she had been in perpetual agony ever since the accident took place. She posed herself as a repentant lady over the tragic accident. She instead of asking for her life implored for her death that according to her was a mean of escaping from the mental torture.
Believing in her statement, he decided to leave her and give her no punishment, as living with a sense of self-reproachment was an ideal punishment for the lady. He says:
“Yes! You are right! It would be a greater punishment to live.”
He pocketed his revolver and walked out leaving her sobbing. As soon as he left the room, she came to her real self. She expressed her hatred for the man observing her from outside. He opened the door suddenly, raised the revolver and shot her dead. It is rightly said:
“Often a clever culprit is caught by the trap of his own blunders.”
Those who cause tragedies in thee lives of others inevitably meet the tragic end. Beyond any shadow of doubt an evildoer is the engineer of his own catastrophe.