In the book of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl, Henry Sugar was a rich man, whose wealth was inherited from his dad. He never worked, nor did his wealthy friends.

There is a piece of description about Henry Sugar's character:

Henry had never done a day's work in his life, and his personal motto, which he had invented himself, was this: It is better to incur a mild rebuke than to perform an onerous task. His friends thought this was hilarious.

"Rebuke" means to tell off somebody. "Mild" means not so harsh. "To perform an onerous task" means to do honest and hard work, to earn money.

Why did the author suddenly mention that Henry might incur some mild rebukes? Does it imply that the way he spent his money has incurred some rebukes from the working class? If yes, why does this motto sounded very funny to his equally wealthy friends?


1 Answer 1


An "onerous task" does not refer to honest work, nor to earning money. It refers to something (anything!) you find difficult. That could be your paying job. It could be breaking up with a romantic partner. It could be cleaning up a mess you made in your own home. Most regular people have to do onerous tasks all the time. There is no alternative. If you don't do it, well, it will go undone. Perhaps you'll be fired, or forced to attend social engagements you don't want to, or sit in a mess.

Henry, on the other hand can simply ignore anything he doesn't want to do. The worst that might happen is that someone will mildly rebuke him. Absolutely, positively NOT "the working class." They cannot ever rebuke him or his peers. But a parent, a more respected member of the community, or some other authority figure might tell him that he should have done that thing, while at the same time taking care of it for him so he gets away without doing it.

This is a highly unusual way to live. He loves it. His friends love it too. And they all think it's funny that he made a little motto, like the ones held over the heads of those who can't escape their onerous tasks. Everyone else has to hear "never put off until tomorrow what can be done today" and "do as you would be done by" and "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" and all of those reminders of your duties and obligations to the world around you. But Henry coins a little motto that basically means "whatever, I don't have to, and it's no big deal if I don't" and he and his friends just love that.

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