About the authorDouglas James

Douglas James Jardine (1888-1948) was a British colonial administrator. He was educated in Westminster Abbey and Trinity College  (Cambridge). His most famous work was ‘ The Mad Mullah of Somaliland’, ‘The handbook of Cyprus’, and ‘If I were you’. He was the Governor of Leeward Islands from 1941 to 43.

Summary of ‘IF I Were You’

This play deals with the protagonists encounter with a criminal who intrudes into his house with novel plans of killing him.

Gerrard  – a playwright is about to leave his house with props for a rehersal when he encounters an intruder who threatens him with a revolver and forces him to sit down. The following conversation reveals him to be a murderer on the run from the police. He forces Gerrard to part with information about himself. He had earlier heard of Gerrard’s mysterious lifestyle and had picked him up as the person whose identity he would take up to hide from the police. He wants to surprise Gerrard with this information.

He reveals to Gerrard that he had killed a policeman while escaping after a jewellery theft. Therefore Gerrard’s identity would be an ideal one for him, as Gerrard lived an isolated life and they also looked similar.

Gerrard being a playwright immediately cooks up a story and tells the intruder that it would be fruitless to kill him as he too was a murderer on the run. If the intruder took his identity he would be hanged for the murder that Gerrard had committed. He also tells him the he had posted an accomplice to inform him about the police if they come for Gerrard.

Just then the telephone rings and Gerrard tells him that the police were coming for him so they both must escape. He tells the intruder to peep through the garage door to verify for himself about the arrival of the police. The door which he shows is actually that of a cupboard and he pushes the intruder inside and locks the cupboard.

Gerrard then picks up the phone and tells the person on the other side that he had a slight botheration so he wouldn’t be able to deliver the props for the rehearsal. He also tells him calmly, to inform their friend the sergeant to come to his house at once. Gerrard thereby tricks the dangerous criminal and gets him arrested.

Match the words with their meanings.‘IF I Were You’

count on
to be smart
wise guy  
a dandy bus   tradespeople  
Sunday-school teacher
an informal expression for a fashionable vehicle
unnecessary and usually harmful  
sophisticated; well mannered  
here, a tone of voice  
an unexpected opportunity for success  
a Christian religious teacher who teaches on Sundays in Church  
(American English) a person who pretends to know a lot  
occupied; busy  


Word meanings according to the play. –‘IF I Were You’

Cultured  sophisticated; well mannered  
count on  depend on; rely on  
engaged  occupied; busy  
melodramatic  here, a tone of voice  
to be smart  (American English) an informal way of saying that one is being too clever  
inflection  exaggerated
wise guy  (American English) a person who pretends to know a lot
a dandy bus  an informal expression for a fashionable vehicle
tradespeople  merchants
gratuitous  unnecessary and usually harmful
dodge  avoid  
a lucky break  an unexpected opportunity for success  
Sunday-school teachera Christian religious teacher who teaches on Sundays in Church  

Thinking about the Text

I. Question / Answers of –’If I Were You’

1. “At last a sympathetic audience.”

(i) Who says this?

Ans. Gerrard says this to the intruder.

(ii) Why does he say it?

Ans. He says this to distract the intruder and delay his intention to finish him off.

(iii) Is he sarcastic or serious?

Ans. The speaker is being sarcastic as his real intention is to delay the intruder from killing him.

2. Why does the intruder choose Gerrard as the man whose identity he wants to take on?

Ans. The intruder chooses Gerrard to impersonate him because of their resemblance and also because he thinks Gerrard is a kind of ‘mystery man’ who did not interact with other people. This was exactly the kind of identity which would suit him, as he was on the run from the police.  

3. “I said it with bullets.”

(i) Who says this?

Ans. Vincent Charles Gerrard says this to the intruder in his home.

(ii) What does it mean?

Ans. It means that he had murdered someone by shooting him with bullets.

(iii) Is it the truth? What is the speaker’s reason for saying this?

Ans. No, it is not the truth. The speaker only says this to fool the intruder into believing that he too was a criminal on the run.

4. What is Gerrard’s profession? Quote the parts of the play that support your answer.

Ans.  Gerrard is a playwright and is involved with the world of plays or drama.

The words from the play which depict him as a playwright are-

i)‘ This is all very melodramatic, not very original.’

ii) ‘Finally a sympathetic audience.’

iii) ‘I said, you were luckier than most melodramatic villains.’

iv) ‘That’s a disguise outfit; false moustaches and what not’

v) ‘ Sorry I can’t let you have the props in time for time for the rehearsal.’;

vi) ‘ I think I’ll put it in my next play.’

5. “You’ll soon stop being smart.”

(i) Who says this?

Ans. The intruder says this to Gerrard.

(ii) Why does the speaker say it?

Ans. The speaker says this in order to threaten Gerrard.

(iii) What according to the speaker will stop Gerrard from being smart?

Ans. According to the speaker, Gerrard would stop being smart when he came to know of his intention to kill him and steal his identity to live a comfortable life.

6. “They can’t hang me twice.”

(i) Who says this?

Ans. The intruder says this.

(ii) Why does the speaker say it?

Ans. The intruder wants to assert that he isn’t worried about killing Gerrard as he had already murdered a cop and was wanted for murder. A person cannot be hanged twice so he was free to commit another murder.

7. “A mystery I propose to explain.” What is the mystery the speaker proposes to explain?

Ans. The speaker wants to explain to the intruder the reason behind his mysterious lifestyle. The reason for living in an isolated place and not meeting people.

8. “This is your big surprise.”

(i) Where has this been said in the play?

Ans. This line has been used twice in the play.

First, by the intruder when tells Gerrard that he plans to kill him and take his identity.

Second, when Gerrard tells the intruder that he too was on the run from the police, and if the intruder took his identity he would be hanged for the crime committed by Gerrard.

(ii) What is the surprise?

The intruders surprise for Gerrard was that he wanted to kill Gerrard and take away his identity.

Gerrard’s  surprise for the intruder was that he too was a murderer on the run from the police, and if the intruder took his identity he would be hanged for the crime committed by Gerrard.

Thinking about Language

I. Consult your dictionary and choose the correct word from the pairs given in brackets.

1. The (site, cite) of the accident was (ghastly/ghostly).

2. Our college (principle/principal) is very strict.

3. I studied (continuously/continually) for eight hours.

4. The fog had an adverse (affect/effect) on the traffic.

5. Cezanne, the famous French painter, was a brilliant (artist/artiste).

6. The book that you gave me yesterday is an extraordinary (collage/college) of science fiction and mystery.

7. Our school will (host/hoist) an exhibition on cruelty to animals and wildlife conservation.

8. Screw the lid tightly onto the top of the bottle and (shake/shape) well before using the contents.

II. Irony is when we say one thing but mean another, usually the opposite of what we say.

When someone makes a mistake and you say, “Oh! that was clever!”, that is irony. You’re saying ‘clever‘ to mean ‘not clever’.

Expressions we often use in an ironic fashion are:

• Oh, wasn’t that clever!/Oh that was clever!

• You have been a great help, I must say!

Read the play carefully and find the words and expressions Gerrard uses in an ironic way. Then say what these expressions really mean.

What the author saysWhat the author means  
Why, this is a surprise, Mr—er—He pretends that the intruder is a social visitor whom he is welcoming. In this way he hides his fear.  
At last a sympathetic audience!He pretends that the intruder wants to listen to him, whereas actually the intruder wants to find out information for his own use.  
I’ll be glad to assist you.He means to say that he is being forced to give information to the intruder against his wishes.
…I have had a spot of bother- quite amusing.It was actually not a minor issue, but a life threatening situation.
You have been so modest.He actually means to say that the intruder has gathered a lot of information about Gerrard without revealing anything about himself.

Dictionary Use

A word can mean different things in different contexts. Look at these three sentences:

• The students are taught to respect different cultures.

• The school is organising a cultural show.

• His voice is cultured.

In the first sentence the meaning of ‘culture’ (noun) is –way of life;

In the second sentence, ‘cultural’ (adjective) means – connected with art, literature and music;

In the third sentence, ‘cultured’ (verb) means – sophisticated, well mannered.

Look up the dictionary for the words and complete the table.

NounAdjectiveAdverbVerb Meaning  
sympathy  sympatheticsympatheticallySympathize (to have kind feelings for someone)
familiarity  familiarfamiliarlyFamiliarize (to get acquainted with)
comfort  comfortableComfortably  Comfort ( to console)
care  careful  carefullyCare (to look after someone)
surprise  surprisingsurprisinglySurprise ( to astonish)

Extra questions of – ‘IF I Were You’

Q. What message does the author give in the play ‘If I were You’?

Ans. The author warns his readers about the outcomes of wistful thinking like that of the intruder. He also tells the readers the benefits of having presence of mind and being calm in times of crisis.

Q. What is the theme of the play ‘If I were you’?

Ans. The theme of the play is the importance of being calm and using ones intelligence and presence of mind in times of crisis.

Q. Write  the character sketch of Gerrard.

Ans. Vincent Charles Gerrard is a brilliant play-write who nonchalantly encounters an intruder who is a coldblooded murderer. He is witty, intelligent and calm. He has great sense of humour which he uses to make ironical statements which make the conversation between the duo interesting and entertaining. He uses his presence of mind to cook up a story about the police coming for him. This makes the intruder nervous and he cunningly pushes him inside a cupboard and calls for the sergeant. Thus using his wit and self-control he handles an extremely tense situation and is successful in saving him own life.

Q. Draw the character sketch of the intruder in ‘If I Were You’.

Ans. The intruder is a scheming coldblooded murderer who has no qualms about taking innocent lives. He is street smart and dresses in a flashy manner. He is clever and ruthless in getting information from Gerrard. He has crafty plans to kill Gerrard and live using his identity. He is however outwitted by Gerrard who traps him by cooking up a story that would render his wistful thinking of replacing him as a useless plan.