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The lesson "A Dilemma" was written by Silas Weir Mitchell. The lesson opens with Tom the narrator, stating that his uncle Philip died when he was thirty-seven years old. The narrator had received a message from his uncle a week before his death. He had never seen him earlier. The narrator's uncle disliked his mother for unknown reasons. The narrator's mother told him long before his last illness not to expect much from Uncle Philip (the narrator's father's sibling).
The narrator then describes the character of Uncle Philip. He was a wealthy mechanical engineer and inventor. By developing turbine wheels, he made a lot of money. Here,"turbine wheels" refer to a wheel or disc with blades or vanes that spin in response to a fluid flow passing over or across the vanes.

Turbine wheel

Uncle Philip was an unmarried man. He lived alone and prepared his meals. He was fascinated with precious stones, particularly rubies and pearls. When Uncle Philip began to make money, he developed the habit of collecting expensive stones and diamonds. His collection of valuable stones and rubies grew as he became more prosperous.
Uncle Philip used to keep a new stone in his pocket for a month after he bought it. He liked to pull it out and gaze at it now and then. It demonstrates the narrator's curiosity and enthusiasm for gem collecting. Later, he'd store the diamonds he'd acquired in his trust company's safe.
When Uncle Philip sent the message, the narrator was a clerk and a poor man. While reading his uncle's message, the narrator remembers his mother's words not to expect anything from his uncle. He knew that uncle Philip was his only relative and should not keep any hopes in him. Even though the narrator had no hopes that his uncle would help him, he thought of visiting him. He then met uncle Philip and sat down by his bedside.
On seeing the narrator, his uncle started to speak to him with a wicked smile. His uncle said that the narrator might have thought about him as weird. After telling that, he said that he would explain everything. While hearing that, the narrator felt that what he said too appeared to be strange. Uncle Philip said that he used to live with his annuity (a fixed amount of money paid to somebody each year, typically for the rest of their life) that he invested his fortune in.
Uncle Philip then explained to the narrator that he had been conservative in terms of money for half of his life to be as normal as he liked for the remaining half. Then he said he had repented for his evil deeds toward the narrator's family. In addition, he said that he wishes to live in the memories of at least one of his relatives by helping them.
 Uncle Philip then said that the narrator would believe that his uncle was poor and he had only his pension. After telling that, he said that the narrator would be surprised once he learned about his valuable possessions. The statement means that when the narrator comes to know the valuable belonging left for the narrator, he would feel stunned. Also, the narrator had the scope of coming out of his poverty when he got his uncle's possession. Furthermore, his uncle stated that he had not given anyone any of his precious stones. Also, he said that the precious stones would belong to the narrator, and the assets would be passed on to him in the future. It means that the narrator can take hold of his uncle's possession after his death.
Uncle Philip then said he was the only heir. He also said he would take the good memories of helping one person when he goes to another world. It means that if he dies, he would feel the satisfaction of making one person happy in the world. He also remarked that he was sure that the narrator had expectations and hoped he would continue to have them. Later, he stated that all his precious stones and gems were in his safe, and he had nothing else.
Gems and stones
The narrator then expressed gratitude to his uncle for his fortunes. The uncle then made a wicked smile on his lean face and told him that the narrator had to pay for his funeral. The narrator went on to say that no expense had ever made him happier than the cost of burying him. He would not gain anything worthwhile since he was spending money on something. However, the narrator will receive the valued item if he pays for his uncle's funeral. Uncle Philip stated that the rubies were valuable when the narrator rose to depart. He further indicated that the rubies were in the safe of the trust company.
Before opening the box, Uncle Philip provided the narrator with a few directions. He stated that a letter had been placed on top of the box. He instructed him not to shake the box as he opened it. The narrator felt strange after hearing that. He also told the narrator not to come back regarding the thing, and it isn't going to speed things up. Here the narrator's uncle says that he could not die sooner for the narrator to take hold of the box.
Uncle Philip then died the same day the following week, and he was elegantly buried. His will was discovered the next day, making the narrator his successor. When the narrator opened his safe, he found an iron box. His uncle had made the entire box, and it shows him how he was a talented craftsman and a clever mind. The box was about ten inches long, eight inches broad, and ten inches high, and it was substantial and sturdy.
On the top of the box, there had been a letter. In the letter, it was addressed as "DEAR TOM". The box contains many magnificent pigeon-blood rubies and a decent number of diamonds. There were hundreds of pearls inside the box. Among them were a legendary green pearl and a blue pearl necklace, both for which any lady would sell her soul or emotions. According to the uncle, women love to wear ornaments, so if they see the necklace, they will do anything for the sake of the necklace. While reading the letter and the statements made by his uncle, the narrator thought of Susan (She was the narrator's fiancé).
Red ruby

Furthermore, his uncle intended the narrator to have many more expectations and remember him. Also, Uncle Philip claimed that he would have donated these stones to charity, but he despises the impoverished even more than he dislikes the narrator's mother's son. Here the uncle indirectly refers to the narrator.
The box includes an interesting mechanism that will work as soon as the narrator opens it. He also warned the narrator to be cautious when opening the box because it contained ten ounces of dynamite. Furthermore, he stated that the dynamite is quite sensitive. He then corrected that he had stored nine and a half ounces of dynamite. Uncle Philip then stated that he might open it if the narrator doubts it. If he opens it, he will shatter into a million pieces. He asked the narrator to keep more expectations, which would not be fulfilled. As a thoughtful man, he advises handling the box with extreme caution. At last, he asks the narrator not to forget him.
The narrator held the key in his palm and stood shockingly. The reason behind his expression was because of the information given in the letter. Later, he thought that whatever was given in the letter was accurate or fake.
The narrator had spent all of his savings on his uncle's funeral and was now poorer than he had ever been. The narrator then reflected on his uncle's strangeness, cruelty, technical genius, and the patent explosive that had helped him become wealthy. Here the term "patent explosive" means an exclusive right granted for an invention such as dynamite. He then thought how likely his uncle had exposed the truth in this dreadful letter.
Dreadful letter

The narrator then carries his uncle's iron box to his home. He placed it safely in his cupboard. Later, he laid the key on the iron box and shut the cupboard. The narrator then sat down with hope in his mind. He then decided to use his intellect to open the box without being harmed. He then thought there had to be a way to open the iron box.
After a week of hopelessness, the narrator had an idea. He considered putting the box in a distant area and opening it later. He thought that if the dynamite burst, he'd be safe. So he designed a wire technique that appeared to work. He realised that the rubies within would also explode if the box burst. As a result, he believes that the rubies will be wasted and that he will not be wealthy. After considering the consequences, he abandoned the plan. The narrator then held the key in his hands for hours, wondering how he could open the box without exploding.
Finally, the narrator hung the key on his watch guard. While hanging it there, he had an odd notion of whether the key would be lost or what he would do if it were stolen. Furthermore, the narrator was concerned that someone might use the key to unlock the box. This state of anxiety and worry remained for several weeks. The narrator's next concern was about what might happen if the iron box was mistakenly opened. He also thought about what would happen if the thief came and stole the box.
The narrator also thinks that if the thief tries to open the box and he cannot open it, the thief will come to know about his wicked uncle's plan. The plan was nothing, but it would explode if someone mistakenly opened the box.
The narrator then thought that the box would explode due to the noise and vibration caused by the heavy vans on the roadway. This thought occurred to him since his uncle had instructed him not to shake the package.
In addition to all the sadness, the narrator's salary got reduced. Due to the overthinking of opening the box, he might not have concentrated on his work or else he wouldn't have gone to his work. Also, he realised that marriage was no longer an option, and he did not know whether he could marry her (Susan). It might be because he failed to give his attention to Susan while thinking about the gems and stones he would receive. The narrator sought a piece of advice from Professor Clinch regarding his dilemma and a secure method of obtaining the rubies.
Professor Clinch said that if his uncle had not lied, no one could be able to destroy the stones, particularly the pearls. The story seemed odd and unbelievable to the professor. After hearing that, the narrator stated that if he could assist him in unlocking the box, he would offer him the largest ruby. The professor, on the other hand, refused to open it. It could be because he was afraid it would explode at any moment. The narrator next visits his uncle's doctor, Dr Schaff. The doctor believed the old man's letter and added a warning, which was entirely ineffective because he was scared to enter the room with that horrible box by this point.
Finally, the doctor politely informed the narrator that his obsession with the rubies was causing him to go insane. In truth, the narrator was always thinking about getting the rubies out of the box. The narrator spent most of his leisure time reading about the dynamites at a big library. He also talked about the dynamite with the library attendants.
People initially assumed the narrator was insane; subsequently, after hearing the narrator's question concerning dynamite, they suspected him of being a criminal. The library attendants reported it to the police. As a result, he no longer visits libraries. As time passed, the narrator's worry grew, and he hid his valuable box under the pillow for fear of it being shaken. At the time, even the ridiculous possibility of it being disturbed by an earthquake worried him. The narrator then attempted to calculate how much shaking was required to blow up his box. It might be because he thought of knowing the amount of time needed for the explosion of the box.
From the above paragraphs, one might understand the narrator's change of mind as per the situation. Each time, he had different thoughts because of his wish to open the box and enjoy the possessions inside the box.
When the narrator revisited Dr Schaff, he advised him not to worry about opening the iron box. After hearing it, the narrator realised how stupid he had been for so long, holding to the same viewpoint. He even thought he was too obsessed with those ideas. He then considered following the doctor's advice for his benefit.
Soon after thinking about taking the doctor's advice, the narrator finds a paper between his uncle's Bible pages. A list of the stones with their price is mentioned in the paper. The letter was written two years before his uncle's death. Many of the stones were well-known, and the narrator was astounded by their huge worth.
Several of the rubies were described with love, and his uncle had described the history of each gem in great length. One of the rubies was the well-known 'Sunset ruby'. The next one was the "Blood ruby". The blood ruby was not denoted by its colour, but it was connected with many murders it had occasioned. Also, it showed that it was linked to several murders. While reading it, the narrator became much more terrified than before, and it appeared to threaten death once more.
The pearls were characterised as an unrivalled collection with care. Nothing could compare to the value of the pearls. Also, the narrator's uncle mentioned two pearls in particular. While reading it, the narrator had the impression that it contained biographies of two pearls. The pearls appeared to have done both ill and good things. Among the two, one was a black pearl. It was referred to as "She". While reading it, the narrator felt strange. It might be because he was not aware why his uncle had mentioned the black pearl as 'She'.
The narrator felt irritated after what happened for the past few days to him with respect to he iron box his uncle left for him. Beyond the dreams of greed, the narrator believed it was a vision of sudden death. The narrator does not consider himself to be a brilliant or intellectual man. He understands how to manage a ledger. Aside from that, he had no idea how to solve the puzzle or get out of it. Here the term "puzzle" says, how to open the iron box or get rid of it. The narrator considered taking a risk and making someone open the box once. On the contrary, the narrator thought whether anybody would do which I have never dared. After thinking that, he had a second idea in his mind. He thought he could simply drop the box from a height and securely unlock it if it did not explode. However, if it did blow up when it fell, his rubies would be lost forever. After imagining those things, he thought he was wealthy and impoverished. He made the statement because he couldn't use it even after having lots of wealth in his hand.
The narrator became thin, gloomy, and depressed because of the iron box. He then decided to tell his problems to his father confessor. After hearing that, he assumed it was a nasty joke from the narrator's uncle and he was not interested in opening the box.. He advised the narrator to put it out of his mind. But the narrator was always thinking about it. It was impossible for him not to think about it. His thoughts, science, and religion had all failed to help him. Two years have passed, and the narrator is now one of the city's wealthiest men. His biggest asset was the will given by his uncle which kept him alive.
Susan called off our engagement because she claimed the narrator was half-cracked like Uncle Philip. In desperation, the narrator placed an advertisement in the Journal of Science and received dozens of ludicrous proposals in response. Finally, since he talked about it too much, the tragedy got so well-known in the surroundings that he was immediately asked to remove it when he put it in a bank safe. His landlady told him to depart since no one would stay in the house with that box. Also, he was constantly afraid of robbers. The narrator then had been advised to print his story and wait for suggestions from the American mind's ingenuity.
As a result, the narrator relocated to the suburbs, hid the box, and changed his identity and profession. This was done to avoid the reporters curiosity. When the government officials learned of his inheritance, they were eager to collect the succession tax on his uncle's estate. Succession tax is the tax upon an interest in real property, whether passing by will or under the law of descent.
The government officials decided to collect the succession tax
The narrator was happy to assist the tax collectors. It might be because he was too afraid of losing the gems, so he might have chosen the option to seek help from them. He then narrated his story to the collector, and he showed him Uncle Philip's letter. Then the narrator then handed him the key and asked for a half-mile distance. The collector then stated that he would consider it and return later.
The narrator then stated that this is what he likes to tell everyone. He made a will in which he indicated that the pearls and diamonds would be left to the Society for the Preservation of Human Vivisection. Then he told the audience that if they think this is a joke or a fake, consider the following scenario. What would any sensible individual do if given an iron box holding wealth and explosives that were programmed to explode when the key was used to open it? What kind of guidance would he give?
The narrator's will
If an iron box contains wealth and explosives and if it were set to detonate when the key was used to open it, I would advise you to hand over the box to the nearby police station. The police officer would take the necessary steps to see whether any explosive items were inside. If any explosive things were there, the police would get assistance from the bomb diffusing team and do the needful.