Evans Tries an O-Level


Colin Dexter

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Evans’s Hat Symbol Analysis

Evans’s Hat Symbol Icon

Evans’s “filthy-looking red-and-white bobble hat” (a knit beanie with a big pom-pom jauntily perched on the top) symbolizes the way that Evans both fulfills and subverts people’s judgments of him based on his appearance. At the beginning of the story, Jackson thinks the disgusting hat is concealing Evans equally disgusting long, wavy hair (which Jackson hates); in actuality, the hat is hiding Evans’ choppy new haircut, meant to mimic McLeery’s, so that Evans can eventually impersonate him. When Jackson brusquely tells Evans to clean himself up before his exam—starting with taking his grubby hat off—Evans quickly and expertly tugs on Jackson’s heartstrings by insisting that the grimy hat is the only thing that’s ever brought him any luck, so he was hoping to wear it for his big German exam. More than just a good luck charm, the seemingly harmless, humble hat is a critical part in Evans’s complicated plan to break out of prison. The same goes for Evans himself; his jokes, trickery, and banter with the prison guards lead everyone to believe that he’s more of an annoying, “nagging presence” than “a real burden.” Evans leans into the judgments people make about him based on his grubby appearance and jovial manner, allowing this image to distract from his sharp intelligence and extraordinary talent for deception. Like a fool in a Shakespearian play, Evans is not taken seriously—written off as a jokester in a funny hat—and yet is the most intelligent, clever one present, using his sharp wit to outsmart detectives and prison wardens alike.

Evans’s Hat Quotes in Evans Tries an O-Level

The Evans Tries an O-Level quotes below all refer to the symbol of Evans’s Hat. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Intelligence and Deception Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the National Council of Education Research and Training edition of Evans Tries an O-Level published in 2015.
Evans Tries an O-Level Quotes

“Me ‘at? Huh!” Evans put his right hand lovingly on top of the filthy woollen, and smiled sadly. “D’you know, Mr Jackson, it’s the only thing that’s ever brought me any sort o’ luck in life. Kind o’ lucky charm, if you know what I mean. And today I thought—well, with me exam and all that…”

Buried somewhere in Jackson was a tiny core of compassion; and Evans knew it.

“Just this once, then, Shirley Temple.” (If there was one thing that Jackson genuinely loathed about Evans it was his long, wavy hair.)

Related Characters: James Evans (speaker), Jackson (speaker)
Related Symbols: Evans’s Hat
Page Number: 73-74
Explanation and Analysis:
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Evans’s Hat Symbol Timeline in Evans Tries an O-Level

The timeline below shows where the symbol Evans’s Hat appears in Evans Tries an O-Level. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Evans Tries an O-Level
Intelligence and Deception Theme Icon
Instinct, Paranoia, and Pride Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...next morning, two prison officers visit Evans, who is wearing his signature “filthy-looking red-and-white bobble hat.” Jackson, the senior prisoner officer, has “already become warm enemies” with Evans. The other man,... (full context)
Intelligence and Deception Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...barks at Evans to clean himself up for his exam and to remove his filthy hat. Evans’s hand immediately flies up to his hat; “smil[ing] sadly,” he explains that it’s “the... (full context)
Intelligence and Deception Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
After a pleasant evening, Evans returns to the Golden Lion Hotel. His new hat hides “the wreckage of his closely cropped hair.” It was a shame that Jackson had... (full context)