I want to start off this piece by talking about my father and his similar experiences to what the main character had in this story. When he was out with the church giving out food to the homeless, he struck up a rather pleasant conversation with an African American man who looked as if the tough challenges of homelessness added fifteen years onto his actual age. Anyways, my dad handed him a bottled water, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and some mandarin oranges. The homeless man looked at my father, and then looked at us, and he said “thank you.” You could see the graciousness in his eyes, the type of graciousness that a subject of the King of England would have exhibited if the King pardoned the subject from death. I thought to myself, “how can someone with so little be so grateful.” My grandfather was a hedge fund manager, and he told me how greed was a poor man’s fallacy and that money wasn’t the root of all happiness. The homeless man then said to my father that he had a wife and four kids on the streets looking for food to eat out of dumpsters. This moved my father, and he pulled out his wallet and gave the man five 20 dollar bills.
The homeless man’s eyes gleamed with happiness. I could smell the marijuana encroaching on our breathing space. Why would my father give a man $100 if he would just spend it on drugs? I asked my dad this question, and he told me that he smelled the marijuana, but he trusted the man – perhaps out of good intention – to do the right thing with the money. He asked me not to tell mom, as we were going through some hard times with money back in those downtrodden recessionary years. It’s obvious that my father had a similar experience as the one the main character had in the story. The theme is obvious: when you know someone will take advantage of you, should you still put faith in basic human nature – morals – to preside over that individual and allow him to do the right thing?
In the story, the Indian woman obviously took advantage of the main character, but the main character did not seem to care. In fact, he described it as “adultery” and something that would be very disappointing to his family if he told them. I can understand this, as he was probably going through financially troubling times and the money he gave to the Indian woman could have been used to get food for his own family. When my father pulled that $100 out of his wallet, I thought he was crazy; that was a week’s worth of groceries right there. Perhaps he was trying to send a message to me, or perhaps the man’s thankfulness truly ingratiated him. The main character knew that he was taken advantage of yet felt good at the end. Drawing back to the theme, the main character is battling against his moral principles – the ideas and values that he was taught as a child. He is having an internal conflict between the fact that the Indian woman was squandering his money for alcohol versus the last-cling attempt to convince himself that she would use that money for good. The main character was pure, and the author wanted to fully emphasize that sometimes, overly generous people get taken advantage of.
Others may point to the fact that the woman was young and beautiful for the reason why the main character would have given her money. I can repudiate that claim by citing my father’s experience with the unattractive, overly-aged homeless man. I do not think that it’s a question of attractiveness, but I believe that it’s something much deeper. Humans are geared towards having a set of values and morals, and they will attempt to convince themselves that they made the right, moral decision when it comes to making these types of decisions.
In the end, the main takeaway that we should come away with is that there are going to be vulnerable people in this world. Unfortunately, society has adopted an eat or be eaten mentality. The main character – and my father – were perhaps too pure and righteous. They wanted to be the moral figure of society while throwing away rationality. Perhaps they made the right decision, or perhaps they made the wrong one. In my opinion, we’ll never know.