The Sampler Ira Victor Morris,1933 Digging into the text revealsmuch more about the society, the characters and the theme than the obvious.
Itis clear that the old man in the story is ungrateful when not accepting ourprotagonists offer and that the protagonist is both chocked and sheepish. Nevertheless,further analysis shows who the protagonist and the old man really are. The first-person narrator isthe protagonist. The story is told from his first-person point of view.
“One day when my curiosity drove me to askthis question of the shop girl, I learned that it was indeed the case. Nowthere’s one old gentleman, for instance,” she told me, “who comeshere almost every week and samples each one of the puddings, though he neverbuys anything and I suppose he never will.” (p.1, ll. 6-11) An example is “I learned.” We learn that the first-personnarrator is the protagonist as the story is about the first-person narrator’scuriosity: “drove me to ask this question.”We learn that our protagonist is used to go to this “luxury store”, as he saysthat “one day my curiosity drove me”, meaninghe has been curious about this when visiting the store before. The protagonist gets hiswonder confirmed by the shop girl.
And he doesn’t get to stay in the store fora minute before he sees the “oldgentleman” sampling puddings himself. The protagonist quickly gets apicture of the old man and describes him using colorful sentences to give thereader a picture of him. The protagonist is describingthe old man as poor.
He is using an ornamented language and “telling us thestory.” This in the combination with the use of “implicature” forces the readerto read between the lines. “The elderlygentleman who, as the novelists say, was poorly but neatly dressed, acceptedthe spoon and began eagerly to sample one after another of the puddings, onlybreaking off occasionally to wipe his red eyes with a large torn handkerchiefwhich he drew from the breast pocket of his shoddy overcoat.” (p. 1, ll. 21-25)An example is the description “wipe his red eyes”. A description whichcould indicate that the old man has an alcohol abuse. The first-person narratoralso uses the word “eagerly”, to tell us that this man isn’t used to sampleplum puddings in such a store for rich people.
They wouldn’t “eagerly” sampleplum puddings “only breaking offoccasionally” to wipe their eyes.”That makes sense as the old man is “poorlybut neatly dressed”. Another example is thedescription “large torn handkerchief.” Ahandkerchief was often used by rich people. They were often made by finematerials such as silk and some were only for decorative purposes. The factthat the old man’s handkerchief is torn, meaning it is broken, shows that theold man according to the protagonist does not fit in, in the described luxury store.
These colorful phrases with descriptions between the lines helps us betterunderstand who the old man really is. Describing the old man’spersonality has now given us a good picture of who he is. A poor man tastingplum puddings in a store where he doesn’t fit in.
Continuing our analysis andlooking into the social setting reveals the undelaying theme of the text. How the old man isn’t fittingin is clearly shown in the following quotation where he is put up against hissurroundings. “Amidst this throng ofhappy, prosperous-looking Christmas shoppers the little black figure of the oldman seemed incongruous and pathetic.
(p. 1, ll. 34-35)” The old man isclearly described as a little black figure sticking out in the crowd of wealthyChristmas shoppers. The protagonist is exposing the poor old man by describingthe other shoppers as “happy” and “prosperous-looking.” This language usemakes the social setting come very clear. The old man is in a place where he isfar from fitting in. The use of strong words such as “prosperous-looking” and “pathetic,”standing in contrast to each other makes the theme of the story very clear.– differences in social classes.
That the old man isn’t fittingin has become very clear in the previous text quotations. Now let us look atwhat the protagonist thinks about the old man. The protagonist describeshimself a good man wanting to help the old man. “Pardonme, sir, will you do me a favour? Let me purchase you one of these puddings. Itwould give me such pleasure.” (p. 1, ll.
38-39) Yet the true plot of the story comes clear. “Excuse me,” he said, with moredignity than I would have thought possible considering his shabby appearance,”I do not believe I have the pleasure of knowing you. Undoubtedly, you havemistaken me for someone else” (p.
1, ll. 42-44) The old man is clearly ungratefuland will not accept the protagonist’s offer. This is revealed through the directdialogue.
The protagonist is truly shocked. He also uses the word “dignity” to describe how the old manspeaks. Looking at the denotation “dignity”means worthiness but looking at the connotative level “dignity” means a person having a lot of self-respect.
Could theprotagonist have been offended by the old man’s answer? The real question iswhether the protagonist in reality wants to help the old man out of good will.A first-person narrator can easily lie to the reader as the story is only toldfrom his point of view. “It would give mesuch pleasure”, could indicate that the protagonist only wants to help theman for his own “pleasure” and notout of true good will.
After analyzing the text, theprotagonists view on the old man has become clear. He tells us that he feelssorry for the old man but the truth is he only says those things for his own winning.But despite the protagonist’s secret agenda his colorful language with somestrong words standing in contrast truly reveal the true theme of the story.
Thedifferences in the 1930’s social classes.