October 06, 2012

Lessons from the short story 'After a Shadow' -TS Arthur

I just finished reading this short story by TS Arthur ‘After a Shadow’. And something in it hit me, real hard! You see, even though the story is somewhat subtle, it is yet profound in addressing this thing we have inside of us all. The self-deluded,that we are, into thinking we are smart enough and we can do everything for ourselves, we do not need a supreme power to have any kind of authority over our lives.

Anyhow, the story commences by portraying a scene on a bright June morning involving a little boy and his parents. So what happens in the scene is, the boy Arty runs after his shadow, confused, as to what it was that didn’t seem to leave his company. The boy was terribly scared with this fact and asked his father to look at it. The father obviously laughed it away and told his baby boy that it was only his shadow and it was nothing significant, everyone had a shadow and it was a commonplace.

The father, Mr. Mayflower then narrates that the ‘shadow lesson’ was soon forgotten by the time he reached the store, and thought entered business with its usual ardour. One of his clerks, then, comes to him and tells him of a Mr. B, who wants to make a bill of a thousand dollars. And even this interruption disturbs Mr. Mayflower and he thinks to himself ‘what were a new customer and a bill of a thousand dollars to me at that moment of time? I saw tens of thousands in prospective!’

Now, let’s stop here for a bit. What do we get from this attitude of Mr. Mayflower? We get nothing better than an arrogant little trader whose destruction was to come sooner rather than later or to say it was just around the corner. Wait a little to see how Allah destroys people who are so full of themselves.So as Mr. B… didn’t have much success with Mr. Mayflower he turns to another company for sending off his goods. Mr. Mayflower’s clerk informs him about it and he arrogantly says let him have whatever he wants and that he should not mind if any other company sells their service to him. Later that day, Mr. Mayflower asks one of his clerks whether the goods were sold to that new customer from Arton. The clerk replied in the affirmative. Then Mr. Mayflower asks about the amount of bill that was made by the customer. To his amazement and shock, the clerk replies – ‘Seventeen hundred dollars!’ To this, Mr. Mayflower, distraught, says to his clerk that he thought the customer was to buy only to the amount of a thousand dollars. The clerk says, ‘you went so easy on him that I encouraged him to buy; and the bill ran up more heavily than I was aware until the footing gave exact figures.’ After all this drama, the father, Mr. Mayflower keeps on reprimanding himself to the fact that he didn’t learn the lesson from his son, in the morning. He then goes,
I grow philosophic sometimes. Thought will, now and then, take up a passing incident, and extract the moral. But how little the wiser are we for moralizing! we look into the mirror of truth, and see ourselves--then turn away, and forget what manner of men we are. Better for us if it were not so; if we remembered the image that held our vision
I suppose, I should stop here and let you do the thinking. For value judgment, I reckon, is an individual thing. Every person is different and perceives things in a unique way. So, if you could provide me with your own interpretation of the story, please do!

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