A Summer’s Reading
Respect is a very dominant and important factor in the story of Bernard Malamud, “A Summer’s Reading.” The reach for respect from the people around him causes a lot of dilemma within the main character, George Stoyonovic. And those dilemmas led to consequences that George hated. George, a high school drop out, can not get any job during one summer. He decides to read the magazines found at home. But when he met Mr. Cattanzara, he immediately lies about the hundred books he is reading, in order for Mr. Cattanzara to respect him as well as to be proud of him.
Respect is a form of acknowledgement of one’s existence. Respect is very important to everybody. Respect also gives a person a sense of confidence that he is not a failure and contradicts the idea that he is not good enough. People want respect because they want others to know how good they are. Though everybody wants it, most people often take it for granted. The irony of it all is that people wants it so much that they would do anything just to get it.
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In the story, the theme Respect is very important for everybody was shown a couple of times. An example of these scenes is when George was contemplating whether or not he should attend the night classes. “He has considered registering in a night high school, only he did not like the idea of teachers always telling him what to do. He felt that they had not respected him.” He decides that since he has nothing to do at home, attending night-class would be great and it would help him catch up on the lessons he has missed. But that the idea of teachers telling him what to do causes George to think twice. He thinks that when his teachers tell him what to do or should not do it shows a lack of respect on the teachers’ part. He then feels that he is not good enough and loses confidence in himself. But in reality, when people tell you what to do, it means that they are concerned about you and that they know that you can do better but it does not really mean that you are not good enough as a person. They are actually acknowledging your abilities and your capabilities which also acknowledge your existence. George searches for respect because it is where he gets the confidence that will enable him to move on forward with his life.
Another instance in the story where it shows respect is very important is when George tells Mr. Cattanzara that he is reading a hundred books for the summer. He wants Mr. Cattanzara to respect him that he is willing to lie in order to achieve that respect. He wants Mr. Cattanzara that to know that he is more than just a boy who dropped out of school and who can not get a decent job. And that he can also do things which people around him can be proud of. When he found out that his neighbors knew what he was doing for the summer, George instantly became confident that he is not a nobody anymore in the community. People in his community respect him now. But what did George do with the respect shown to him? He did not fulfill his “end of the bargain”. He thinks that being respected is enough already but he must learn that he should “walk the talk”. He must do what he says he will do because if the people finds out that he is just pure “talk” and no concrete actions are being done, people will start to doubt him and eventually George will lose the respect that his neighbors gave him.
Ultimately, Mr. Cattanzara senses that George was not telling him the whole truth. He knew that George really did not finish reading all those books as what he has said he has done. Maybe the reason why Mr. Cattanzara did not told the others about George’s lie is because he knows that George did not want to lose the admiration that the people has for him. And he thought that he could help George by confronting him himself. Though George lied to Mr. Cattanzara, he still respected George and decides to confront him privately instead of telling the whole neighborhood what George has done.
People find it absurdly important to become renowned and, at its very base, respected because they feel confident when they are being respected. People are ready to do anything in order to gain the respect that they want even to the extent of lying and betraying the trust of a certain person just like what the main character did in the short story. George’s search for respect led him to lying to the only person who listened to him when he was feeling sad and down. Respect is, indeed, essential in any relationship. Respect gives a person a sense of self-esteem that he could do anything because there is someone who respects and trusts him. But in searching for respect, one must remember that he should achieve it in the proper and honest way.