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Symbolism of the Blind Man in "One Thousand Dollars?"I was wondering if anyone knew the...

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tomboy99952 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 2, 2011 at 8:00 AM via web

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Symbolism of the Blind Man in "One Thousand Dollars?"

I was wondering if anyone knew the symbolist of the blind man in One Thousand Dollars by O'Henry.  I know the literal use - He's there for Gillian to ask how to use the money, but I'm unsure of the symbolic use.  Can someone please help?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 7, 2011 at 3:53 AM (Answer #1)

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In O. Henry's short story, "One Thousand Dollars," the dissolute, self-indulgent Young Gillian, who inherits the sum of one thousand dollars and is required to render an account of its disposition, is perplexed as to how to dispose of this sum.  Hitherto, he has squandered his uncle's allowance, having spent it upon his own pleasures. But, because it is an inconvenient sum to Gillian--"...what can a man possibly do with a thousand dollars?"--the young man is perplexed to do with this inheritance.  So, he rides to his club and asks the sardonic Old Bryson how to dispose of this money.  After Bryson "moralizes," he tells Gillian that there is only one thing for such as he to do with the money:  buy the chorus girl Miss Lotta Lauriere a diamond pendant.

However, when Gillian offers her such a gift, the jaded Miss Lauriere displays no interest.  Then, Gillian takes a cab that lands him near a blind man selling pencils.  Approaching him, Gillian asks the man what he would do with a thousand dollars.  The blind man, who trusts Gillian because he has enough money to take a cab in the daytime, shows the young gentleman his bank book which has a balance of $1,785.00.  And, after seeing this balance, Gillian makes his decision to give the money to Miss Hayden, a ward of his uncle.

Thus, somehow the blind man's disuse of his money effects Gillian's decision. Therefore, he could be symbolic of the senseless wasting of purpose in life.  Why, Gillian may wonder about the blind man, does the pencil peddler sit on the street as a virtual beggar when he can have a home and comfort?  Much as in the parable of the man who gives his servants talents, the blind man is like the servant who simply buried his talent.  Perhaps, Gillian chooses to not bury his "talent,"  demonstrating that he is not totally dissolute; he gives the money to someone who can use it properly: a "quiet girl" who is "musical."

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fatimashirkavand | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:32 AM (Answer #2)

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It sure has a symbolic purpose, and that is simply what we call blindness. We are sometimes blind to what we have. He was literally blind, but in depth, he was a dead man with no aim at all. It seems as if he has nothing to live for. so he will save anything he earns in a bank. He can own his house, but he prefers selling pencils, instead. So it shows nothing but being aimless. But, in fact he acts as a wake up call for Gillian, having observed the blind man, he will make sure what he is going to do with his 1000$. He wants to give it to a woman he loves, she never loves him back, though.

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