A Curious Passage in the Story

After George has read Editha's letter (she doesn't know he read it), he sees her the next day, and they talk about his enlisting. She babbles on about his going to war for the "highest motives" and wants him to confirm that he didn't enlist for her sake because she couldn't respect him if he has done that. George says: "Well, then we'll say I haven't." Of course, that's exactly why he has enlisted.

He adds, though, these words:

A man that hasn't got his own respect intact wants the respect of all the other people he can corner. But we won't go into that.

The implication is that George doesn't respect himself. As his character is developed in the story, why would he not?

Expert Answers

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I've gone back to read the story again. I think George has lost respect for himself because by enlisting he is going against his own strong principles--how he was raised and everything he really believes about war. At this point, he recognizes that and is just resigned to it.

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Interestingly enough his response, "Well, then we'll say I haven't" risks losing her respect anyway.  If she were clever enough, she'd catch on that his response indicates that he is saying just the opposite of what he actually means.  If he is "collecting" the respect of others because his own is not intact, why throw out such a careless response?

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