The central conflict in Truman Capote’s “A Jug of Silver” is the one between young Appleseed and himself (man vs. self). In the story, Appleseed has set up extraordinarily unlikely odds for himself. The reader, as well as the story’s central characters, must move through the story in trepidation, wondering what the outcome will be.
At the story’s beginning, Appleseed and his sister Middy come into Mr. Marshall’s store after hearing that Mr. Marshall has set up a game where customers, for twenty-five cents, can guess how much money is inside a wine jar full of nickels and dimes. (This guessing game is Mr. Marshall’s advertising scheme and key method of stealing business away from Rufus McPherson, a rival store owner.)
While many townspeople guess, Appleseed, who is likely around eight, is the only character who visits the store daily. We learn that he lives about a mile out of town, and that he is very poor. Capote writes, “He was small and puny and high-strung, and he wore always the same outfit: a red sweater, blue denim britches, and a pair of man-sized boots that went clop-clop with every step.” Middy, his older sister, is skinny with terrible teeth. Appleseed and Middy’s earnestness and poverty, compared to that of the townspeople, help draw the reader deeper into the central conflict. Appleseed clearly needs the money, and his focus, coming in every day and counting it, helps build the story’s rising action.
Capote deftly moves the action forward, upping our sympathy for Appleseed as the story progresses. We learn that he believes he is lucky because he was born with a caul (a piece of amniotic sack) attached to his head. He’s convinced that this luck, combined with his counting ability, will win him the money. The reader, and everyone else in the story, wants Appleseed to win. Some of the characters even become nervous over what Appleseed’s reaction will be if he loses. They don’t want to “see that kid’s face,” if he’s not the winner.
At the story’s resolution, Appleseed does win the money. But throughout “A Jug of Silver,” the reader, and the story’s main characters, anxiously wait as Appleseed counts and prays and hopes that he can come up with the correct amount of money in the jar. Capote expertly draws us into Appleseed's inner conflict so that we will be rooting for him at the story’s end.