What is the meaning of the title of "A Silver Dish" by Saul Bellow?
The title of "A Silver Dish" references the silver dish that Woody remembers his now-deceased father, Morris, having once stolen.
Out of money for his business, Morris, accompanied by Woody, traveled through a blizzard to the home of Mrs. Skoglund in order to ask the woman for fifty dollars. While Mrs. Skoglund and her servant were out of the room praying, Morris picked a lock on the woman's cabinet and removed a silver dish from it, hiding the item in his pants in order to sneak it out of the house. This thievery stunned Woody, who fought his father to try to get him to return the dish to its proper place. By the time Mrs. Skoglund and the servant had returned, Woody had been thoroughly beaten. Morris managed to leave the home with a check for fifty dollars and the silver dish he'd snatched.
This theft causes trouble later; Woody chooses to defend his father's reputation by claiming that he is innocent, despite knowing this lie could cost him his position at the seminary. It also becomes a point of contention between Woody and Morris, as they continue to argue about it for the remainder of their lives.
Ultimately, the theft of the silver dish represents Woody's departure from his previous role as "foil" to Morris' "anti-hero." Although he used to side with his mother, morally-speaking, Woody has been altered by the act of covering up his father's crime, which has “carried him back to his side of the line, blood of his blood.” Woody lives out the rest of his life in a manner that is much more his father's speed —dancing around a life of sin and rejecting the religious lifestyle of his mother and the other women around him.
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