What is the message which author wants to give and how in the essay, "On Saying Please" by A. G. Gardiner. Elaborate on the following quote: "And whatever our sympathy with the lift-man, we must...

What is the message which author wants to give and how in the essay, "On Saying Please" by A. G. Gardiner.

Elaborate on the following quote:

"And whatever our sympathy with the lift-man, we must admit that the law is reasonable. It would never do if we were at liberty to box people's ears because we did not like their behaviour, or the tone of their voices, or the scowl on their faces. Our fists would never be idle, and the gutters of the City would run with blood all day."

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will answer the second part of the question first. The quotation refers to the fact that while the law is very definite about how individuals should act, it does not have much to say about the issues of courtesy and kindness/ politeness to others. The law speaks to individuals who have been wronged, whose rights have been taken away at the hands of another. Yet, it cannot legislate manners or civility in acting towards one another. The reality is that while it is not a perfect state, this state of law is a reasonable one because it does not enter the realm of emotions. The quote is suggesting that if the law gave into this level of emotional subjectivity, then individuals would be carrying out acts of violence each time someone demonstrated rudeness to them. Apply this to our own settings:  If the law permitted us to act with violence towards the people who were rude to us on a daily basis, what would the consequences be?  Indeed, they might be a situation where "the gutters of the city would run with blood all day" because of the violent actions towards rude people.

The theme of the essay revolves around the issues of manners and while we might be frustrated with the rudeness around us, individuals can counter it with demonstrating good manners to one another and brightening one another's day.

hannahhunt09 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his essay, "On Saying 'Please,'" A.G. Gardiner discusses legal regulations versus social norms. Although no one is legally mandated to be courteous and well-mannered, it is generally expected of society, or at least wished for, to act in a polite manner. He describes a situation in which a man physically assaulted another man for refusing to say "please," and how, although society may agree that the man was rude, and perhaps many people would have been just as angry, this recourse was beyond necessary, unacceptable, and illegal. Politeness, Gardiner believes, makes social interactions run smoothly and positively influences the perception that others have of a person, whereas rudeness invites negativity and more rudeness. The selected quote above ("And whatever our sympathy with the lift-man...") makes the point that, if people became physically aggressive every time they did not think someone else was being polite enough, then nothing except violence would ever occur. Everyone would be assaulting each other continuously. Therefore, people must learn to be as polite as possible, but also to accept impoliteness, when it occurs, as a part of life.