What is the narrator's change in thought process when she finds out her teacher's life was "ruined" by her juvenile blackmail prank in "The Payoff" by Susan Perabo?
Susan Perabo's short story is listed in the "rites of passage" genre, and I'm trying to nail down exactly what her epiphany was at the conclusion of the story.
At the end of the story, Anne realizes that she did not really think about the situation and did not fully understand her teacher’s point of view.
When Louise and Anne see their art teacher in a compromising position with the principal, they decide to use it to their advantage. They can blackmail the principal and get some easy money. They have a very childish approach to the blackmail.
“‘Plus his wife would divorce him and his kids would hate him and he’d lose all his friends. And everywhere he went, people would make sucking sounds.’”
The girls get the money and decide to buy the art teacher a gift, because they like her. This demonstrates the immaturity of their actions. The girls did not think about what they were doing, or the effect on the teacher. They were greedy and impulsive.
Anne is the one who really has the epiphany. When Louise goes home sick, Anne has to pick up the money herself. She sees their names and knows that the principal knows who sent the note. Then the art teacher confronts her, and tells her that she committed adultery for love and no other reason. She tells Anne that they need to think about what they have really done.
Anne comes to the realization that there are different reasons people do things, and you have to really understand the consequences before taking any kind of action. She was too young to see that then, but after this experience she does understand more.