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Truman Capote’s work of autobiographical fiction The Grass Harp features an eleven-year-old boy named Collin Fenwick. After Collin’s mother dies, the boy’s father sends him to live with two of the father’s spinster cousins, Verena and Dolly Talbo, residents of a small Southern town. Verena is described as
the richest person in the town. The drugstore, the dry goods store, a filling station, a grocery, an office building, all this was hers, and the earning of it had not made her an easy woman.
Manikins from the dry goods store are kept in the attic of the cousins’ home. Later, money is stolen from a safe in the store.
Verena is involved with a Jewish man from Chicago named Dr. Morris Ritz, who is twenty years younger than Verena. Ritz is often referred to contemptuously by characters in the book as “the Jew” or “the little Jew.” Ultimately it is Ritz who steals Verena’s money from the safe in her dry goods shop.
Verena’s ownership of the store helps symbolize her interest in money-making and thus helps distinguish her from her sister. Her involvement with Ritz has much the same effect. The fact that Ritz is an outsider from a large northern city and from a different religious background that most of the residents of the town helps call attention to the specific nature of the town and most of its native residents.
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