Why does Dade let the woman go at the end?

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In Ethan Canin’s story, Dade had numerous reasons for deciding not to detain the woman, despite his certainty that she has been stealing. The boy is ambivalent about working in his father’s store, in part because of his strained relationship with his father. The son feels that his father’s expectations are not reasonable because of his youth and does not remotely consider himself an authority figure.

While he is vaguely aware that his day-dreaming and lack of dedication could harm the business, as his father fears, Dade is basically a creative and impractical person like his mother. Dade shows some determination to catch the shoplifter, because he is convinced that she has stolen previously, as well as on the occasion when he takes action. This repeated behavior seems excessive, so he takes the action his father had recommended. Once he accomplishes this goal, however, he has second thoughts. The experience is so distasteful that he cannot continue along the path toward prosecution. The idea that the shoplifter will be punished is disturbing to him, as he sympathizes with her because she seems frail as well as hungry. In a different way than he expected, he has to take a responsible adult role, which in this case is to follow the way of compassion.

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