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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Up until I learned my lesson in a very bitter way, I never had more than one friend at a time, and my friendships, though ardent, were short.

Emily begins the short story by reflecting on her renewed outlook on life and friendships. The story demonstrates her preference for solitude and her woes in keeping more than one friend at a time. At the end of the story, Emily learns through her friendship with Lottie that she should excuse herself in more adult ways than insulting her peers.

Beggars cannot be choosers, and I had been missing Virgil so sorely, as well as all those other dear friends forever lost to me, that in spite of her flagrance,...I was flattered and consoled.

In her isolation, Emily latches onto the only person of a similar age, despite the overarching reason that Lottie has arrived at her house. Emily has begun to feel a "famine" for company, despite pushing her own peers away, and she is willing to turn a blind eye in order to gain another friendship. Virgil is the last friend she is able to make. Shortly after they discuss getting married and becoming millionaires together, Emily, once again, insults him in her urge to be left alone.

If you steal a chocolate cake, if you will steal a kitchen sink, you will steal diamonds and money. The small child who pilfers a penny from his mother's pocketbook has started down a path that may lead him to holding up a bank.

Judge Bay gives the above quote while playing two-handed pinochle with Emily's father. His conversation deepens Emily's fears and worries about her impending lifting date with Lottie. This lends an irony to Emily's situation, as she has never stolen anything in her life. However, by the story's end, she has stolen change from the church and is the one who faces punishment for attempting to steal pearls.

I could not help feeling that my hardness of heart and evil intention had had a great deal to do with (Mrs. Rogers) new crisis...

Emily is aware of her "badness" yet also feels a sense of guilt. She believes that her evil intentions do affect those around her.

Why, listen, if I'd rooted out all the badness in me, there wouldn't have been anything left of me.

Emily, by the end of the story, gets reprimanded by Judge Bay, who orders her to seek out every inch of her conscience and root out all the badness. Emily seems to understand that it is impossible for her to completely eradicate her badness without losing herself in the process.

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