Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 237
The judge functions here as a symbol of institutional authority. His anger is the humorless anger of the state responding to something it does not condone nor understand. It is significant that the word "business," the poem's title, is uttered for the first time by the judge. When he asks ‘‘What kind of business is this[?],’’ he is using a rhetorical question, that is, a question which does not expect an answer and is more like a statement. The musician, symbolically representing the ‘‘little man,’’ continues his irreverent behavior when he answers, ‘‘I am the monkey man / and the / Monkey man sells / Monkey business.’’ These last lines provide the moral, or the message, of Don Arturo's story:
Government may work to keep the little man in his place but in time the little man will win out.
The idea of business in its various guises is suggested in a number of ways in the poem. On a concrete and practical level, the musician is engaged in business, playing his guitar and selling his puppets and whistles to make a living. This kind of business conflicts with the business of the state, which is to regulate trading activity. By breaking the law and actively disrespecting the authority of the state, the musician engages in ‘‘monkey business.’’ The musician's attitude at the end of the poem is that what he does is nobody's business but his own.
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