Themes

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 622

Individualism
"Business" takes as its primary message the idea that individuals are more important and, in the long run, stronger than the state under which they live. Individualism, especially in the West, and in America in particular, forms the philosophical basis for modern democracies. The inalienable rights of the individual are codified in the Bill of Rights, which is the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Such rights restrict government's interference in the lives of its citizens. "Business" draws on the long history of individualism in America, eliciting sympathy from readers for the plight of a simple street musician who has been denied his right to make a living. Cruz highlights the importance of the individual in the West in two ways: one, he makes the main character in the story a vendor and a musician, someone who both sells things for a living and artistically expresses himself through his music; two, he places the individual in opposition to the law, an institutional branch of government which often squashes the rights of individuals. The judge's angry question, ‘‘What kind of business / is this[?],’’ is rhetorical, and meant to suggest that the kind of business practiced by the musician is against the law. The vendor first violated the law (presumably) by selling his wares and performing on the street, and then showed his contempt for the law by doing the same thing in court and winning over the detectives and court clerks. The judge symbolically represents not only the law but also the idea of collectivism, which puts the many ahead of the individual. The vendor's ‘‘monkey business’’ is the business of mischief, meant not only to disobey the law but to do it in such a way as to embarrass the law (represented by the judge) as much as possible. The embarrassment is meant to demonstrate that certain kinds of behavior may be illegal but not necessarily wrong, and that individuals are more important than abstract laws.

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Law and Order
"Business" implicitly asks the question of how far the law should go in maintaining order in society. Cruz presents us with the dilemma of a person trying to make a living doing what he does best: singing, putting on puppet shows, and selling puppets and whistles. By all accounts the actions of this man are harmless. Indeed, he is giving pleasure to the many who watch him, as evidenced by the ‘‘huge crowds’’ he draws in shopping areas. He, like the crowds who stop to see him, is governed by the more elemental and emotional law of give and take. It is obvious that the public loves the musician. He not only draws ‘‘huge crowds’’ who give him money, but he also wins over the detectives and court clerks, who ' 'rolled on the floor'' in laughter after his puppet show. His arrest for accepting money from people is (presumably) because he is performing without a license. Rationales for licensing street performers include the need to maintain public order and the need to protect ' 'legitimate'' (i.e., licensed, tax-paying) businesses from competition. Public order, however, is often gained at the expense of joy and more basic human desires and needs. Regulation of street performers also acts in the best interest of those with money who can afford to open nightclubs and other venues where people pay substantially more money to see acts than they would tip performers such as Don Arturo's guitarist. In this way, order is maintained for the many at the expense of the few. The only way for those oppressed by the (unfair) laws of the society to succeed is to be mischievous, like the musician, who flouts the law by flaunting his puppets.

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