Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

One of the enduring themes in fiction is the importance of money and its effect on human relationships, a theme that Morley Callaghan explores in this story. Both Mr. Hudson and Dave Diamond seek to make their sons happy; both have some claim to the cap. However, in the world that Callaghan depicts, honest poverty is no match for money and class. It seems a foregone conclusion that Dave will relinquish the cap. He is intimidated by Mr. Hudson’s dress and manner, disoriented by the lawyer’s increasingly extravagant offers, and trapped by his own poverty. There is, as Callaghan makes clear, an important connection between economic and psychological independence.

If the story ended with Dave’s defeat, one might describe it as a grim, naturalistic fable about the survival of the fattest. However, it expands to embrace another, more important theme—the relationship between fathers and sons. Mr. Hudson, it is true, offers so much money for the cap that he secures it for his own son. It clearly gives him satisfaction to do this. Presumably, his son is happy to have the cap and proud of his father’s display of economic power. For them the ownership of the cap remains strictly an economic issue.

Dave, however, comes to see the cap as more than simply a prize to be contested. He eventually realizes that for his own son the cap was a link to a larger, more significant world, and perhaps a pledge of future glory. Because Dave finally recognizes the importance of the cap to Steve, he begins to respond to the boy’s aspirations and enthusiasms. He and his son lose possession of the cap, but it nevertheless provides them with the opportunity for an intimacy that is beyond price.