One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts by Shirley Jackson

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Quotes

Mr. Johnson took out a handful of peanuts from his pocket and sat on the steps with the boy, who at first refused the peanuts on the grounds that his mother did not allow him to accept food from strangers; Mr. Johnson said that probably his mother had not intended peanuts to be included, since elephants at the circus ate them, and the boy considered, and then agreed solemnly.

Mr. Johnson gets intimately involved in people's lives. The peanuts he offers them are symbolic of the help he gives them. In this case, he offers a little boy a peanut that the boy at first declines because he is not supposed to accept food from strangers. This interaction is representative of the way in which Mr. Johnson gets involved with people. He often forces his help on others. Though his intentions are presumably good, he doesn't ask questions ahead of time. For example, he does not know why this mother and child are moving, but he sends them to his friend in the Vermont town where they are moving. The reader is left to wonder what Mr. Johnson's intentions are. Though his actions seem gracious and magnanimous, to some degree he forces help, and peanuts, on others.

Went into a department store this morning and accused the woman next to me of shoplifting, and had the store detective pick her up. Sent three dogs to the pound—you know, the usual thing.

Mr. Johnson's wife takes on the opposite role of evildoing. While he makes every interaction with others about doing good, she constantly chooses to get people in trouble and cause problems for them. She represents the kind of person who appears not to be concerned with the effects of her actions on others. The reader is left to wonder why Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are each so extreme in their own regard. The story makes the reader question how one should get involved with strangers.

“Right,” said Mr....

(The entire section is 506 words.)