The main theme of “Saturday Afternoon” by Erskine Caldwell is that of indifference to violence. A side theme of the narrative is that of racism. Through this account, the author tries to show the dangers of violence becoming something common and how indifferent violence can lead to as much cruelty as purposefully violence.
Indifference to violence
The theme of indifference to violence is illustrated in the short story mostly through the characters of Tom and Jim, but also through the attitudes of the white men who sell and drink Coca-Cola and homemade whisky during the time they are actual torturing and killing a human being, as if they were gathered to some entertainment show.
Tom’s indifferent character is actually established from the very beginning in relation to his work.
The theme of racism is explored in close connection to the main theme of indifferent violence. The violence depicted in the short story has no effect on the characters particularly because the victim is an African-American man. The whites in the story (with a focus on Tom and Jim) call Will Maxie all types of racist names such as “gingerbread nigger” or “yellow-face coon”. Furthermore, none of the white men even questions whether Will is actually guilty of speaking to a white woman.