Themes and message

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 purposeful violence.

Indifference to violence

The theme of indifference to violence is illustrated in the short story mostly through the characters of Tom and Jim. It is also shown by the attitudes of the white men who sell and drink Coca-Cola and homemade whiskey while torturing and killing a human being, as if they were at some kind of entertainment show.

Tom’s indifferent character is established from the very beginning in relation to his work. Tom is a butcher, yet he is never concerned with the meat he sells being healthy and clean; he does not care too much about the flies sitting on it or about accidentally spitting tobacco on it. But as the story develops, we realize that both Tom and his partner Jim are indifferent to violence as well, as they join the crowd planning to kill African-American Will Maxie. During the torturing and killing episode, we do not sense that the gruesome violence affects Tom’s character in an...

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