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Themes

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" is the story of a man who owns a diamond so big his only goal in life is to safeguard its existence from the rest of the world. This means imprisoning those who discover it. It makes sense, then, that freedom is an important theme in the text. Part of the irony of this satirical story is that the diamond-owner is himself a prisoner of his own obsession with wealth. Because the story satirizes the expansion of America across the continent, there are implications as to our own founding history. Lastly, many read into "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" parallels to immigration, since the estate containing the diamond (parallel to America) is closed off to all outsides who cannot be used or manipulated for gain.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. John tells Kismine that you can be either free or poor, but not both. Does the story reject or support this statement?
  2. Who is imprisoned in this story, and who is free? How are these terms ("imprisoned" and "free") defined?
  3. Why does Washington imprison some men (like the aviators) but kill others (like his children's guests)?
  4. Why do Washington, his wife, and his son, choose to go down with the château?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

When the story begins, John is imprisoned by his obsession with wealth; but by the end he is free.

John is never able to escape from his obsession with wealth. This is the "prison" which holds him.

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