Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories Justice and Judgment

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Justice and Judgment

These good people judged Miss Amelia in a different way from what the others judged her. (Ballad.47)

She may be a weird, but she's our weirdo.

And after a time there will come a moment when all together they will act in unison, not from thought or from the will of any one man, but as though their instincts had merged together so that the decision belongs to no single one of them, but to the group as a whole. (Ballad.51)

In a town as isolated as this one, folks have to band together to be both judge and jury.

[...] for they and their kind glory in conjunctions which are ill-matched and pitiful. So let them be. The good people thought that if those two had found some satisfaction of the flesh between themselves, then it was a matter concerning them and God alone. (Ballad.79)

The town is perfectly willing to give "Amelion" ("Lymelia"?) their blessing, whether it's been asked for or not. (It hasn't.)

His reputation was as bad, if not worse, than that of any young man in the county. (Ballad.84)

The narrator lets us know Marvin Macy ain't no good. And we've heard the town story of his life. But since we never get any of his interiority, how can we tell it's all true?

Some said it was because she wanted to get herself some wedding presents. Others believed it came about through the nagging of Miss Amelia's great-aunt in Cheehaw, who was a terrible old woman. (Ballad.88)

A reasonable sort might ask why it matters to anyone else why Miss Amelia said yes to Marvin Macy.

A groom is in a sorry fix when he is unable to bring his well-beloved bride to bed with him, and the whole town knows it. (Ballad.92)

It's a bad situation, made worse by nosy neighbors.

And the town felt the special satisfaction that people feel when someone has been thoroughly done in by some scandalous and terrible means. (Ballad.94)

That's a particularly devious brand of schadenfreude.

And later, when horrifying rumors concerning Marvin Macy reached the town, Miss Amelia was very pleased. (Ballad.96)

Here, the rumor-mill might as well be a social network.

People were torn between the longing for the good taste of pork, and the fear of death. It was a time of waste and confusion. (Ballad.169)

On a chilly autumn day, Miss Amelia killed a pig and let it roast. Everyone else followed suit. When the weather turned warm again, they could no longer keep the meat fresh. It's the kind of group judgment that could get lots of people sick. (Does this feel like a metaphor to anybody else?)

In the opinion of most people she was well on her way in the climb up fools' hill, and everyone waited to see how it would all turn out. (Ballad.177)

A small town: it's better than TV.

Often after you have sweated and tried and things are not better for you, there comes a feeling deep down in the soul that you are not worth much. (Ballad.179)

Self-judgment can be the harshest kind of judgment.

"[...] So strongly you used to play it—like a real blacksmith's daughter. You see, Bienchen, I know you so well—as if you were my own girl. I know what you have—I've heard you play so many things beautifully. You used to—" (Wunderkind.110)

Mister Bilderbach refers to his love for and closeness to Frances in order to get his harsh point across.

"Well, I wouldn't call him that exactly," said Sylvester. "I've known him a long time. He was O.K. until about six months ago. But if he goes on like this, I can't see him lasting another year. I just can't." (Jockey.8)

Are we to believe the judgment of the trainer, in The Jockey? Or is this just faux-caring designed to make good dinnertime conversation?

"Libertines," he said, and his voice was thin and broken. He rolled the word in his mouth, as though it had a flavor and a substance that gratified him. (Jockey.52)

A libertine is some who conducts themselves without a moral code. Are the trainer, the bookie, and the rich man really libertines? What about that sweetie-pie Marvin Macy?

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