The themes of each of the selected stories center on issues that Americans face. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” takes a lighthearted approach to the problem facing the homeless, but on a deeper level the story addresses the issue of how money is too easily gained and spent in the United States. In Oates’ story she explores the theme of the middle-to-upper class of American’s dilemma of getting more than one needs to survive. These two stories are similar in theme as it has to do with not working for the money, but “winning” the money with little effort. Mamet’s story is a dark tale of American’s who seemingly have it all materially, but do not value the love and understanding needed to be a happy, well-adjusted family. In the final analysis, all stories deal with the issue of money and the problems having or not having money brings to life.
In “What You Pawn I will Redeem” the theme follows Jackson Jackson’s quest for the $999 he needs to “win” the regalia. Even when he does try for a while to sell papers which he gets for free. As soon as Jackson Jackson gets $20 from the pawnbroker he treats his friends to three “bottles of imagination.” Each time he gets money, Jackson Jackson forgets about his need for the regalia and uses the money to eat or treat his friends. Another theme centers on Jackson Jackson’s inability to save his money. In so doing, he may never be able to climb out of poverty. Even if he receives help from kind-hearted people his life probably won’t change because of his spending habits.
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