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Edward P. Jones’ “Young Lions” Essay

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Updated: Nov 24th, 2021

An important sign of impatience in the story can be seen through the cyclic nature of the events and thoughts. In general, it can be stated that violence, one of the main themes in the story, is a cyclic phenomenon by itself, where violence subsequently leads to other acts of violence. In that regard, such perceptions are found throughout the whole story, from a particular sequence of the events, such as the death of Caesar’s mother, the flowers stolen by Angelo, being beaten and kicked out of the house by his father, the introduction to Sherman, a sequence of robberies, and the death of Sherman; to the recurring idea of rubbing the retarded woman. Accordingly, this sequence might demonstrate the inevitability of the events, where previous sequences act as a justification for the next to occur.

One example of the aforementioned can be seen through the flow of Caesar’s actions after Angelo stole the flowers for the funeral, where such event symbolized for Caesar that Angelo loved his mother “as much as he loved anyone” (66), and thus it was a justification to hang with him despite what people saying that he [Angelo] would never again have good luck” (66). This event, in turn, led to that his father kicked Caesar out of the house, which was another key event, forcing Caesar to be on his own. The impatience and the cyclic nature of the events in the short story can be demonstrated by the scene, in which Caesar beat Carol for not handing the money, a scene that can be considered as a replication of some sort of Caesar being beaten by his father in his childhood, where Caesar might have recognized himself following the same pattern as his father.

An indication of impatience, as a deciding factor in Caesar’s involvement in crime, can be seen in Caesar’s now-or-never fatalistic state of mind. Caesar acting ahead of any possible outcomes can be related to the feeling of insecurity, which might have been caused by Caesar’s acknowledgment that the worst things that might happen in his life, took place earlier than he was prepared for it. In that regard, the subsequent events in Caesar’s life only confirmed his position that enjoying the moment and waiting will bring unpleasant surprises. Although the death of Caesar’s mother can be considered a critical point in the story, the moment his father kicked him out of the house can be considered more surprising and unexpected for him. The latter can be evident in the way Jones emphasized the timing between Caesar’s return home and the moment he was on his own with no shelter.

I gave you more chances than you deserved,” his father said and closed the inner and outer doors to the house. Caesar, still sprawled on the ground, saw the hall light go out. Seconds later, he saw the light in the upstairs front bedroom, his father’s room, go on, and a moment later, that light went out (68).

Thus, the author provided a picture in which it was a matter of seconds between Caesar leading his usual lifestyle, and being on his own in the street. In that sense, it can be assumed that Caesar’s life of violence was in the form of constant attempts to secure himself from unexpectedness. The latter can be apparent also in the way Caesar insisted on always carrying a gun with him, a decision that disturbed his friend and mentor Sherman, but Caesar “would sneak them out anyway…” (58).

The way Caesar is indulged his own desires can be paralleled to the way he would always try to do something that his father not only would not do but also will to spite him. In that regard, it can be seen how Caesar’s father is a recurring character through flashbacks, where his father’s opinion of him is expressed through his statement that if his father saw him from the window, he “would come down the stairs three at a time and hold him until someone called the police “(66). In that matter, the way Caesar thinks of his father is an acknowledgment in itself of the criminal life Caesar is leading.

Although the short story covers many themes, it can be seen that the theme of impatience and constant indulgence for instant desires, is one of the most important themes outlined by the author. In that regard, the importance of this theme can be seen in the way the criminals already acknowledge the short path of their life and accordingly try to live them to the maximum. Looking at such phrases, representing the criminal state of mind, such as “get rich or die trying,” the author put the light on the possible reasons for the way such attitude is chosen. In that sense, the short story in addition to including elements of fate, such as the death of the mother, covers aspects such as insecurity and the sense of inevitability of outcomes. Accordingly, the story clearly points out that such attitude is cyclic in nature, with one event leading to another making it difficult to break this chain.

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