My Lost Dollar by Stephen Leacock
In My Lost Dollar by Stephen Leacock we have the theme of honesty, hypocrisy, appearance, letting go, frustration and acceptance. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed man the reader realises after reading the story that Leacock may be exploring the theme of letting go. The narrator appears to be unable to let go of the fact that Todd owes him a dollar. Though he has never directly alluded to the dollar with Todd himself it is clear to the reader that the narrator hasn’t forgotten about it. It is as though the narrator feels as though a wrong has occurred yet it is interesting that the narrator himself on occasion has borrowed money and not paid it back. Which may leave some readers to suspect that the narrator is being hypocritical. He wants Todd to honour his debt to him yet the narrator on the other hand will not return the thirty cent he received to buy a bottle of plain soda. If anything the narrator is able to justify the non-payment of that loan. Which is interesting as the man the narrator borrowed the money off may not necessarily feel the same.
As to why the narrator doesn’t simply ask Todd outright for the money is also interesting. It is possible that the narrator is concerned about how it will look and how he will look should he ask Todd for the dollar. Which if anything would play on the theme of appearance. The narrator does not wish to be judged by Todd in a negative light. He values the friendship yet he would still like the return of his dollar. Something which is problematic for the narrator as eventually the reader realises that the narrator has only two options. He can either directly ask Todd for the dollar or he can accept that Todd won’t be giving him the dollar back. The narrator has a decision to make due to his inability to let go of the fact that he has lent Todd a dollar that he may never see again. If anything the narrator is in a no-win situation. Should he ask for the dollar back he might lose his friendship with Todd. He’ll still have his dollar but it cost him his friendship with Todd. At no stage does the reader feel that the narrator has accepted that the dollar is gone forever. That Todd won’t be paying it back.
The narrator’s generosity also shouldn’t be questioned. He didn’t hesitate to give Todd the dollar when he needed it and was even prepared to lend Todd more than a dollar if he had asked for it. For the narrator the issue is a matter of principle. He believes that everybody should honour their debts though again it is possible that the narrator is being hypocritical. Which may be the point that Leacock is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that the standard that the narrator sets for others. The narrator himself cannot meet these standards. If anything it would be easier for the narrator to accept his loss and forget the fact that Todd will not be paying him back. If he doesn’t accept the loss the narrator’s friendship with Todd could be in jeopardy. It is also noticeable that the narrator is not judging Todd’s character by the fact he owes the narrator a dollar. It is simply an issue which the narrator cannot let go of. If anyone is frustrated by the events that are playing out it is the narrator. Todd is completely unaware of how the narrator is feeling.
The reader also suspects that the narrator’s plans to set up a Back to Honesty movement are driven by the frustration he feels over the dollar. As to whether the movement would be a success is another thing as it would appear that there are no guidelines. Which would leave the movement open to corruption. Though this is not something that the narrator has thought out. His main objective is not repaying others but getting others (Todd) to repay him. At all stages of the story the focus has been on the narrator and the difficulties he felt he has incurred over the loss of his dollar. The fact that the narrator also considers that the ‘greatest nations were built up on the rock basis of absolute honesty’, is admirable. Though it is impractical when it comes to one individual owing another individual money. The narrator himself is being select on who he pays back money to. Being able to justify some loans and yet being hesitant on naming others he might have borrowed money from. Though the narrator might claim he has forgotten about outstanding loans he owes to people ironically he cannot forget the one dollar that Todd owes him. The reader left suspecting that the narrator may not necessarily be telling the truth. Yet he wants honesty from others. Again the narrator is looking for a standard from others that he himself cannot meet.