On Keyhole Morals by A.G. Gardiner
In On Keyhole Morals by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of respect, appearance, privacy, acceptance and curiosity. Taken from his Windfalls collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of respect. The gentleman who talks to Gardiner about those in his neighbouring cabin does not seem to afford the couple any privacy. It is as though he may be allowing for his inquisitiveness or curiosity to take hold and listen to what is being said by the couple. What is also interesting is that people may formulate an opinion of another person based on what happens behind closed doors. Where a person’s true self can be found. Which leaves the reader to suspect that for Gardiner everybody has two appearances or personas. The public and the private. With the public persona being rehearsed and appropriately displayed to show the best of a person. Whereas a person will learn a lot more if not the truth about a person when they view them through the keyhole. When an individual’s guard is dropped one is able to see exactly what an individual is like. Even if some critics might suggest that this in itself is an invasion of privacy.
Gardiner continues to explore the theme of privacy when it comes to opening someone else’s letters. Though a person would have no right to. Curiosity may get the better of them. What they find may interest them but it could also be something which they did not need to know in the first place. If anything Gardiner may be suggesting that a person’s curiosity can often get them into trouble. Knowing information that they are not entitled to know. Though in the case of the essay Gardiner chooses a parent to open a son’s letters. Something that might lessen the blow to the son. Nonetheless there are morals involved and a person should not open personal correspondence that is addressed to another person be they a relative or not. Everybody is entitled to a degree of privacy and they should be afforded the respect that comes with privacy. Something that Gardiner himself may believe when he considers refusing the devil should the devil show him other people’s secrets. In reality everybody has secrets that they may wish to keep private and not include in their public persona.
Appearance if anything is what drives a person. Being accepted by others is easier if one casts a pleasant and amiable shadow rather than being honest with everyone about every aspect of their lives. Some people’s secrets may bring them shame and as such they do not wish to be judged by others. For example a man who is conducting an affair may not wish to have this known by others yet in the privacy of his home he may have to deal with his wife’s outrage. As mentioned there are two types of persona, the public and the private. With many people going to great lengths to hide their private persona. Gardiner also suggests that morally it may not be right for others to pry into the private affairs of others. For if the shoe was on the other foot an individual would surely feel displeasure that others might be intruding into their private lives. It is better to accept a person on their public appearance and not to be too inclined to ask questions about their private lives. No matter how difficult this might be for some people to do.
In reality nobody can know for sure what might trigger a person to live their private and public lives differently. If they do than their motives must be respected or at least they must not be quizzed. Everybody has secrets that they might not like the world to know and when judging one person an individual should really look at themselves to see if they have the right to judge that person. If anything Gardiner may be asking the reader to look at themselves before they judge another person and to respect other people’s privacy. What happens behind closed doors between a couple (or family) should remain behind closed door. Gardiner giving little time for those who listen to the conversations of others through the keyhole. It is also interesting that Gardiner himself knows the value of privacy as at the end of the story he knows that what has been done behind the door of his own cabin could very easily be held against him and would go against the public persona that he likes to portray. Which may leave the reader to suspect that everybody needs their privacy from the outside world regardless of what affairs they may conduct in the privacy of their home. Without privacy the individual will only be judged negatively by their peers.