On Writing an Article by A.G. Gardiner
In On Writing an Article by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of indecision, habit, confusion and insecurity. Taken from his Pebbles on the Shore collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of indecision. Gardiner is unable to pick a subject to write an article on. The problem isn’t that he can’t think of a subject but rather the fact that there are so many subjects to choose from. This may be significant as Gardiner’s indecision is due to a wealth of topics being available to him. None of which appear to satisfy his mind. It would be understandable if Gardiner could think of nothing to write about but the opposite is occurring. Simply put Gardiner cannot make up his mind hence his predicament. Some critics might suggest that Gardiner would find matters easier if he just stuck to one subject rather than allowing for his mind to race from subject to subject. However if this indecision was not at the forefront of Gardiner’s mind he would not have managed to write the essay. Instead he would have directly pursued his chosen subject (The Force of Habit) and began to write.
What is also interesting about the essay is that Gardiner’s indecision is not just confined to the subject matter he will write on. As the essay progresses the reader notices that Gardiner also has difficulty in deciding which boot to put on first. Something that was once a very natural habit to him has become a matter of confusion. As to whether Gardiner’s confusion is driven by his inability to choose a subject matter to write upon is difficult to say. Gardiner’s mind throughout the story appears to be racing and it would seem to be a natural progression that he shifts his confusion from a subject to write on to the next thing he attempts to do (put his boots on). However it is also possible that Gardiner due to his inability to choose a subject to write upon has begun to question himself and his habits. If this is the case then Gardiner is not only confused but beginning to feel insecure about himself and his ability to work.
An effortless task of deciding to put on his boots stops Gardiner in his tracks but does provide him with his subject matter ‘The Force of Habit.’ Which seems to be an appropriate title for the direction that Gardiner decides to take. He is questioning the reasoning behind his (and others) habits. Why people might constantly do one thing one way rather than doing the opposite every now and again. Something which would further relate to the theme of insecurity. People’s habits define them and their actions. Many people might not feel comfortable putting their left boot on before their right boot. Fearing that something improper might happen to them. As though they will encounter bad luck should they not follow a long serving habit. Gardiner himself does not appear to be alien to this idea. Hence his inability to choose which boot to put on first. Gardiner also quotes prestigious people from the past who have found themselves in the same predicament as him. This may be important as Gardiner by using other people’s indecision appears to be justifying his own. Without necessarily looking at things that little bit closer and his own failings. If anything Gardiner uses others to not only justify his position but to deflect from it.
The end of the essay is also interesting as Gardiner appears to have moment of realisation when he is trying on his jacket. He realises that he does everything by habit and not randomly. It really isn’t that important which boot or shoe a person puts on first. It’s more important that the task is complete without difficulty. To progress to the next task. Which for Gardiner is to write his article ‘The Force of Habit.’ The reader also is left suspecting that Gardiner will include being unreasonable in his article and possibly reflect on the insecurities of man to perform to the best of their abilities due to being constrained by habit. Which may suggest to some that habit is debilitating and unproductive to man. Though as to why man forms habits is difficult to say. It may because of a single thought process that includes feelings of insecurity or worry that things do not go right unless a task is performed in a particular manner. But perhaps the real reason that man is prone to developing habits is because he is a creature of habit himself. Comfortable with performing tasks and functions in a set manner.