Those People Next Door by A.G. Gardiner
In Those People Next Door by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of ignorance, identity, criticism, selfishness, jealousy and tolerance. Taken from his Many Furrows collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of ignorance. Gardiner himself has no idea who his neighbour really is. Something that would also play on the theme of identity. Yet he can be critical of his neighbour for reasons that do not appeal to his own pleasures. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Gardiner or in fact many people are selfish in nature when it comes to their neighbours. It is also noticeable that the same cannot be said about two people who may live near one another in the country. Rather one would know nearly everything about their neighbour yet the same cannot be said for those who live in the city. It is as though city life is depersonalized. That nobody has time to frequent a neighbour’s door and introduce themselves to their neighbour. There is no sense of community rather there is just constant criticism of a neighbour even though one does not necessarily know the neighbour. Which could be Gardiner’s way of suggesting that people can be jealous of their neighbour without even knowing the truth about them.
What is also interesting about the story is that for the most Gardiner allows himself and others to feed into the negative perception of their neighbours. Though Gardiner has no proof of any misgivings that the neighbour might have committed. Perhaps he is suggesting that society, particularly those who live in the city, are too quick to judge their neighbours. Without taking into consideration the neighbour’s motives for his actions or allowing for a person to get to know their neighbour. At most a pleasant and courteous remark is made when meeting a neighbour. Yet the reality is one will still think ill of their neighbour for any amount of reasons. Often triggered by jealousy or selfishness. It is better to be kinder to your neighbour. To get to know them before one makes a judgement on their character. It is there were the problem may lay. When we as neighbours make an unqualified judgement against our neighbours in order for us to feel better about ourselves. When the reality is we should focus on ourselves rather than on our neighbours.
It is also possible that Gardiner is suggesting that an individual is unable to live so closely to another individual. That human nature and again feelings of jealousy and selfishness will arise. Causing a person to judge their neighbour in an unflattering light. It is better for a person to be more tolerant of their neighbour particularly when they do not know their neighbours’ circumstances. It is easy to judge what one is blind to circumstances and harder to be critical of an individual when all the facts are known. Something that Gardiner makes clear by way of his introduction. Some people may side with the man who was banging the tins while others might side with the musicians who were only trying to make a living. Both have a cause to make noise yet if they knew each other better there may not be as much animosity between both parties. If anything there would be more tolerance from both sides with regard to the noise that is created. An arrangement could have been brought about in whereby the musicians limit their teaching lessons to certain times. Times that do not bring annoyance to their neighbour.
It is this tolerance that Gardiner suggests one should learn when it comes to neighbours and their actions. Life would be easier for all concerned should one be that little bit more tolerant. There would be fewer arguments, fewer jealousies and selfishness towards a neighbour would dissipate. However the reality is that people will not change. Things will remain the same. It is as though a person’s ego will not allow themselves to come to an understanding with their neighbour. A war of walls occurs with neighbour retaliating against neighbour. Spurning on further jealousy and selfishness with no real winner persevering. It is easier to be ignorant of a neighbour than to try and understand them. Even if by understanding them a friendship might be formed. Instead society sticks to its guns and emotions and blames their neighbours on things that may not be the neighbour’s fault. Being reflective is difficult for any person but it is made more difficult when an individual remains stubborn and pursues the route that the man with the tins takes. Though we as readers never learn of his fate we are aware that his motive was unreasonable. Should he have been friendlier with his neighbour and taken the time to get to know them. Things might not have turned out as they did.