Tight Corners by E.V. Lucas
In Tight Corners by E.V. Lucas we have the theme of struggle, risk, self-importance, appearance and good fortune. Taken from his Giving and Receiving collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Lucas may be exploring the theme of struggle. The narrator knows that he does not have the money to buy the Daubigny but he hopes that by having a little bit of fun others will out bid him and relieve him of the pressures of having to admit that he does not have the money to purchase anything that is being auctioned. However the narrator’s own self-importance takes over and he bids on the Daubigny knowing very well that he does not have the money. It is a risk that most people would not take but the narrator feels invincible for some reason. As though he can enjoy a rich man’s game while not having the funds to play the game. If anything the narrator is allowing for his ego to run riot and take control. As to the reason he decides to do so is difficult to say. He has no one to impress (apart from his friend who thinks the matter is hilarious).
It is as though by bidding on the Daubigny the narrator is allowing for himself to struggle mentally. A condition that he finds worse than any type of physical struggle an individual might have. However the narrator is wholly responsible for his actions whereas the physical misfortunes mentioned in the essay are a case of bad luck. The narrator has brought about his own potential downfall. The reader suspecting that the narrator may be wishing to impress others at his skill when it comes to bidding on items in the auction. It is only through good luck that the narrator’s ego has been salvaged and he even has the audacity to look for an extra fifty guineas. Rather than accepting the fifty that were originally offered to him. In reality the narrator is taking risks he cannot afford to financially take. He is allowing for his pride or ego to write cheques he cannot cash. Which is the root of the mental stress that the narrator endures. Rather than being happy with his own bank balance the narrator decides to make his attendance in Christie’s into a game. One in which he again cannot afford.
The title of the essay is also interesting as the narrator really does paint himself into a tight corner and one that he only gets out of through good fortune. The narrator also appears to justify his belief that mental tight corners can be just as bad as or worse than physical tight corners. However there is a difference which the narrator is not prepared to admit and that difference is personal responsibility. The narrator is personally responsible for his actions. Should he have just enjoyed the auction as a bystander he would not have encountered the difficulties he found himself in. If anything the reader might suspect that appearance is important to the narrator. How he comes across to others. Image wise he has been successful by bidding on items knowing that someone else will outbid him. The narrator has given the impression that he is a man of means. Something which couldn’t be further from the truth. The narrator knows he is not a wealthy man and that he is trying to impress others in the auction room. Even though they are strangers to him. Again this may be important as it could play on the theme of self-importance or ego.
There is also a sense of relief at the end of the essay when the narrator asks his friend has his hair turned white. This imagery suggests to the reader just how tight a corner the narrator had put himself in. A corner he would have remained in if the original bidder on the Daubigny had not changed his mind. In reality the narrator’s risk taking may have paid off and he may have profited by one hundred guineas. However he has caused himself unnecessary mental stress in order to feed his ego. As for mental stress and physical stress being compatible Lucas makes a fair point by relaying to the reader the narrator’s story. Though it is difficult to sympathize with the narrator as he has brought on the stress by his own egotistical actions. Which may leave the reader to suggest that the narrator might find himself in another tight corner in the future should he not keep a check on his risk taking. In reality the narrator may not have learnt anything from his experience in Christie’s and may continue to take risks that are sure to cause more stress to the narrator.