To tell you the truth I did not understand anything that I read the first time around. It was really confusing because of the various characters and the way the plot was structured. What I did gather was that the story started at the end then went to the beginning. The son's name was Woody and the father, Morris. The biggest part of the story is set during the Great Depression even though it is only a memory of Woody's when he is older. Morris was known to be a con man and had many vices in addition to cheating on his wife. During this time Woody was going to a seminar school and his father got into a bind and needed to get money for his mistress. So he meets with his son and tells him that he wants to ask Mrs. Skoglund for the money. Woody does not want to go because that lady is also his benefactor. Being the son, he doesn't have a choice but to accompany his father to ask for money. Morris is not a very religious person and I believe the story says that he is an atheist which is completely different from Mrs. Skoglund, a devout woman. While they are in the parlor asking for the money Mrs. Skoglund gets a minute to pray to God to give her guidance. Now Morris gets worried, not knowing if she bought the story or is going to give him money, so decides to steal a silver dish from her just in case she says no. After fighting with his father, they came to the consensus that if she does agree to it they will put the dish back. Mrs. Skoglund does give them the money but Morris doesn't put the dish back. Later on Woody leaves the family to go with Halina but does not leave them without meeting their needs- he has already applied for them to receive welfare. In the end, Morris dies at the hospital after years of struggle.
One of the aspects of the story is the religion. The Selbst family is majorly christian but they were Jews before. The father is mostly an atheist and does not care for religion because it "was a demonstration on behalf of real life and free instincts, against religion and hypocrisy." In his eyes they were just fools that were being caught up the things people told them and not for what was real. Many times Morris was just trying to use them but interestingly did not let his son become part of what he did not agree with. Even though Morris is depicted as a bad person, he seems to be above the whole religion thing which makes him be more level headed and logical when it comes to this aspect. Unfortunately many religions are only trying to take away people's money and say whatever the people want to hear so they can keep on coming. And the sad thing is that the bible shows us that there is a specific way of worshiping God and it is not what most religions are doing.
Another aspect that struck my interest was the way that Woody devoted most of his time to serving others but in the end he was not happy with his life.
"Woody did her shopping on Fridays, filled her freezer. Also, Friday night he always spent with Helen. Saturday he did his big weekly shopping. Saturday night he devoted to Mom and his sisters. So he was too busy to attend to his own feelings except, intermittently, to note to himself, “First Thursday in the grave.” “First Friday, and fine weather.” “First Saturday; he’s got to be getting used to it.” Under his breath he occasionally said, “Oh, Pop.”
It is sad that he did not enjoy his life because of helping other people. So it raises the question of how much we should help others and why we should do it. Maybe it was because the people he was helping did not care much for him. But Woody cared a lot for his father, I feel like if he knew that he really did care for him just did not express it in the conventional way. He knew that Woody did not like seminar school so devised a way to get him out and even though he left it was with the intention (probably) to not let his children go hungry.