Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Landlord by Wells Tower

“The Landlord” is a story of astonishingly stubborn passivity in the face of situations which necessitate decision and action. The theme if not common in contemporary literature is relevant as reflection of the complacency that plagues modern culture today.

Lord of the manor, lord of the castle, landlord, alas the narrator is none of these. He is fact tottering towards peasant-hood, having owned 52 properties but which has now precariously dwindled to a mere nineteen by his apparent inaction. These few properties, including the house in which he lives, are also threatened to be seized so that he is forced to envision selling the cottage his parents left him and which he had hoped to retire to.

Enmeshed by his inaction with comically troubled characters that take over his lifeless life as he simply follows the direction they push him sending him to and fro like an empty bag caught in the wind. Berated by his worker, manipulated by his tenants, chastised by his daughter, he accepts everything meekly trudging day by day in the decadent growing squalor which threatens to swallow him while never once rebelling.

From the first paragraph is another character with this passive tendency, a tenant who is waiting for life to knock on his door as he sits around reading motivational books from which he quotes to his landlord while accepting his lot of living in one of the most filthiest apartments. The tenant owes three months rent which instead of paying he has the audacity to tell the landlord that a man like himself should wear tailored shirts. The landlord instead of growing understandably angry at being told what to do with his money by this tenant who owes him thirteen hundred dollars and threatening him with eviction allows the conversation to drift casually.

Todd Toole, his employee casually and systematically bombards him with a flow of rude insults which he accepts as his due. His daughter who has moved back home and apparently has the means to help her father does not but instead obliviously humiliates him as a way of expressing herself. Then there is the tenant, Connie, who does not do her part at keeping her apartment pest free but orders the landlord to fumigate which might not be a necessity had she keep her food in a more sanitary manner. She then brazenly takes this moment to explain to him that she legally does not have to pay rent which she declares is her right covered by the constitution. After claiming this absurd idea she foists food on him which he doesn’t want, doesn’t like, but meekly accepts and just as he is about to escape her presence, she makes a date with him which he feels obliged to go on.

Finally at the end of the story, grasping at some initiative much too late, he arrives at Armando’s apartment to find it entirely empty and stripped of all hardware including fridge and stove with only a small note which the tenant had evidently left to himself. The note explains the key to all this complacent thinking, a self deluded dream that no action is required for success.

“Money comes easily and frequently”

The narrator puts the note in his wallet demonstrating his belief in this illogical idea while bringing our attention to a wallet we fear will soon hold nothing but the note if he does not abandon the foolish notion. ♦

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