Emil Shortstory Response

In the short story “Emil” by Stewart McLean, Morely demonstrates the impact of compassion and a shift in perspective. This story shows that peoples’ social position can impact how others perceive them, and these stereotypes influence how we treat those less fortunate than us, so we should take care to consider how our perceptions influence our actions. She shows kindness for Emil, even when he is stigmatized by others in their community for his social class and unusual behaviour. For example, when she finds him digging up a “gold flame spirea” from her neighbor’s garden, she asks him “Is that for your garden, Emil?” When she tries to understand his actions as opposed to becoming frustrated, she demonstrates a shift from the norm. She shares this situation with her family, and they have different suggestions as to what she should do. Sam, her son, tells her to “Call the police and send him to jail. He stole”, and his sister, Stephanie, insults Emil and says to “just take the plants back.” These suggestions are the polar opposites of Morely’s actions; they have negative perceptions of the homeless and use these perceptions to make decisions that impact the lives of others. Both Sam and Stephanie don’t hold the same view of Morely in that they don’t see Emil as an equal. They have allowed Emil’s homelessness and unusual behaviour to impact how they think he should be treated. However, Morely has erred on the side of compassion and shown him a little kindness. When her children suggested punishing Emil, she “took him stuff for the aphids.” This kindness shows how she challenged general social norms and decided to show someone less fortunate a bit of generosity; she hasn’t let stigma and negative perceptions influence how she treats him.

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