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EV Lucass short story Third Thought is a satire (a satire is a story which uses humour and wit to shame

individuals to act better. It is used for social and behavioral criticism. See Wikipedia) on hypocrisy and
self-justifications that people use to validate their mean and narrow behavior. The title of the story is a
word play on the idea of how people change their minds on second thought. So in this story on third
thought the authors friend decides to give the curiosity shop owner only a pound when initially he had
thought of giving more than forty pounds as a sort of finders fee.

In the beginning when the unnamed protagonist had realized that a painting by Turner (important British
painter) was languishing in a roadside curiosity shop (small shops where cheap knick-knacks and
imitations) he buys it for only ten shillings which is a laughably small sum to pay for a genuine piece of
artwork of a famous painter. He then sold the painting for fifty pounds and made a great profit. The man
by his own self-deprecating admission had been an unsuccessful speculator in the financial market, so
this fortunate turn of events put him in a generous mood and he thought that he should share his good
luck with the curiosity shop owner. He sets aside half of his earnings from the sale of the painting for him
and also an explanatory note. However late that night or rather early next morning he wakes up
suddenly and as a delayed reaction to his own decision to part with a portion of his profit starts to
rethink his previous generosity as quixotic. Quixotic means to be impractically idealistic. He decided
to send only ten pounds and a note.

This change of heart is nicely documented by the narrator. He first thinks that he was being idiotically
idealistic by sending half of his fifty pounds to the shop owner. Then he mentally berates the man by
calling him inept or inefficient at his work since he was the one who sold the potential Turner at a
miniscule price which demonstrated his lack of business acumen. Moreover the narrator thinks that he
himself should not reward the man for his mistake. The narrator changes his mind again a bit later and
decides on the princely sum of ten pounds. Now he thinks that the present (notice how the shop
owner is now someone who is being patronized or condescended to rather than being a partner as he
was at the beginning of the story) of ten pounds was too much as well. The narrator justifies himself by
casting himself in the role of the generous and sensible buyer who was making a present of five pounds
to the shop keeper as ten pounds would put him above his station i.e. would make him presumptuous
and expect similar treatment from his other patrons. The protagonist justified lessening the money by
saying that he was doing the shop keeper a favour by protecting him against future disappointments.

The narrators rationalizations for his actions become more and more absurd and self-serving. At first he
did not want come across as nave for sharing half of his wealth with a virtual stranger, and then he
thought that he should act as a sort of reality-check to the shop keeper and reduced the sum further.
Finally he decides that even five pounds was too much. He takes refuge in the most implausible (flimsy)
excuse yet; he says he should not anger the Business Goddess if there is such a creature by
squandering away the first piece of luck he had got in business. However later that day he loses the one
pound that he had decided to give at bridge. The shop keeper in the end gets nothing and is none the
wiser for his loss.

The narrator says at the end that buyers and dealers need not take each other into consideration while
doing business as once the financial transaction is over they do not owe each other anything least of all
a portion of the profits theyve earned through a sale. The narrator uses this reason to soothe his
conscience regarding his fortuitous (lucky) of the Turner painting. Despite starting out with the
gentlemanly intention of acknowledging the shop keeper as a partner he ultimately does not share his
fortunes at all as he says that businessmen may profit from each other but they are not obligated or
ethically bound to share it. The mental gymnastics that the narrator had to go through in the course of a
single day to reach such a coldly rational conclusion reveals the complexity of human behaviour. The
repeated second thoughts that he had slowly led him to the outcome that was most profitable for him.
Also his justifications silenced his uneasy conscience by implying that he was helping the shop keeper
by not giving him so much money as it would lead to later disappointments. Finally he invokes the name
of a self-invented deity to put the seal of divine approval on his judgement. So on third thought he
uses the money to pay his debt at cards and does not even send the note to inform the shop keeper of
his discovery and good fortune. Herein lies the humour of the story.