University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Compare and Contrast: ‘Always a Motive’ and ‘Gentlemen, Your Verdict’
Recently I’ve read two very good short stories: Always a Motive (by Dan Ross) and Gentlemen, Your Verdict (by Michael Bruce). Always a Motive is about a young man, named Joe Manetti, who is accused of kidnapping. Gentlemen, Your Verdict is about five men who are questioned about the murder of sixteen crewmembers. While both Always a Motive and Gentlemen, Your Verdict are written in third person and pull at the readers emotions, Always a Motives theme is how people tend to see things only from one perspective and things can change in an instant while Gentlemen, Your Verdicts theme focuses on the justification of murder in certain circumstances. Gentlemen, Your Verdict is a story that teaches us that sometimes in life we have to kill, or let someone die to ensure the survival of others.
In this story Lieutenant-Commander Oram (who’s in charge of the submarine) is forced to play god when his submarine goes down. There is only enough air for two days and rescue won’t come until five days after their oxygen supply will run out. Lieutenant-Commander Oram would rather let some of his crew survive than have them all die. But he has a hard choice to make: who will be the ones to survive, which I believe is also a part of the theme. He makes a solemn choice to kill sixteen men, including himself, to save the lives of the five married men on-board; because they have a wife and possibly even children that would live sorrowfully if their father was gone. This statement is turned around in Always a Motive, where a father loses his son and wife and is forced to live a miserable life alone. Joe Manetti was a father to a little boy and a happy husband, but tragedy struck when his son was ran over and killed by a truck.
After that Joe’s life fell apart; his wife left him, he doesn’t work anymore, he barely eats, and he runs away from his problems by driving , driving for however long until he feels okay. One day during one of his driving ‘spells’ he comes back from getting groceries and finds a baby on his backseat. He finds a note on the baby saying he belonged to the Millers. Joe takes care of the babe and brings him home to a worried father; but he suddenly finds himself getting questioned about kidnapping the Miller boy. Now, the inspector who questions him finds out Joe’s story and he feels for Joe; but he knows that when there’s “[people] like [Joe] involved” (Tigers of the Snow p109), people who have lost their children, they usually are the culprits.
Abruptly an expressway toll station worker comes bearing an alibi for Joe, saying that at the time the Miller boy was kidnapped Joe was at the toll. This reveals the themes of the story: how people tend to see things only from one perspective and things can change in an instant. The inspector only saw the side of Joe that made him a kidnapper and suddenly Joe is an unsuitable kidnapper. But there is one thing that lacks from Joe’s story, his motive for returning the Miller boy without the help of the police. But the man who lost his boy only wanted to see the man who found his. The moment that Joe says this is one of the most heartbreaking pieces of literature that I have read. Both Always a Motive and Gentlemen, Your Verdict have their moments where, as a reader, you feel for the characters. However different these stories are, they both pull at the readers heartstrings.