Value in Exchange
In “Offloading For Mrs. Schwartz” by George Saunders, the narrator lives in a society guarded by the commodification of human experiences in the pursuit of money. Situated across the mall from O My God, a vintage religious statuary store, the narrator owns a business selling holographic modules. Despite the economic consciousness displayed by the narrator’s community, the narrator chooses to reject his societal standard of wealth by being economically content with his life. The narrator rejects societal capitalistic structure by accepting the plight of his failing business and leaving his house with a balcony to live in Rockettown, the ghetto, to care for Mrs. Ken Schwartz, an elderly woman. Unlike his society, the narrator loses himself in his charity work for Mrs. Schwartz and ultimately sacrifices his existence in order to provide for Mrs. Schwartz. Paradoxically, the commodification of his existence to provide for Mrs. Schwartz actually liberates him from his materialistic society. With the small sum from the will of Elizabeth’s passing, the narrator opens a shop in the small. The shop “hasn’t turned a profit in months” (Saunders, 150) because “nobody comes in” (Saunders, 148). In addition to the low revenue, the narrator is a defective businessman by allowing customers to leave without collecting payment-- he simply “remind[s] [his customer that] he’s got an outstanding bill. He says thanks… We laugh. We laugh some more. He shakes his head and leaves” (Saunders, 148). Despite the shop’s economic failures, the narrator is at ease with his business and claims: “it’s only my livelihood” (Saunders, 149). The narrator’s nonchalant attitude on the economic status of his business demonstrates his rejection of capitalistic values. Undiscouraged by his failing shop, the narrator partakes in pro-bono work at Rockettown, the ghetto, for Mrs. Schwartz; the charity work for Mrs. Schwartz is the narrator’s “real...