Justified and ancient. Throughout the years, the modern world has had an enormous impact on third world countries, where we continually influence them on different levels. Whether or not this is a good thing, is also continually discussed, like in this story where the theme is primarily our relations to the people from less developed countries. We usually fail to remember that we are in fact not cleverer nor superior when speaking of intelligence, just because we live in a world where electricity among other things is not an evolution, but a matter of course.
These things are perfectly illustrated in the short-story “justified and ancient”, where Lee is a clear representative of the narrow-minded modern man. This confusion about the village grows as we follow Lee making his arrangements with the village president, until another happening makes the reader stop and wonder. When the deal is over the village president gives Lee a necklace worth nothing and expects the Zippo lighter in return as a “gesture of trust”.
Punjee sharply announces that one must not offend the village president and Lee feels deeply pressured by this act. So why would anyone religious expect such gestures and why do Punjee and the president continually talk with mysteriously low voices in their own language? Soon the reader is about to find out. Throughout the story we have heard it all from Lee’s perspective, but as he walks out the village and sees a lady with a donkey, the perspective changes completely.
Suddenly we hear everything from her point of view, which certainly changes the whole picture. From the neutral perspective of the woman, we learn that the village president actually delivers information to the local police, in favor of some money. This means that Lee will probably be caught the minute he steps into town and as it is described the policemen will enjoy this event greatly. Although the village has grown under these circumstances, which the president has created, the woman describes him as a man without honor.
Surely she feels that despite the growth, corruption is too high a price to pay. What started out as giving the indication of a holy place, turns out to be a place founded on corruption. This indicates that the third world is not only influenced in a cultural way, as seen with the song, but also in their attitude towards economics and business. Materialism has had its entry in the third world, where the priorities are no longer religion or honor but in fact money. Lee’s attitude towards the Indian people, epresents the opinion a lot of western people posses. The opinion, that because we are richer, we are wiser and therefore superior to those people less fortunate. This story shows the complete opposite, because the bright one fools the less bright one, meaning that the village president fools Lee. Honorable or not the village president turns out to be far smarter than first expected, so perhaps the message of this story is, that one should never judge a book by its cover, but at least turn a few pages first.