Save as Many as You Ruin
Through life we make some choice as humans. Some of these choices can be fatal for the rest of our lives and maybe we will regret them till the day we die. But sometimes, fate will give us a second chance. When we are granted one of these chances, we need to seize them and make sure we won’t make the same mistake again. This happens to the main character in the short-story “Save as Many as you Ruin” and he realizes the mistake he made and grabs the chance to make it up.
Gerard is a man in his late 30’s who one day runs into his ex-girlfriend Laurel and has dinner with her, and afterward walks home with her. She is the only woman whom he has ever loved, but when they used to date he had sex with another woman, Issy, and she got pregnant. Laurel breaks off their relationship, and when Gerard’s daughter, Lucy, is six months old, Issy leaves them and is found dead four years later. Now he lives alone with Lucy who is now eight years old, and when Gerard comes home from Laurel’s apartment she asks if she will move in, and he tells her to wait and see.
“Gerard is a handsome man”(p.1 l.34) who lives New York city “Yellow taxis are nodding through the snowy dusk. The lights from the shop windows are beckoning”(p. 2 l.27-28) and “Walking up fifth Avenue” (p. 2 l. 23). He is very thoughtful and mindful. He thinks a lot about the things that are going on around him. He is the protagonist in the story, but he is a little antagonistic towards himself. He keeps thinking about the past, and the choices he made. He doesn’t know if he made the wrong decision, but he knows that he was the one who ruined it for himself. He remembers “the feeling of being in love with Laurel and the desire to have sex with Issy”(p.4 l.123-124) which indicates the previous doubts about what path he should take. He decides to have sex with Issy and loses Laurel, who is the only woman he ever loved. He has never forgotten her and he “still has Laurel’s wristwatch at home in his bedside cabinet”(p. 4 l.133)
He is very kind to his daughter, and she seems to be the only light in his life. He is very dedicated to her, and his love for her is obvious and he falls asleep with her every night. She is the only good thing that came out of his choice of what path in life to take.
Now the future has caught up with Gerard, and he walks down the street and it’s snowing. The snow is covering everything. Suddenly, after eight years he sees Laurel again in a coffee shop, and he decides to try to get her attention. He wants to make up for the past, see her again, love her again, and be with her again. The snow is a symbol of this. Just as the snow is covering the ground, it is covering his past footprints. The snow is making all his past mistakes disappearing, and making room for new footprints. “The Invisible man” which is a movie about an invisible man who is caught because of his footprints in the snow hints to what happens to Gerard. His footprints will be seen, since you can’t walk in the snow without leaving footprints.
After he sleeps with Laurel and has talked to Lucy, he feels how his life has changed. He stands in his study, when suddenly he feels “a chill like cold water down his back” (p. 5 l. 198). He feels like he has been given a second chance to make things right, that fate is right there with him. That now, the snow has covered the past.
In the beginning of the story, Gerard thinks about the children who were killed in gas chambers in world war two, and how no one could predict this before it happens. It’s a symbol of how he feels about his life. He can’t predict the future and the consequences of his choices. The mood is melancholic.
Gerard keeps thinking back on his life and how it has affected his present. When he reflects on his daughter and how much he loves her, he starts thinking about the women he has been with. “He has slept with a lot of women,” (p. 2 l. 34) but he would never love them, he will only love Laurel. There is a development of the mood in the story. At first Gerard seems like he doesn’t care about anything and “he thinks of his own footprints and how soon they will disappear” (p.1 l.7) which indicates a carelessness, almost a numbness. But then he meets Laurel and he gets sentimental and thinks back on the past. When he thinks of Issy, who was the main reason, why Laurel left him, he thinks of the “snapping flames at her cremation” (p. 5 l. 197) which is a metaphor for hell. Right after this, he feels the cold chill, and he feels like someone is there. But by morning all this will be forgotten and he can start over his new life. He is relieved.
There are some sharp contrasts in the text. The most dominant contrast is between Issy and Laurel. Issy is described as a free woman who isn’t dependent of others. She leaves her newborn baby to fulfill her own dream. Laurel on the other hand, doesn’t want to share Gerard and has to break it off. She is the type who wants to get married, and Gerard describes he hears a disappointment in her voice when she tells him about her divorce. There is a contrast between Lucy and Issy as well. Issy disappeared and left Gerard alone with Lucy, and Lucy is very loyal to her father and she stays up at night to say goodnight to him. She loves him very much and will never leave him.
These contrasts underline the theme in the story, which is realizing your mistakes and correct them, without regretting the past. Gerard is given this chance and he knows what he has to do to make up for his past. He has had eight years to think about the consequences of his actions, but he still has never regretted having Lucy, whom he loves dearly. He knows that you can’t go back in time and change the course of events, but he knows that he can take his mistakes, turn things around and make up for it. He knows not to make the same mistake twice. The title “Save as Many as Your Ruin” underlines this as well. He saves Lucy, but ruins his relationship with Laurel, but in the end he is able to bring it together and get his happy ending. Every time you ruin something, find the good thing about it and remember that something good came out of the situation, like Lucy is Gerard’s one good thing about losing Laurel.
As a human being, you will make mistakes and you might regret it. But failing is human, and as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice, then it’s a part of life. Gerard realizes this and is able to take the best from the past, reunite it with the best from the present, and then make the best of the future.