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Big Man Vs Small Man - a Sociological Look at Knight's "the Handler"

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Sarah Schwartz

Dr. Petty

ENGL-1000-003

September 15, 2014

Big Man vs Small Man: A Sociological Look at Knight's "The Handler"

Damon Knight's "The Handler" is a short science fiction story that takes place in the future where humans and machines are inter-changeable. The main characters are Pete, a big boisterous man who is liked by all, and Harry, Pete's meek and timid handler who is vastly overlooked. The story forces the reader to look at how we as a society dismiss people who are small- whether it is in size or character. Knight demonstrates how people hide behind a persona in order to be liked, because sometimes being yourself just isn't enough.

In the first paragraph Pete is introduced as a show-stopping big man who can draw a crowd just by arriving on scene- "When the big man came in, there was a movement in the room like bird dogs pointing" (Knight 45). He has the attention of both the females and males in the room just as any charismatic, attractive man would in most social situations. Knight exposes how easily drawn people are to big personalities, whether it is from physical attraction or envy, "...he let go both girls, grabbed a bald, blushing little man and thumped him on the arm-"you were great, sweetheart, I mean it, really great. Now HEAR THIS!" he shouted, over all the voices that were clamoring Pete this, Pete that" (Knight 45). Pete has the entire crown completely wrapped up in his presence.

As the story moves along with Pete congratulating and thanking the crowd for their great work in the show, we meet Harry, whose introduction was nothing like his machines, "He had a perspiring brown face under a shock of black hair. He was a very small man, almost a dwarf, stoop-shouldered and round-backed in a sweaty brown singlet and shorts" (Knight 46 & 47). When the group sees this small, sad little man they are completely turned off by him, even ignoring him or pretending not to hear him-"Ruthie, that was quite a moment there, when the fishbowl busted, wasn't it?" "Huh? Excuse me, honey, I didn't hear you" (Knight 47). Even Ruthie, Pete's girlfriend, overlooked Harry because he was too low for her to pay any sort of attention to him. His size and stature was unlike her machine-boyfriend, therefor he was unworthy of her attention. This situation brings up the point that people

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