Theft; the act or instance of stealing one?s good without their consent. It is a bad habit that is often acquired and is insidious. Once developed one often justify it with fallacious reasoning to convince themselves that it is indeed normal. This was complex Marya, from the short story ? Theft? by Joyce Carol Oates went through. Marya is a remarkably brilliant student who had to support herself through college by working at a local library because her family was poor. She also is very competitive and diligent. Her classmates and teachers often admire her wit, charm, and articulate arguments. However, ?one cannot judge a book by its cover.? Although Marya, one of the ?scholarship girls,? appears to be an upright, quiet student, she often partakes upon petty theft. These trivial items that she steals materialistically means nothing for her but the act thievery seems to be an outlet for her express her power and triumph over those who undermines her ?perfect record.?
As a ?scholarship girl? Marya is very proud of her intelligence, yet in constant fear of the prospect of failure. She seems to always be preoccupied with studies, grades, employment, and finance and never had time for herself or any one else. She?s constant striving to keep her ?perfect record.? When she feels that her ?perfect record? is jeopardized she becomes indignant and begins to stonewall those around her. Perhaps this is the reason why she steals; to retaliate, to even the score.
? ?Though Mary?s grades for the course were all A?s, the grade posted for her final examination was C; and the final grade for the course was a-humiliating B+?of course she ran up to his office, made an appointment to see him; after a few minutes? clucking and fretting, he [the professor who made the mistake on her final exam] consented to raise the grade to A?A minute later Marya was striding down the corridor, her pulses beating hot, in triumph. In her pocket was the black fountain pen she had lifted from the man?s cluttered desk.?
In this incident one can see how Marya reacted when her straight A?s record was almost ruin by the negligence of the professor. She felt cheated and thus in a whim, she snatched the professor?s pen. Although she didn?t have any realistic used of the pen besides writing her name insanely over and over again in her notebook until it ran out of ink and threw it away, she felt empowered by the act-something that is intangible. The pen symbolizes her triumph over the ?ignorant man? and her shame was erased by it. The instant when the pen passed over from the belonging of the professor to belonging to her was like winning an award or trophy. When an athlete break a world record or defeat an opponent he is endowed with fame, glory, success, and power. The fame and status of the opponent is then transfer to the victor. This is the feeling Marya sought. In stealing the pen she now receives the professor?s essence and power. According to Freud a man?s greatest power lies in his ability to procreate which translate to his phallus. The pen was an extension of the professor?s phallus and ultimately his power. In taking this pen, she has symbolically castrated him-the person who almost took her ?perfect record? away-and thus gaining this awesome power. She simultaneously eliminated an obstruction and preserved her ?perfect record.?
To Marya, education means an escape from her appalling life; an escape from her social debacle. In order for her to live up to her ?scholarship girl ? status, Marya felt that she must constantly exert herself; thrive for perfection. Everything she does evince this, from the way she acts, live, read. The enigmatic reason why she steals also reflects upon this relentless pursuit of perfection. ? It occurred to her with a chilling certitude that every moment not consciously devoted to her work was an error, a blunder.? With this belief embedded deeply in her unconsciousness she felt that Imogene is insidiously stealing her precise time-she couldn?t ?afford Imogene.? To her Imogene was a social-parasite that is gradually feeding off her and weakening her. Not only did Imogene steal time from her but also she stole her innocence.