Summary of the essay, “On Saying Please”
Alpha of the Plough is the pen name of Alfred George Gardiner, an English journalist, biographer and essayist. “On saying please” is an apt commentary on the mannerism of people in the society. The writer wants people to be civil and courteous. The world is a place where, we have to live with a lot of different people who have different attitudes, different manners, traditions and mentalities. They behave in different ways but we have to put up with them so that life can smoothly go on. If we do not adopt good manners, we will poison the whole atmosphere and spoil the stream of life.
Moreover, the writer wants to tell us that there is no law that can compel people, to have good manners. No law can force people to be well mannered. But the civilization, culture and tradition of all good nations enjoin a man to be civil and tolerant. So people should have good manners to make their lives easier and more pleasant.
The writer presents an incident in the city office where the liftman threw away a person who insulted him by treating him as a social inferior. The person was demanding “top.” The liftman asked for “top, please.” It led to a bitter quarrel. It was just a matter of “please” The elevator was punished for his violent behaviour. It happened because the law does not recognize the damage to our feelings, but if we experience material or physical loss, the law can protect us. The liftman was punished for breaking a definite rule of law by hitting the customer. We may sympathize with the elevator whose feelings have been hurt, but we will have to admit that the law is quite reasonable.
Good manners are essential to success. Poor manners are not a criminal offence. No law allows us to kick back the person who is misbehaving us. Better manners and bad manners are like infection and build a reaction chain. When some burglar comes into the building, one is allowed to hit him, but if anyone hurts anyone’s feelings, the rule is silent. The liftman ‘s attitude is not appreciable because he is reproaching bad manners with bad manners.
Bad manners are subjective. Their effects vary from person to person. Sometimes even a slight remark or action can hurt a man. It depends on our state of mind at that time. If we are already hurt or disturbed, then we can be provoked by anything. As was the case with a man who did not say “please” to the elevator. He was rude because he was misbehaved by his employer. The employer did so because he had been bitten by his wife, and his wife was angry because the cook had been insolent, as the maid had replied back to the cook. This shows how quickly bad manners begin a chain reaction of social life penetration.
All religions have preached in favour of good manners, but no religion or constitution has ever tried to legislate against bad manners.
From the writer’s point of view, “Please,” “Thank you” and “Sorry” are the little courtesies by which we keep the machine of life oiled and sweetly running. They create an atmosphere of cordiality and goodwill. The writer urges us to restore these manners and behaviours so that society can become a safe and pleasant place to live in.
The lift-man in the office threw a passenger out of the lift as the latter was impolite. He didn’t use the word ‘please’ while asking him to take it to the top.
The author takes the view that discourtesy is not a legal offence. If a person knocks down another person because he has violated the rule, then the former is acquitted. Yet the liftman was incorrect, as the law does not authorize someone to use aggression when anyone else is discourteous. Secure Him from assault. The uncivil person can be considered ill-managed, but the law does not compel him to say ‘please.’
In this case, moral and intellectual damage has nothing to do with that. Perhaps the lift-man was seriously injured because he saw it as a smear to his social status. If he had been kicked on the foot, he may have challenged the law to recover it, but a wound ‘s damage of self-respect might last longer. If a person is wounded by self-respect, he remains depressed until he inflicts such a wound on some other human. Evil way of beginning a vicious cycle. Bad temper and mood cause widespread infection. We do more harm to social life than the offences that the code of the panel recognises. The law can’t work in this field anyway, because it’s so big. It is true that there is no law which requires us to be polite. Politeness of speech and etiquette is beneficial not only to the person who is practising it but also to those around. Poor manners corrupt the flow of life in general.
Bad as well as good manners, they are infectious. They ‘re creating a chain of reactions. Once upon a time, the writer had a chance to travel on a bus. Unfortunately, he had zero money in his pocket. He thought he might be thrown out of the bus by the driver. The conductor gave him the ticket and asked the author to pay the money later. For a long time, the driver entertained the passengers with his cheerful mood and courteous words. That’s why people were waiting for his bus to get on board.
One day, sitting at the top of the bus, the author was reading a book. Suddenly, his sensitive part of his toe had been trampled on rather heavily. The writer looked up; it was his friend, the conductor, who had already been humiliated by his sense of sorrow. Although the author was badly injured, the good behaviour of the man healed his pain.
Answer the following questions
Q. 1. In what sense is courtesy an investment?
Ans. Courtesy is a good investment because in lightening other people’s spirits by being courteous, he is Lightening his own task.
Q. 2.What are small courtesies, according to A.G. Gardiner? How do they help us in our day to day life?
Ans. According to A.G. Gardiner, saying ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘excuse me’, ‘much obliged’ etc. are small courtesies. They lighten our work and sweeten our life.
Q. 3. What better way of taking revenge does the writer suggest to the angry lift man?
Ans. The writer suggests to the angry lift-man that he should have treated the gentleman who would not say ‘please’ with elaborate politeness.
Q. 4. Why was the young lift-man in a city office fined?
Ans. The young liftman threw the passenger out of his lift because the passenger had refused to say, “Top please”. That is why the young liftman was fined.
Q. 5. How do good and bad manners affect the people around according to A.G Gardiner?
Ans. Good and bad manners affect our daily life very much. Good manners help the machine of our life oiled and running sweetly. Bad manners infect the world by poisoning the stream of life.