Brownsville is a story collection based around the people and experiences Oscar Casares grew up around. RG is about a man who lends his neighbor a hammer. Year after year, he thinks about this hammer that has yet to be returned, but he refuses to ask for it back. In the particular short story, RG, he confronts the way assumptions create tension between people where there need not be any.
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The main character, RG, assumes that Bannert was aware that he was keeping the hammer from him. He states, “I understand that most people would’ve already done something about the hammer, but I’m not most people. I never felt it was my responsibility. Bannert’s a grown man. He knew what he was doing.” (Casares 30). He stated even earlier that, “My wife said Bannert probably just forgot. I don’t know how an honest man forgets for almost four years.” (Casares 27). By stating that the thing Bannert was doing was oppositional to what an honest man would do, this leads the reader to believe that Bannert is not an honest man in RG’s eyes. The assumption that Bannert was clearly keeping the hammer from RG held him from getting the thing he wanted, is a stark example that assumptions lead to tension between two people.
RG goes as far as to assume that Bannert is entitled, and this leads RG to have an unsavory opinion of how he deals with his interactions. RG states, “Right there’s the difference between us. Bannert takes everything for granted. Why should I have kept his table one minute longer than I needed it? I was glad that he had a table and he was willing to lend it to me in the first place. He thought it was okay to bring back my hammer when it was convenient, when it suited him. I don’t work that way.” (Casares 30). This view that because Bannert doesn’t hand back things immediately and that is directly evident of bad character makes it so that RG believes Bannert is a bad person, simply for forgetting about the hammer. This assumption leads to RG creating a separation between them in their cultural moral compass and leads the reader to think that RG believes he has better moral character than Bannert because of the hammer incident. This creates tension between the characters based on an assumption about another’s integrity due to a cultural difference in how to deal with borrowed belongings.
Lastly, readers see that in the end Bannert perceivably believes that the hammer truly is his. In the text it’s shown, “There [the hammer] was after four years. It didn’t look any different from the day he had borrowed it. I held the hammer again and it felt like a missing finger that had been reattached to my hand. So, yes, maybe he really had forgotten that it was my hammer. That didn’t excuse the past four years, but at least it explained to me how a mistake could’ve happened” (Casares 38). This statement that the main character believes a mistake was a possibility shows that it is revealed that he finally accepts that Bannert could have forgotten about the hammer’s origin entirely. This shows how that when an assumption is cleared up, a new possibility that shows that perhaps another person was not stealing one’s belongings without malicious intent, he was able to move past the event. It states, “I wanted to say more and set things straight with him, explain the misunderstanding, and see if maybe there was some way to put this behind us. It was just a hammer that had caused this. Maybe we could even laugh about the whole thing.” (Casares 39). This demonstrates that after RG realizes that Bannert likely didn’t mean to steal the hammer, the issue could be put behind them. In conclusion, it is shown how a misunderstanding and assumption leads to the degradation of the other character, whereas once the situation was cleared up, the tension behind the characters was shown as unnecessary.