Considering Poor People

Never before in his life had Amory considered poor people. He thought cynically how completely he was lacking in all human sympathy. O. Henry had found in these people romance, pathos, love, hate—Amory saw only coarseness, physical filth, and stupidity. He made no self-accusations: never any more did he reproach himself for feelings that were natural and sincere. He accepted all his reactions as a part of him, unchangeable, unmoral. This problem of poverty transformed, magnified, attached to some grander, more dignified attitude might some day even be his own problem; at present it roused only his profound distaste.

This Side of Paradise p. 182

Amory is his own god. His feelings are the real him—he thinks—however silly and foolish that is. Only God is who he is. As fallen humanity, we cannot trust wholly to feelings; they are unreliable compasses on our journey because they are subject to our ignorance: Amory saw poor people; O. Henry found something in them, i.e., he took the time to know them and overcome any prejudices or misunderstandings—or have his prejudices confirmed. 

Amory refused to know; thus he only had feelings to go by—feelings that were short-sighted, misinformed, evil. His feelings are in no way unmoral, for feelings lead to actions. Here they arouse distaste—a sure sin since we are called to love our fellow man. 

And we live today in a world where feelings reign. I feel; therefore, that must be right. Feelings may be natural, but they are by no means necessarily sincere. If there is no foundation on which to judge feelings, then we live in a world of great contradiction, and might will make right. And suffering will be all our lot. 

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