Essay: A Fortune by Joy Monica T. Sakaguchi

What is actually worth treasuring in life and what is valuable for us?

Having a fortune is not necessarily synonymous with being rich. A man can be rich in several other ways but that doesn’t mean, he is aware of how fortunate he actually is. Just like the rich father in Joy Monica T. Sakaguchi’s short story “A Fortune”, who is unaware of his son’s values, and doesn’t seems to treasure their relationship. The short story shows us the importance of having a normal father-son-relationship, and the aftermath of a lack of one.

The story is told by a first person narrator using a lot of slang and low class English such as: “D’you wanna see something?” Side 3 Linje 96. This linguistic style supports the point of view of the text as being very subjective. As well, the narration is quite childish when the narrator tries to be reflective: “It’s just that, it must be nice, you know, to be found.” The narrator, which in this case is the main character, is a young man who has had a rough childhood. His father taught him to steal, for his personal gains, when he was 5 years old and he has been pickpocketing ever since. He defines himself through the failed relationship to his father. He looks up to him and wants his acceptance as a worthy son, which is why he is still stealing and saving up the money: “One day Pop will show up again. I’ll hand him the boxful of money” Side 1 Linje 31. Even though he misses him, he knows that his father doesn’t care much for him and does not appreciate him at all: “I just didn’t want to know how much Pop thought I was worth.” Side 1 linje 13-14. The main character tries to find something valuable in his life, which is why he likes fortune cookies so much. He tries to share this fortune with his mother but she doesn’t seem to get it: “She always thinks I’m trying to tell her that she was a bad mother. I don’t know where she gets ideas like that. I just want to share my fortune.” As he can’t really talk to his mother and because his father has left him, he feels very lonely. This is why he immediately feels connected to the little boy who has been left alone by his father at the market: “From the moment I saw him I felt that there was something familiar about him.” Furthermore, the boy enjoys the fortune cookies just as much as the narrator does:” Like me, he seemed to enjoy reading them out loud (…)” He can recognize himself in the boy and suddenly he starts to feel compassion for him. He doesn’t want this boy to feel sad because his father doesn’t treat him well. This is why the main character suddenly decides to give the boy all the fortunes he has collected through his life: “I want you to have my fortunes. You know why? You deserve it, kid, you earned it.” He thinks it’s important that someone tells the boy what he is worth, since his father doesn’t: “I just wanted him to know what he was worth.” The father, however, surely doesn’t know what his son is worth and how to treasure him: “That guy didn’t need his credit cards or cash or eelskin wallet. He didn’t know what a fortune he had anyway.”

The question of what a fortune really is can be answered in different ways as the word fortune has different meanings. One might say that a fortune is something materialistic of value such as money or an eel skin wallet. Others might argue that fortune is simply a synonym for luck. It might be luck when the narrator meets the boy, but it could also be understood in the third meaning of the word, which is destiny. Maybe it’s destiny when the two “boys” meet. In this way, the older one can give some of his fortune to the younger one and maybe improve his self-esteem before it is too late. But it is also a good thing the other way around. As it reads in the main character’s fortune cookie of the day:“ A change in your daily routine will lead you to treasure.” And this is exactly what happens to him. He usually doesn’t steal on Sundays but when he decides to do it anyway, he meets the boy and the whole episode really touches him emotionally and changes his state of mind for the better: “I felt different. I felt good.” By meeting the boy he has the chance of giving some of his wisdom to the boy, but he also gets to realize how bad his own father has treated him. This recognition may cause that he will be able to move on despite of his father’s betrayal when he was a young kid.

Nevertheless, the ambiguous meaning of the title perfectly captures the theme of the story. The title could mean that the boy is a fortune and that it is both fortunate and a fortune that they meet. And just like the title has several possible interpretations, there are several interpretations of what a fortune is — be it materialistic or something more abstract. Throughout the story, the main character realizes that a true fortune is not being rich or owning a lot of things. A true fortune is the possibility of making someone happy and to have someone who cares for you and wants to make you happy. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be your father or mother who is that person. It could actually just be a complete stranger who changes your daily routine and in this way lead you to treasure.

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