A janitor finds a wallet containing $5,200 lying in the street. When he comes home with it and smugly shows it to his wife, she is overwhelmed, but insistent that it be returned to its rightful owner. Surveying their drab existence, she wonders dreamily about the reward which will be offered, as promised by the owner in an ad which appears in the next day's paper. Her husband meanwhile leads her to believe that he turned it in to the rightful owner and that the owner did not make good on the promise of a reward. This thought leads his wife to resentment, and eventually bitterness...until she discovers that her husband has lied to her, and has been hiding the money upstairs, where he has been counting it night after night, worshiping it like a golden calf.The poverty is not the theme of the episode, as the husband is no more and no less than a surly lout at the beginning of the episode, unappreciative of his wife as many husbands are, regardless of social status. His wife is, despite her bleak poverty, demure, seemingly content with her surrounds, and unwavering in her commitment to do right by turning the money in, mindful of who might have lost it. It is only after covetnous takes root in her heart that she slowly transforms into a materialistic shrew. Likewise, her husband's jealous coveting of the money cause him to slap her hand at one point, something unprecedented, thereby displaying his transformation from a lout to a brute. The tragic ending serves as a second reminder - that action follows thought, and a crime always starts by allowing something to foster in the heart.
Brief as it is, this is a hard episode to sit through, for it presents an unrelentingly bleak view of society. John and Anna are not just poor, they're dirt-poor, people without hope, and the need for money has eroded all moral sense. When John finds a wallet in the street, containing a larger sum than anyone might expect in their slum neighbourhood, this surprising "stroke of good fortune" destroys his already fragile relationship with his wife; then it quite literally destroys both of them. The depiction of their hellish milieu will stay with you long after the half-hour is up; so will the acting of Jo Van Fleet and Oscar Homolka.
This is a story about poverty, greed, and the types of people who do the wrong thing.
Agree somewhat with the other user who said part of the storyline is about poverty. However, this story is also about greed, and the types of people who fall to greed.
In this case, we have a rotten old loser miser, who is the protagonist in the episode. He finds a wallet, but instead of doing the right thing, he intends on keeping his money to himself.
This guy is a pretty good example of the types of bad husbands during the 50s era and in some regard today's era. He treats his wife like crap, he's a liar, he's a miser. The wife could do better than him, but being too old, she's pretty much stuck with this old piece of crap. The wife tells the man to turn in the money. He says he will. Later, she finds out he's lying. Things get heated and eventually the couple contemplate killing each other.
It's a pretty straightforward story with no real surprises here. It's a story about poverty to an extent, but it's also a story about greed, and the type of people who fall to greed.
The guy being a rotten miser falls into greed very easily. The woman is a better person but since the husband really doesn't want to share any sort of happiness with her, she also falls to greed.
A combination then of abuse, greed, and poverty make it a straightforward story, but a story that gets repeated in life over and over again, so a memorable episode.
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