The reason for Paul and Dave's sense of entrapment stems from their lack of social and economic power. While Paul was born to a middle-class worker who had "a worthy ambition to come up in the world", Dave was condemned to the life of a farm laborer. Disillusioned by their surroundings, both of them felt the need to salvage their situation. Whereas Paul thought money could transform his identity, Dave was misled to believe that owning a gun could help him earn respect.
Though both Paul and Dave share a common goal - to rise above their ordinary existence, they end up adopting different means to achieve it. Whereas Dave sweet talks his mother into giving him the two dollars required to buy the gun, Paul does something drastic - he steals one thousand dollars. These different actions cast both of them in different lights. The reader finds Dave childish in his strategy for getting a gun. "Mebbe Ma will lemme buy one when she gits mah pay from ol man Hawkins," Dave speculates, sounding every bit a boy as he resolves, "Ahma beg her t gimme some money." After he procures the gun, he is mighty careful in hiding it. Later, when he is overcome by the desire to hold it, he makes sure that he is safe and he plows "two whole rows before he decide[s] to take out the gun" . He then casts careful glances in all directions and then after being sure that he is not being watched, carefully unfastens the gun from his leg, and proudly flashes it before the mule: "Know whut this is, Jenny Naw, yuh wouldn know! Yuhs jusa ol mule! Anyhow, this is a gun, n it kin shoot, by Gawd!" . He promptly then issues a warning to Jenny: "When Ah pull this ol trigger, Ah don wan yuh t runnacka fool now!". It is an irony that he tells Jenny exactly what he should be paying heed to. The silly words that Dave utters, only amuses the reader and they instantly understand that he is just a poor little boy who means no harm. He appears childish when he tries to solve the problems that ensue after his mishandling of the old revolver, attempting to plug the bullet hole he has shot in the mule's side with dirt and telling a "story he knew nobody believed" about how she died. On the other hand, as Paul begins to live his dream life, he shows absolutely no remorse for his theft. He perceives this life as "what all the struggle was about" and wonders how any honest men exist. Paul lives richly, but inconspicuously, bearing himself with quiet dignity. He deceives himself into believing that he was made for the life he has chosen. He is happy watching the pageant, enjoying his flowers and his sense of power. He is released from "the necessity of petty lying, lying every day" and spends eight happy days before news of his theft appears in the Pittsburgh papers.
The reader feels sad for Dave. In a desperate attempt to earn respect, Dave only ends up feeling shamed and humiliated. He is further entrapped in a situation that makes him feel less than a man. However the reader feels that the story's ending, when Dave impulsively flees, offers a temporary relief from the stifling fate he seemed to have brought down on himself. Not only do Dave's community members forgive him, so does the reader because his silly act was neither revolutionary nor criminal. When he says, "Lawd, ef Ah only had tha pretty one! N Ah'd keep it loaded, by