The Salman Rushdie short story The Prophet’s Hair is the perfect platform from which we can listen to age old of lessons about greedy people. Whether in our family or outside of it, greed can be a crippling force because of what experiences it can bring to a home. As Rushdie plainly shows us in the beginning of the story, greed drives us into environments and situation we aren’t familiar with or even belong in; most of which end poorly. In any case, greed and its effects on a household seem to be at the center of The Prophet’s Hair; namely, that obsession over a material object can rip apart a family apart. Rushdie comically uses the hair of the Prophet Muhammad to make this point clear showing that regardless of how holy an item is; or even how much good it can bestow on its owner, if a person obsesses over it too much it’ll affect those around him negatively. All the many troubles which arise from this holy healing relic arise not because the item itself creates this obsession; but because, someone or another wants to keep it for themselves and show it off. As Rushdie poetically puts it “Every collector must share his treasures with one other human being…” (44). In this statement Rushdie reveals to us the point of his story and the major flaw in being a greedy person; in that, you crave the object of your desires, not because you care about the object in itself but because you desire the attention it brings to you even at the cost of others. How many times has this very same obsession sent us into dark dank alley ways or driven us into actions not normally characteristic of ourselves? As a personal example to the effects which greed can hold over a family, I offer one situation which seems fairly common among other families.
My great grand uncle, on my father’s side of the family, had absolutely no relatives to take care of him in his dotage except for my father, my brother, and me. Now mind you, this is a WWII veteran who worked passionately every day in his life, never took crap from anyone, knew everyone intimately in our community, and loved to curse. In any case, the day soon came where he physically couldn’t get out of bed anymore and we had to take care of him in our house because there was no way we were leaving him in a hospital or nursing home. So every day, for about nine or so years, we took care of everything he needed so as to make his transition into death as peaceful as possible. During this time also, our family spent a hefty sum of money on medical expenses and equipment; and during the last two years, also had to spend money sending two runts to college (that’s my bro and I). Unbeknownst to us, Uncle Bill (this lovely man’s name) had three pensions and a ton of money in the bank he saved up to give away at the end of his life. So when that day finally came, our family thought “well, we took care of him. Now he’s taking care of us.” Little did we realize the incoming flood of up-until-now incommunicado aunts and uncles, upon hearing about the man’s death, rushing like vultures to grab up any money they could get their hands on. Normally I reserve terrible metaphors for paper writing at three in the morning; but, I am distressed to say that was the truth of it. Not one of these family members came to our aid in helping our Uncle Bill transition peacefully into eternal rest; they came only for the money he had in his name. Our family wound up in a money squabble which we are still legally fighting off this very day. So while reading Rushdie’s story The Prophet’s Hair, I understand, in an extremely personal way, the pressure greedy people can place on a home.