Although there is much debate about whether nature or nurture is the most significant contributor to the formation of individual disposition and personal integrity, it is generally agreed that both play an integral role. Therefore, both genetic make-up and the familial culture in which one is raised are significant components of individual growth and development. In his short story, The Inheritance of Tools, Scott Russell Sanders depicts in eloquent detail how family values are passed on generation to generation through the art of carpentry.
By showing his characters’ actions in and reactions to various situations, Sanders reveals how a patient and persistent disposition is handed down from grandfather to father to son. Sanders argues that one must understand one’s connection to the past in order to live well in the present, because models from the past are lessons for positively influencing future generations for a better world.
Within the first two sentences, the reader understands this family’s gentle disposition when the narrator hits his thumb with a hammer and supposes his father’s response.
The narrator hurts himself with a hammer that has been passed down through his family for three generations. Through out the essay, words and actions from different generations of the family encompass a tender sarcasm, a light humor, and an understanding nature that renders a unique patience which is passed down from generation to generation, just like the hammer.
This disposition was applied to being resourceful when the narrator’s grandfather married. Even though the grandfather “had not quite finished the house” by the day of the wedding, he “took his wife home and put her to work”. Before sunset, the house was finished. Though the narrator obviously was not present for the day of his grandparents’ wedding, from his point of view, he sees his grandfather dedicated to the endeavor of building a house for his future family.
The narrator emulates the same behaviors that he had learned from the stories of his grandfather in his own life by building his own house “around the ears of his family”, just as his grandfather did decades ago. This familial disposition and carpentry skill in the narrator directly makes home life better for his family. This disposition is not simply a gene with which the narrator is born. Contrarily, responses to mistakes from his elders taught patience by example. Through the text, the narrator reminisces of responses that his father has had to the narrator’s mistakes in carpentry.
For example, his father would say “Looks like you got ahold of some of those rubber nails” when the narrator was first learning how to hammer. Or “you owe it to the tree to cut it straight” when he was first learning how to cut wood properly. The father’s responses were light-hearted, not harsh. This parenting skill not only gave the narrator a chance to learn these carpentry skills correctly, but also learn the family disposition by hearing and seeing it in his father.