Stephan Pastis, once again, displays great acumen about human nature. Through Rat’s attempt at a children’s book (feeble as it is), Pastis acknowledges a fundamental truth about human nature: there is no such thing as a purely altruistic act.
Elly loves Henry and loves giving gifts. She is keenly observant to all his stated (and maybe unstated) needs; and, as Henry’s birthday draws near, she goes to the ends of the earth to find the perfect gift to express, “I love you, Henry!” Now, if the “story” had ended there, we could accuse Rat of allegory, or at least some well-trodden attempt at rephrasing the Gospel message and move on, relatively unaffected. But, Rat’s story does not end there, it goes on (praise the Lord). Elly’s love for giving gifts isn’t altruistic, but, deep down, self serving: she expects Henry to show her the (exact) same love that she showed him. So, when Henry shows up with just a plain old gift for her birthday, she…well…stomps him to death. Now we stand and, rather than accuse Rat, we applaud Rat for his brilliant insight into the sickness of humanity: pride, so puffed up by “good” works, will become resentful when due reward is not received for those good works.
I’ll rely on Gerhard Forde to close, “Never mind that when we look to ourselves we find no sign of good works. Never mind our fears and anxieties. We are looking in the wrong place. Look to Christ. He has done it all. Nothing will be gained by trying to shore up the Old Adam. Christ leaves nothing for the old Adam and Eve to do” (On Being a Theologian of the Cross, 110)