The story depicts the troubles of family members who are poor and deprived of their rightful wealth. It talks about the law of primogeniture, where the eldest heir got everything and the rest of the siblings were robbed off their dues on account of such laws.
Through the voice of Elia, the protagonist who is a rich heir, the writer makes fun of the poor relatives who arrive at family dinners with their heads hung in shame due to their poverty. They are self-conscious and nervous about their appearance and manners.
Elia finds them insignificant. While the host does not want them, they are also unsure if they deserve to be in that place. However, their situation is forced by their inability to procure a better meal.
Often they show up when the rich are entertaining other rich friends. Out of courtesy, the rich are obligated to ask them to share the meal even though it is scarce for so many people.
The poor relatives try to be coy and reject at first but end up taking the biggest slices of everything. They are anxious and yet behave as if they somehow belong. The people serving them are also confused by their actions while the guests are intrigued.
But the misery does not end here. These relatives then narrate some of the most embarrassing memories that are both humiliating and ill-timed.
Elia then talks about female relatives who are even more out of place than their male counterparts. For them, it is even more difficult to hide their deficiencies and shabby appearances.
They are too conscious of their clothes which are worn out and start. One of them, Elia remembers a relative who had University education but had to take up the family business after his father’s death. His fall from the life of education to trade was sad and drastic.
Contrary to the tone of comedy and ridicule, the story ends on a note of regard for people in such tough situations. Elia remembers one of his poor uncles who was insulted by his rich sister on account of his poverty.
However, when he died he left enough money for his funeral. More importantly, he never owed any man in his life which says a lot about a man’s character and abilities than wealth and material possessions. In the end, no one can take their wealth in their graves!