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"The Moment of Decision": Morality vs. The Dane House

             In the American short story "The Moment of Decision", Stanley Ellin fabricates a suspenseful mystery ending in a twist. The main character Hugh Lozier is described as a good man of perfect self-assurance. " Hugh was the exception to the rule that people who are completely sure of themselves cannot be liked" (Ellin 405). Throughout the story Hugh's character begins to contradict this "label" and finds within him an obsessive insecurity. Towards the end of the story Hugh is placed in "the perfect dilemma," in which he must choose to save his neighbor's life or win over his dream, the Dane house. Hugh's compelling desire and angry character proves that he is morally capable of committing murder for the sake of his wants. .
             The narrator of the story, Hugh's brother-in-law, describes Hugh as an amiable man who is liked and respected by all. One significant trait that Hugh possesses is that he is very self-assured. "Nothing could dent his cast-iron assurance" (407). Although a very generous man, he is arrogant. Hugh always knows what he wants and always gets it. .
             Hugh values his home, Hilltop, which is a replica of the Dane House. The Dane house is Hugh's dream home. "The Dane house was almost sacred to Hugh" (409). When Hugh meets his new neighbor Raymond, a vain, witty, retired magician who has moved into the Dane house, Hugh becomes angry and annoyed. "He became irritable and restless and more aggressively sure of himself than ever" (410). One day Hugh's anger toward Raymond grows when Raymond decides to remodel the Dane house. The two neighbors argue and create a conflict as Hugh forbids the remodeling. In a hope to resolve the matter Elizabeth, Hugh's wife, plans a dinner party inviting Raymond. During the dinner Hugh challenges Raymond's magician skills and locks him in an airtight closet daring him to unlock himself in an hour's time. The bet would grant Hugh the Dane house if Raymond lost and Hugh would leave Hilltop if Raymond won.

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