Selflessness is whereby puts the welfare of others ahead of his or her own. A selfless person will sacrifice what he/she has to the benefit of others who may be less privileged or vulnerable. In the text, Grusha shows a lot of selflessness especially towards Michael who is not her real child.
First, when the Governor is beheaded and Natella takes off, Grusha decides to remain behind and take care of Michael the whole night. She is almost caught when the Fat Prince and the ironshirts come back to hang the governor’s head on the door-way. When Grusha tries to leave Michael, she hears as if it is telling her, “Woman, help me” (p.28)
The following day, Grusha picks the baby and heads for the north with it (p.29). On the way, she has to buy the baby milk. Even thought the Old Man sells the milk exorbitantly, she sacrifices her two week salary to buy it for the sake of the baby. When she realizes she can no longer feed the baby, she decides to leave it on the door-step of the Fat Peasant Woman, who has plenty of milk, a husband and a roof over her head. (p.34)
Secondly, when the ironshirts, led by the Corporal, discover where Michael is hidden, Grusha risks her life by hitting the Corporal, taking the baby and running away. Grusha, again, risks her life and that of Michael by daring to cross the rotten bridge even after she is warned by the merchants (p.41)
Thirdly, during winter, Grusha has to bear the discomfort of staying in the house of her sister-in-law who is very religious and pious. She is hidden in a small dark room away from the neighbours to avoid being an embarrassment to his brother’s family (p.47).
Fourthly, Grusha accepts to get married to a ‘dying ma’ – Jussup, for Michael’s sake. She sacrifices her promise to Simon because she needs to provide food and a home for Michael. When Simon comes back and finds Grusha married, he becomes upset but Grusha decides to stay with Michael rather than follow him. When the soldiers come for Michael, she follows them forgetting the danger she is putting herself into.
Finally, she risks getting arrested by going back to the capital where Natella and the Corporal are waiting for her. Natella accuses her of stealing a child while the Corporal wants to arrest her for injuring him. Grusha is, however, prepared to face Natella in a court of law where judge Azdak decides the case in her favour.
The decision to give Grusha the child is purely based on the kind of sacrifices she makes for him. When the judge orders that the two women pull the baby, Grusha is unable to use force because of fear of destroying what she has sacrificed so much for.
Social class inequality