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Friday, February 18, 2011

Success in TWWLN

A little before three Mr Melmotte returned to Abchurch Lane, intending to regain his room by the back way; while Lord Nidderdale went westward, considering within his own mind whether it was expedient that he should continue to show himself as a suitor for Miss Melmotte's hand.  He had an idea that a few years ago a man could not have done such a thing—that he would be held to show a poor spirit should he attempt it; but that now it did not much matter what a man did,—if only he were successful.  "After all, it's only an affair of money," he said to himself (Ch. 53).

The mentality described above is the basis of belief for most of the characters in the novel.  The ultimate judge of man was not his actions but the success of whatever actions he decided to take.  This mentality that pervaded 1870s Victorian society rewarded evil men and elevated them.  Money was the driving force and anything was accepted in order to enjoy it in one's grasp.  In TWWLN, greed is the chief vice and Trollope shows through three main character (Felix, Nidderdale, and Melmotte) that each is esteemed in accord with the scheme in which he is involved.

For Felix, the scheme is marrying Marie Melmotte, though he does not love her.  To him,as he tells his mother,  it is nothing more than a game, like that he plays at the Beargarden Club:

"I'm quite a philosopher about it. I want her money; and when one wants money, one should make up one's mind how much or how little one means to take,—and whether one is sure to get it."

"I don't think there can be any doubt."

"If I were to marry her, and if the money wasn't there, it would be very like cutting my throat then, mother. If a man plays and loses, he can play again and perhaps win; but when a fellow goes in for an heiress, and gets the wife without the money, he feels a little hampered you know" (Ch. 23).

Though much dismayed at Miles' cheating at cards, Felix has no qualms about marrying Marie for money, quite a hypocritical stance considering she truly loves him.  Both Felix and his mother fret over the possibility that Melmotte will deny Felix and Marie his money if they elope, though both seem assured that his anger will abate:

 Rich fathers generally do forgive their daughters, and a rich father with only one child would surely forgive her when she returned to him, as she would do in this instance, graced with a title (Ch. 29).

Felix expresses confidence and plans to take her to New York after Marie confides that her father has settled money on her, though Melmotte assumes her to be unaware of this money:

"For New York! We must get some things ready-made. Oh, Felix, how will it be if he does not forgive her?" He attempted to laugh. "When I spoke of such a thing as possible he had not sworn then that he would never give her a shilling."

"They always say that."

"You are going to risk it?"

"I am going to take your advice." This was dreadful to the poor mother. "There is money settled on her."

"Settled on whom?"

"On Marie;—money which he can't get back again."

"How much?"

"She doesn't know,—but a great deal; enough for them all to live upon if things went amiss with them" (Ch. 49)

Though everyone except Marie seems to know that Felix is marrying her for her money, most do not look down on Felix until the actual scheme fails.  Only then is Felix embarassed to show himself in public.

Lord Nidderdale abandons his scheme when success looks unlikely.  Though he is the Melmotte's accepted lover of Marie, he is rejected by the latter who has no interest in the lord.  Melmotte's interest is strictly financial, as Nidderdale has a title and a settled property (Ch. 37).  The proposed marriage has been delayed due to Melmotte's inability to secure the amount of money required by the Nidderdales. 

Fifteen thousand a year was to be settled on Marie and on her eldest son, and twenty thousand pounds were to be paid into Nidderdale's hands six months after the marriage.  Melmotte gave his reasons for not paying this sum at once.  Nidderdale would be more likely to be quiet, if he were kept waiting for that short time.  Melmotte was to purchase and furnish for them a house in town.  It was, too, almost understood that the young people were to have Pickering Park for themselves, except for a week or so at the end of July.  It was absolutely given out in the papers that Pickering was to be theirs.  It was said on all sides that Nidderdale was doing very well for himself.  The absolute money was not perhaps so great as had been at first asked; but then, at that time, Melmotte was not the strong rock, the impregnable tower of commerce, the very navel of the commercial enterprise of the world,—as all men now regarded him.  Nidderdale's father, and Nidderdale himself, were, in the present condition of things, content with a very much less stringent bargain than that which they had endeavoured at first to exact (Ch. 35).

The young lord does not love Marie, and she has no interest in marrying him.  Even after her unsuccessful attempt to run away with Felix, Nidderdale still considers marrying her because "After all, it's only an affair of money" (Ch. 53).  His other concern is that he will be considered a success as the acknowledged lover of Marie.

Melmotte's chief concern is his elevation in society.  He believes it is fine to cheat people and float mythical shares in order to achieve his goals.  He will marry his daughter to a man she does not love because it is his own happiness that he is most concerned about.  He agrees to deals that he cannot fulfill (Pickering property) because he believes he will get away with it.  Nevertheless, despite knowing that he is despiccable and dishonest, everyone seeks to be connected with him because he is apparently wealthy and successful, eventually winning a seat in Parliament.  However, people begin to distance themselves once it became apparent that he would face consequences for his actions.  When judged unsuccessful, men no longer wanted to be connected to him.

Honor played no role in the actions of the men above because society did not value it.  Ultimately, each was judged by the success of the scheme he envisions.  Once his scheme proves unsuccessful will he be looked down upon by society.

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