I. Presentation of the story
The short story The Model Millionaire is part of the book Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories, a collection of short semi-comic mystery stories written by Oscar Wilde and published in 1891. It is a third-person narrative, whose narrator starts the text expressing his opinions and judgments about the characters. Hughie, the main character, is described as a very handsome man, whose beauty is useless, because he is poor and does not have much intelligence. ‘Unless one is wealthy there is no use in being a charming person. The poor should be ordinary and practical’ is the beginning of this interesting story and reveals a lot about it and its author.
II. Short biography of the author
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854 – 1900) was a famous playwright, novelist, poet and critic. His wit, intelligence, sarcasm, criticism, irony and paradoxical points of view made his style unmistakable and admired. He was born in Dublin and his mother, Lady Jane Francesca Wilde (1820-1896), was a successful poet and journalist and a society hostess. This may explain, and the fact he was always involved with the high society, Oscar Wilde’s opinion about the aristocracy and how well he knew their nature. He studied at Oxford, where he started developing his poetry and ideas.There, he met the Aestheticism, or Aesthetic movement, whose doctrine, which can be summarized by the sentence'Art for Art's Sake', influenced his work immensely. He wrote nine plays – among them The Importance of Being Earnest(1895), one of the most well-known and acclaimed by the critics, numerous poems, short storiesand essays– including fairy tales forhis twosons, but only one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). His allegedly homoerotic overtones were a polemic issue in that very conservative society. In fact, Wilde’s life was a scandal due to his sexuality: in 1891, he started an affair with the son of an aristocrat, Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed ‘Bosie’, whom he considered the love of his life.His marriage with Constance Lloyd ended two years later. He was arrested in 1895 accused of homosexuality, gross indecency and sodomy. He was released two years later and wroteThe Ballad of Reading Gaol(1898), considered the most powerful of all his poems, in whichhe talks about the terrible imprisonment conditions he and other men suffered. With a ruined reputation, he died poor, of cerebral meningitis, in a cheap hotel in Paris. III. Summary of the story
Hugh Erskine is a very good-looking man with little intelligence and no money. He tried everything to make money, but he failed terribly. He is in love with Laura Merton, but her father, although fond of Hughie, does not want to hear a word about marriage because the best-looking pair in London simply could not afford living together. The former army officer will only permit it if Hughie gets ten thousand pounds. One day he visits his great friend Alan Trevor, an artist firstly attracted by Hughie’sstunning beauty and then by his good heart. In his house, Hughie encounters the painter finishing a big-sized picture of a beggar, whose model was there: an old, sad and tired man with worn out, torn clothes, holding a stick in one hand and his hat in another. Hughie gets so touched by his miserable face and little income he will get as Trevor’s model that, after Trevor leaves the room for a moment, he puts one pound, most of the money he has for the following two weeks, into the beggar’s hand, who becomes very grateful. He leaves Trevor’s house with a little red face and goes home walking, without money for transport. At night, he meets Trevor, who tells what happened after Hughie left: the beggar became fond of him and made Trevor tell him about his life, including his love for Laura and all the obstacles to the marriage. When Hughie complains about his attitude, he explains that the beggar is actually one of the richest men in...