English 3 Honors
Wealth Variables in Society
In society, money and wealth have many diverse effects regarding to personal integrity, and within writing, copious amounts of literary devices can present various ways to show many relationships between what money can do to personal ethics. Between the pages of the novel Tortilla Curtain, written by T.C Boyle, figurative language and irony convey that when a person has an abundant amount of wealth, the more likely they tend to change their personal morals and ethics to fit what the society thinks is right. In the pages of the novel The House of Mirth, written by Edith Wharton, the point-of-view and diction help show when a person is less than financially successful, the desire for more money leads them to acquire the morals of what the society as a whole thinks. In Tortilla Curtain, the use of figurative language helps convey that wealth can influence people to change their morals to mirror the community’s morals. Following the fire on Thanksgiving that the Mexican immigrant, Candido, started, Kyra goes to check on a house she was trying to sell, and finds it in ruins. She subsequently scapegoats the fire to the immigrants, assuming that they are illegal, the proceeding to think that they were “[s]eaking across the border, freeloading on welfare…they were like barbarians outside the gates of Rome”(311). She was comparing the “illegal” immigrants to the barbarians because she thought of the Mexicans as the lesser humans, just as the Romans thought the barbarians were the lesser humans. The comparison shows that Kyra does not think that the community she lives in is a free community, because there would not be a gate on something that is free, freedom is not exclusive. Another way figurative language shows that more wealth can lead to no personal morals is right after Dominick and Delaney were talking about how the labor exchange, the main place of revenue for the Mexicans, was shut down, Delaney was thinking to himself where “…were these people supposed to go…knowing about migratory animal species, and how one population responded to being displaced…”(193). Delaney compared the Mexicans to “migratory animal species” because he thought they were subhuman, and animalistic and so he thought of animals that the Mexicans would think similarly to. These are not the views of liberalists, as they call themselves, these are the views of those that do not believe everyone should have rights. In the beginning of the novel, they had different views from their society ( or so it seemed), which was trying to gate off the community and thought that the Mexicans should leave. In the end Kyra and Delaney, who had an abundance of money, changed their views to suit the surrounding society. However, there are other ways some deal with wealth, and morality. In th novel The House of Mirth, point of view in the third person helps show that when a person does not have a lot of money, the desire for more money can drive them to sacrifice their morals in exchange for society’s ethics. When Lawrence Selden and Lily Bart were having tea, and they were speaking of Selden’s cousin, Gerty, Lily mentioned “‘She likes being good, and I like being happy”’(6). Even though this is a third person novel, it was said in the first person, in dialogue because if it was said in third person, there would not been was a contrast in characters between Lily and Gerty Farish, and it would not have shown how different their personalities. If it was all in first person the reader would not be able to see the rich contrast between the dialogue and what the author is portraying about the story. What Lily meant by this passage was that Gerty did what she though good was like, and did not mind that she was poor, did not have a husband and had her own apartment, but for her, these were the main reasons for living. Lily liked being “happy” because her happiness meant receiving essentially free money, and for society, the exchange for the money meant to get a rich husband, so that is why she did not want to own an apartment because that meant she had to pay for her it herself and did not want to find the money. Another instance of how point of view conveys that a lack of wealth can influence one’s moral views is at the wedding for Jack Stephney and Miss Van Osburgh. When Lily catches “…sight of Selden’s dark head…[t]he rise of her blood as their eyes met was succeeded by a contrary motion, a wave of resistance and withdrawal. She did not wish to see him again…his presence always had the effect of…throwing her whole world out of focus,”(84). She is physically attracted to Selden, but the money she desires to have belongs to a higher society than Selden is not part of. If she wants to get the money she has to marry into that society and being involved with Selden will not assist her in acquire that wealth. Point of view helps the author get the point across; if we saw this scene in Lily’s mind, she would not mention “[t]he rise of her blood as their eyes met” because it is not something Lily would think, so we get to delve deeper while still being objective. This portrayal of how money can drive personal morals is not the only way money is influencial. If a person already is financially successful, society can also influence personal morals. Another way to communicate how wealth in society can impact personal views on morality is by third person point of view , and is conveyed in Tortilla Curtain. After the fire on Thanksgiving, Delaney and Kyra’s cat was missing, so Delaney went to look for her. A while later, Jack Jardine was driving in the neighborhood and offered Delaney for a ride. Describing Jack’s hobbies for cars, “He liked to play with it [1953 MG TD] on weekends, but he reserved the Range Rover for the freeway wars,”(315). If this novel was in first person, or even second person,this passage would most likely not even be put in the writing, because it is not something that would be in dialogue or internal monologue. With the use of narration in third person, the reader gets to experience passages that are important and can not be written in any other point of view. Third person is additionaly valuable because the narrative is objective, not subjective, which adds a layer of mystery in how the author wants the audience to respond. Jack had something that made him happy, for instance cars, but society did not think it is acceptable to have austentatious cars, so he uses the “Range Rover for the freeway wars”. He uses his Range Rover for day to day activities because the society thinks that is acceptable and society has an influenc over him because it is what helped him become successful, so he almost has an obligation to it. Another example of use of diction in the novel was in the start of the book, Delaney, on his way to the recycler, hits a Mexican, and his “…first thought was for the car (was it marred, scratched, dented?), and then for his insurance rated (what was this going to do to his good drivers discount?)…”(2). If this was in any other point of view, it would not have shown pure objectivism, just pure truth of what was going on with Delaney’s thoughts and it would not have been credible if the novel was in first person because a person can decete the audience. When his first thoughts after hitting a man were about his own car, insurance, and not about the man’s health that shows what society can do to corrupt a person’s ethics. Society today puts materialism and wealth over survival, which is detrimental. That society helped Delaney become financially successful, but it also has impacted him in ways he is subconscious to. This novel’s use of third person is entirely different than how The House of Mirth uses third person; Tortilla Curtain uses it to show materialism in society, while The House of Mirth exhibits how society can influence a person’s desires. The House of Mirth utilizes diction to convey that society can influence Ethical values and are in direct relation to wealth. When Lily was leaving Selden’s apartment, she ran into Rosedale, a high society man. He asked her why she was in the apartment complex, and she responded “The Benedick? Is that the name of the building?”(12). The authors word choice is crucial in this passage because it is short, concise, and gets the message across of what the author wanted the audience to think. It subtly conveys that Lily is ashamed of coming from that apartment complex because she does not want to be seen in bad light, to say, and if she acquires a bad reputation, she will not be able marry into money, so she feigns ignorance to save her reputation. The act of lying is not ethical, but she would rather lie than give up the oppurtunity of living comfortably with money. It shows she is willing to have her morals waver in place of money.Lily was staying with friends at the Bellmont, she was thinking of her strategy to “win” over Percy Gryce, and hacing to deal with his dryness “…all on the bare chance he might ultimately decide to do her the honor of boring her for life”(24). This diction evidently is distinct in what the author meant to show about Lily’s character, and ultimaltely society. Lily would rather sacrifice her own happiness in a lifeless marriage than be a spinster with little to no money, but happily enjoying an indepednent life. For happiness,society has taught her for that it is necessary to have money and material objects, and to do so she needs a husband, a source of revenue. Society’s corrupt ethics show that it is in the norms to sacrifice joy for wealth. In these two novels, they show that wealth can hae many assorted reactions regarding to morality. In some instances the desire for more wealth causes a person to throw away personal morals in favor of society’smorals. In another case, society can hold power to those with financial success, and lead them to sacrifice morality for what the bigger society desires. In all cases it shows personal morals and ethics do have a price tag.