Oscar Wilde’s short story "Model Millionaire" is short and sweet and above all it is most relevant in the present day economic situation.
The Relevance of Oscar Wilde’s “Model Millionaire” today!
Yesterday, I revisited my favorite classical author Oscar Wilde and hobnobbed with his works, of course only superficially. One of his short stories ‘Model Millionaire caught my attention more than anything else, because of its relevance to the current economic situation that prevails.
The Model Millionaire has been masterfully crafted by Oscar Wilde with a sense of humor, besides containing some hidden messages,which are most useful to all of us from a practical point of view in our life.
Hughie Erskine, is a handsome hero, but an unlucky fellow; never successful in any of the business venture he embarks upon; nor has any permanent income or profession. But he is soft spoken and a mild mannered person with a generous heart and a little bit extravagant. He falls in love with Laura Morton, the daughter of a retired colonel.The colonel though knows and supports their love, not willing for their engagement; but rather insists that Hughie should have at least 10,000 pound sterling to have his daughter.
Hughie has a friend by name Alan Trevor, who is a painter by profession. By virtue of his friendship, he frequently visits his studio. One day when Hughie visits Trevor’s studio, he sees that Alan is painting a full size portrait of a very poor beggar who is in his rags with a forlorn and very miserable look. Half way down the work Alan goes away and Hughie now showers his generosity upon the poor beggar and gives him a sovereign. The poor beggar accepts the gift with a smile.
Subsequently, when Hughie meets Alan in a club, he comes to know that the poor beggar who posed for the painting was a millionaire by name Baron Hausberg. Hughie curses himself for his foolishness and rues his ignorance for presenting a sovereign to a millionaire. Alan enjoys the ignorance of Hughie and also reveals him that he has told everything to the millionaire about Hughie, his love and the colonel’s stipulation for 10,000 pound sterling for their engagement etc, etc.
The next day when Hughie is at home, a representative sent by the millionaire Baron Hausberg meets him and hands over him a letter along with a cheque for10,000 pounds.Then Hughie happily marries Laura Morton, in the presence of his best friend Alan Trevor.The Millionaire Baron Hausberg also attends their marriage and blesses them.
Oscar Wilde has written this story in a lively style with some lovely comments in between which are most relevant in the modern days.
While commenting upon the personality of Hughie Erskine, Wilde says, ‘ Unless one is wealthy, there is no use in being a charming fellow.’
Again, Wilde says ‘Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed: this comment has been made from a practical point of view and there is no use of falling in love without having the wherewithal to fulfill your love and running your marital life after getting married.
Oscar Wilde also says ‘the poor should be practical and prosaic,’ which is yet another useful advice specifically meant for the poor people.
‘It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating,’ is a fine piece of advice given from the point of view of Hughie and it squarely applies to all of us.
While narrating about Hughie Erskine’s failures on every venture he embarks upon including the Stock Market, Oscar Wilde’s comments run as follows:-
‘But what was a butterfly to do among bulls and bears?‘, it denotes the fierce competition and the hectic business involved in the stock market.
While explaining about the artist’s nature in a most befitting way, Wilde says ‘An artist’s heart is his head. Our business is to realize the world as we see it and not to reform it as we know it.’
Above all Oscar Wilde provides a gripping finale to the short story through the painter Alan Trevor who pays rich tributes to the millionaire Baron Hausberg, during the marriage function of his friend Hughie Erskine with Laura Morton, as follows:-
“Millionaire models are rare enough, but by love, model millionaires are rarer still“
These last lines in fact incite the real life millionaires to set an example for others, by helping the needy and the poor.
When we read this short story, we cannot avoid comparing the present day economic situation and the actual realities we are in. Here lies the greatness of Oscar Wilde.At the same time, we cannot but admire that all his comments are made only in the context of the story and not a single word or comment has been made excessively or unnecessarily.
Thus Oscar Wilde in his inimitable style has enriched the English literature with an incomparable short story.