My Financial Career by Stephen Leacock
In My Financial Career by Stephen Leacock we have the theme of anxiety, fear, trust, confusion, identity and conflict. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Leacock may be exploring the theme of anxiety. The narrator is physically ‘rattling’ as he enters the bank. It is as though he is afraid of what he has to do (lodge money). The reader suspecting that the fear is driven by the narrator’s lack of trust in the bank. He does not wish to part with his money but knows that he has to as for him the sum of money he has is too large to keep. Leacock’s physical description of the accountant in the bank is also interesting as he does not seem to allay the narrator’s fears with Leacock describing the accountant as a ‘tall, cool, devil.’ There is also a sense that the narrator is exaggerating his position. Though the sum of money he is lodging (fifty dollars) is a vast amount to the narrator. To the bank itself it would be considered a rather low amount of money. This could be important as Leacock may be pitting the individual against an institute. Highlighting how an individual can distrust an institute.
The fact that the bank manager assumes that the narrator is somebody important may also be significant as it not only plays on the theme of identity but also suggests that the bank manager is used to dealing with people of importance. If anything the reader senses that the narrator has no need to see the bank manager and through the confusion he feels while in the bank has incorrectly assumed that the bank manager is the person he needs to see to open a bank account. The fact that the bank manager is also abrupt and cold with the narrator on discovery that all he wants to do is open a bank account could also be important. Leacock may be highlighting how detached those in authority may actually be. Rather than taking an interest in the narrator. The bank manger directs him elsewhere. It is as though the narrator is a man of no importance to the bank manager.
The process of the narrator lodging his money is also interesting as he remains confused as to his actions. Something that would be considered normal for an individual who for the first time is opening a bank account. It might also be significant that at no stage do the bank manager, accountant or clerk do anything to calm the narrator’s confusion and fear. If anything the narrator is a hindrance to those he is dealing with inside the bank. Which would further highlight the conflict that exists between the individual and an institute. The bank needs the individual to exist yet it does not treat the narrator as a customer but more as a hindrance. At no stage in the story does the reader sense that there is a personal touch being administered by any of the people employed by the bank. It is as though all concerned look at the narrator as being a problem rather than being an asset to the bank. The bank does after all need the narrator’s money in order to make a profit but doesn’t treat him with the respect one would expect a new customer to receive.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader senses that the narrator’s confusion has escalated. Rather than withdrawing six dollars as he would like to. He ends up withdrawing all of his money. Having only lodged it moments before. Though the narrator realises his mistake he does not rectify it. This could be important as it suggests that the narrator’s confusion has gotten the better of him and rather than looking silly he pursues his action of withdrawing all his money. Though the narrator’s actions could be considered ridiculous. Symbolically they might be important as Leacock could be highlighting just how uncomfortable the narrator is with leaving his money in the bank. Even though he knows that he has to open a bank account he also has an underlying fear of leaving his money in the bank. It might also be important that Leacock describes the narrator as attempting to ‘look like a man with a fearfully quick temper.’ As this could suggest that the narrator is standing up for himself. Though he has been confused and afraid throughout the story. He still knows that the money he has lodged is his and he knows that he is entitled to it. The fact that those in the bank laugh at the narrator when he leaves the bank is also interesting as it suggests that they may consider themselves better than the narrator. Rather than accepting that the narrator is afraid. Those in the bank lack the ability to empathize with the narrator.