The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde
In The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde we have the theme of appearance, generosity, friendship, gratitude, love, compassion, charity, commitment, connection, struggle and happiness. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Wilde may be exploring the theme of appearance. Hughie is fooled into thinking that the Baron is a beggar solely based on how the Baron is dressed and on what Alan Trevor has told him. It is for this reason that Hughie hands the Baron a sovereign. Thinking that the Baron could use the sovereign more than he could. What is important about Hughie’s act of generosity or charity is the fact that Hughie gives the Baron more than he can really afford. Which suggests that Hughie has an altruistic or unselfish streak. Even though Hughie has been fooled by the Baron’s appearance the important thing to remember is the generosity that Hughie shows the Baron. He feels pity for the Baron which suggests that Hughie is able to empathise or identify with others. Particularly those who may be less fortunate. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Laura’s father appears to be judging Hughie based on his lack of finances. Hence the Colonel not allowing Hughie to marry Laura till Hughie has £10,000.
If anything the Colonel is judging Hughie based on his financial status without taking into consideration that Laura loves Hughie. While Laura and Hughie are very much in love and long to marry it is the Colonel who is dictating what will happen. Laura doesn’t appear to have a voice. Which may be important as Wilde could be suggesting that women at the time the story was written may not necessarily have had a voice. Their futures determined by other people. In this case the Colonel. The compassion that Hughie shows the Baron is not mirrored by the Colonel’s actions. He is determined that Hughie must have £10,000 before he is allowed to marry Laura. Though some critics might suggest that the Colonel is being practical it is more likely as mentioned that Wilde is placing a spotlight on the rigid and unbending nature of the society that existed at the time. Where money took precedence over love. It may also be important to mention that Hughie remains committed to Laura throughout the story. Though he knows he has no chance of raising the £10,000 himself he does not give up on Laura. Nor does she give up on him. They may not be allowed to get married but their love is strong enough that both Hughie and Laura continue to see each other. No matter how helpless Hughie’s situation may be he is not prepared to let his love for Laura be completely dictated by the Colonel’s stipulation.
Alan Trevor’s character may also be important as he acts as the trigger or catalyst when it comes to Laura marrying Hughie. By telling the Baron all about Hughie Alan manages to help Hughie even though Hughie feels embarrassed. If it was not for Alan’s actions Hughie would never have managed to obtain the £10,000. Hughie is so grateful to Alan that Alan becomes Hughie’s best man when Hughie eventually marries Laura. The connection that both men feel towards one another is permanent. With it being clear to the reader that both Hughie and Alan value their friendship. There is also no doubting that Hughie is grateful to the Baron for the £10,000. Though they are strangers the Baron is invited to Hughie and Laura’s wedding and allowed to make a speech. Which in many ways suggests that Hughie is full of gratitude for the Baron’s act of generosity.
What is also interesting at the end of the story is Alan’s remarks. His consideration that model millionaires are rare is possibly Wilde’s attempt to again place a spotlight on society. It is possible that Wilde is suggesting that those who have wealth don’t necessarily help those who may be less fortunate. Rather than putting their wealth to good use the wealthy (or millionaires) set themselves aside from those who are poorer. While the Baron is able to make a connection with Hughie, other millionaires may not have the same abilities. Not because they don’t have the ability to associate themselves with those who are poorer but because they choose not to associate themselves with those less financially well-off. The Baron is an exception to the rule and it is through his actions that Hughie finds happiness. Where there had been a sense that Hughie was struggling throughout the story. The Baron’s act of generosity has lifted the burden of struggle from Hughie’s shoulders. No longer does Hughie have the restrictions that the Colonel has imposed on him. The £10,000 has been secured all because Hughie showed compassion and charity to the Baron. Even though Hughie was unaware of the consequences of his actions he has managed to find happiness with the woman he loves.