The Worship of the Wealthy by G.K. Chesterton
In The Worship of the Wealthy by G.K. Chesterton we have the theme of flattery. Taken from his All Things Considered collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Chesterton is exploring the theme of flattery and his hesitancy to give flattery to those who are wealthy. Chesterton also feels as though journalists go to extremes when it comes to flattering the wealthy. It displeases him that some journalists feel the necessity to praise the wealthy when the reality is they may not have done very much and most likely inherited their wealth. It is not on merit that flattery is being given but rather an illusion of greatness is being created by the journalists. With each journalist considering those who are wealthy to be better than they are. Chesterton always dislikes the simple language that the journalists’ use when describing the wealthy. He does not consider it to be appropriate at all. There is a sense of artificiality in the manner that the journalists address the wealthy when they are writing about them. It is as though they attempt to disconnect the wealthy from others to make them out to be something that they are not.
What is also interesting about the essay is that Chesterton appears to have the same dislike for the wealthy as he does the journalists. Which may leave some critics to suggest that Chesterton is painting with a broad brush. The journalist perhaps needing the wealthy in order that they can exist and likewise the wealthy praising journalists for such good writing or character sketches. If anything the reader does not learn much from the character sketches that are written by the journalists and which Chesterton reproduces. Very little about an individual can be figured out particularly when words like ‘’simple’ or ‘quiet’ or ‘modest’ are being used. All three words would in fact most likely be the opposite of what a wealthy person may be. Similarly with the over glorification of a person to the point that it is unrealistic. This serves to please just one person, the wealthy man or woman. Having exaggerations used to praise their character must surely be pleasing. However a more calming approach is more appropriate rather than build an individual up to greatness when greatness has not been achieved.
Chesterton might also be suggesting that ordinary people should not fall for the words of the journalists as the wealthy, apart from their wealth, are no different to them. Also the words that journalists employ when writing character sketches of the wealthy are more suited for others who should be held in high esteem. Chesterton is also annoyed at how a journalist might describe the physical appearance of someone who might be wealthy. It is drawn out when there is no need for it to be drawn out. If anything journalists appear to use words excessively when describing the rich. Yet the same cannot be said for when others are being described. However Chesterton’s real anger seems to be directed towards the journalists who again overuse three words ‘simple’, ‘quiet’ and ‘modest’. It is their usage that really rattles Chesterton and is most likely the reason as to why he wrote the essay. Three simple words that Chesterton believes are being used out of context. As to whether the reader agrees is left to each individual reader to decide.
The end of the essay is also interesting as Chesterton appears to highlight to the reader as to how ridiculous a journalists’ word choice may be when it comes to a serious moment. Chesterton cannot abide with how a journalist wrote of Whiteley’s funeral as though things could have been any different when the funeral was described as ‘simple and quiet.’ If anything the reader’s eyes are opened by Chesterton as to the literary devices being employed by journalists. They lack any type of originality and the reader is left suspecting that journalism has fallen short in its requirements. Journalism should be informative and at times entertaining. Chesterton is finding no joy in the journalism he is reading. Which may be the point that Chesterton is making. He may be suggesting that should journalists continue to use the same three words when describing the wealthy. He will remain irate. Reading in disbelief the stories of the wealthy through the ‘modest’ lens of the journalist. Is it any wonder that at the end of the essay Chesterton feels exhausted and prone to talking Oriental hyperbole to the next wealthy person he sees.