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Great Novels About Money

Apr 11 2011

Everybody has an opinion about money. Most people express their feelings about money with pithy clichés: “money makes the world go round”; “a penny saved is penny earned”; “money is the root of all evil.” However, for the truly talented it’s not enough to spout off a few lines about money – they have to go and write a whole book about it. Here are three great novels about money, that delve into exactly what people will do in order to get it.

1. The Financier by Theodore Dreiser – Theodore Dreiser is best known for his first novel Sister Carrie. Dreiser’s novel The Financier is not his only novel having to do with money – it’s just the novel that is most obviously about money, as his other novels deal with money more subtly. The Financier is about a man named Frank Cowperwood, a character that was based on Charles Yerkes, a tycoon that lived during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Frank does pretty well for himself, getting a job at a great company and marrying a rich widow. However, it’s not enough for him and he starts embezzling municipal funds. It all ends in tragedy when the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 causes the stock market to crash, revealing his fraud. However, Frank doesn’t give up, and eventually he gets out of jail, reinvests in the stock market and regains his fortune. Frank is an immoral figure that you should hate, but Dreiser is such a talented writer that he gets the reader completely turned around and cheering for Frank instead of despising him.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – F. Scott Fitzgerald often wrote about the rich, and his novel The Great Gatsby is no exception. The Great Gatsby takes a good hard look at the rich during the Roaring Twenties through the viewpoint of the narrator Nick Carraway. During this time period, the economy soared and a good many people made a pretty penny – especially the bootleggers. Fitzgerald doesn’t paint a pretty picture of this social class – he depicts them as a bunch of miserable shallow people who will lie, cheat and do just about anything to get what they want, including oodles of cash.

3. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray – Vanity Fair tells the story of Becky Sharp, a woman who in today’s terms would probably be labeled a gold digger. She is determined to make her way into high class society and come into wealth. Her first attempt to accomplish this fails when she is unable to woe her friend’s rich brother into marrying her. Her second attempt also fails when she elopes with her employer’s nephew, hoping that he will one day receive his aunt’s fortune – but the aunt is so dismayed at the marriage that she disinherits the couple. Becky continues to try to make her way to the top throughout her life by “borrowing” money from people, living on credit and trying to seduce rich men.

This post was written by David Warburton. He is interested in finance and literature and he writes for a website about life insurance in Canada.

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