Money Talks, Social Morality Suffers
Money is omnipotent in Mark Twain’s satirical short story The￡1,000,000 Pound Bank-note. The story exposes and criticizes the ugly mammonism in the 19th capitalist society. People fanatically regard money as the only criterion for any judgment and thus social conscience compromised.
The dominant power of money and ignorance of moral character is obvious. What differentiates the rich Henry from the impoverished one is merely a borrowed bank-note. Henry is still Henry, but he has free meals, clothes and accommodations with the bank-note in hand. Therefore, the bet won by Brother B itself implies the severe ignorance of morality under the mammonism. If only one possesses enough money by any means, he will be a respectful person. Mark Twain deliberately creates Henry with a happy marriage with Brother B’s daughter, which indicates that morality is not often taken into account in face of the pursuit of money.
When people are in desperate need of money, they not only ignore morality but also breed snobbery. Henry is treated quite differently before and after. When Henry in rags goes to the tailor-shop to clothe himself decently, no one wants to receive him. Innocent Henry is not only ignored but also teased by one fellow called Tod: "Oh, you haven't? Well, of course, I didn't expect it. I'd only expect gentlemen like you to carry large change" (page5). However, immediately after the one million banknote is shown, the proprietor even receives Henry in person. At that time, inflicted upon by money-worship, people judge others only by checking how much money they own. His change of attitude accentuates the unequal treatments towards money-owners and the poor. Another contrast is that while the rich guys are dangling with money, poor people like Henry is starving, with no control of their life, eager for a discarded pair.
Finally, the story further presents how individuals degenerating in moral sense collectively lose values in...