A review of "Fashion" by Anna Cora Mowatt

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In order to understand the point of Anna Cora Mowatts “Fashion” one must attempt to understand what it is that makes humans act the way that they act. There is no difficulty in believing that money is a determining factor. The presence of it can cause the possessor both pain and happiness. It seems, however, that in the excerpt presented, Mowatt is going one farther, suggesting that the possibility of happiness through financial means simultaneously free of physical and emotional repercussions is an utter illusion. “More money, more problems” was a somewhat popular catch phrase in recent years and seems to capture the argument quite efficiently. The two just go hand in hand.

Mowatts dialogue between Trueman and Mr. Tiffany, a veritable reprimand as it were, is an example of a beginning of a badly needed lesson, one that includes thinking twice before allowing the financial ends to justify the means for some not insignificant problems have arisen. Mr. Tiffany’s search for wealth has led him to marry a woman whom he struggles to provide for only because she has been introduced by him into a life in which every wish is granted and she has grown fond of it. But even worse is the toll that it has taken on his very body and soul.

“Happy? You happy? Ah! Antony! Antony! That hatchet face of yours, and those criss cross furrows tell quite a different story…Your warm heart has grown cold over your ledger - your spirits heavy with calculation“.

The man that Trueman describes has allowed himself to forget who he once was. Mr. Tiffany is one who has put off living and focused on the future promise of his pocket book to make him happy, who has tried to just endure a little trouble now for the greater reward that will come later on. He has sacrificed his well being and his spirit to continue his pursuit as a provider for his family. The only problem is that he does not know when to stop. There is a pleasure in providing for one’s family and he has decided to put it at the top of his list. He is void of the capacity for finding any enjoyment that he merits above his present pursuit. He is practically man no more, more machine, whose only use is to produce money for his family to let them squabble away or to let pile up while he chases more. And if one has become a robot, one has relieved himself of the pleasure of being a man.

In the pursuit of wealth, how does one stop? Where is the dividing line? When does one say that they are rich enough? It can be argued that the line does not exist. For wealth, if it is anything, is a tool that raises the standards of people. There is an old adage that is summed up by stating that if you give a starving man a cracker, there is no doubt that the cracker is the sweetest, most delicious cracker that he has ever tasted but if the man gets that cracker every day, he’s going to start to want something else.

It takes no convincing by Mowatt for me to agree with this argument. It is easy to see, even in myself, an overpowering greed and I feel weaker for it. The human species was not put on this earth, and should not be concerned with, little scraps of green paper. Those scraps form an institution that we have set up for ourselves, a man made object that we have adopted as integral to life itself as breathing.

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