What’s Wealth Got To Do With It?

Boats in Monte Carlo

Boats in Monte Carlo

Paraphrasing Tina Turner’s hit song, what’s wealth go to do with it? Is it no more than circumstance or coincidence. It is luck of the draw for a number of us. How deeply does it influence a person? Motivate her? Control him? Can you pluck a woman from her circumstance, drop her into a foreign situation and watch her continue as before?

As a bored kid, I sometimes would redirect ants onto a piece of paper and drop them somewhere else to see where they went. They rarely returned to where they’d been, but did that mean they were dumb insects or just accepting fate?

It’s a cliché to say poverty is a burden. It’s a struggle some can’t climb out from under. Story of a life can be written about the financial trials some people face. And another cliché about people who chase gold to the exclusion of all else only to find out Don Henley was right about hearses having no luggage racks. But you don’t hear so much about the ones who’ve been swaddled in wealth since they were babies. Not sure why.

James Merrill, the American poet, was the son of the original Merrill in Merrill Lynch. An amazingly low-key persona for someone who never worked a day in his life to support himself. He worked, mind, and did amazingly well at poetry. Spent his life writing poetry. Won a Pulitzer—not too shabby. But how many James Merrills are there in the zillionaires’ club? Again, not sure why. Jimmy, as his friends called him, must have been an interesting person to hang with. He’s a poet-hero to me.

In Victorian times–before Dickens, anyway–it was self-righteously argued, even preached in churches, that a person’s moral standing was made visible by their wealth. Those in debtors’ prisons might have disagreed. And some people fear being perceived as poor so they pretend that they aren’t. Putting on airs is the expression.

The short story, Saint-Tropez Sketch sets up questions of perceptions. Since the story’s viewpoint mainly stays with Giselle, you never much get inside Edward’s head until the close.

Admittedly, it was a fun story to write. It’s not meant to be a morality tale. Even if you can’t always get what you want–wait, wasn’t that Tina Turner, too?