Are the Rich Happy vs Homeless: A Comparison
Are the Rich Happy vs Homeless: A Comparison Are the Rich Happy is more compelling than Homeless because the author uses wry cynicism to shine a light on rich people’s money problems being about social status rather than money while Homeless is based on describing the homeless problem. Although both of these stories are written in different ways, one being a narrative while the other is descriptive, they are both dealing with two different ends of the human financial spectrum.
Are the Rich Happy is a cynical and sarcastic piece about how the rich seem to always be unable to keep up with other rich people while Homeless describes the human condition of poverty and homelessness and how this makes people invisible in society. This essay will examine both these works and compare and contrast the similarities and differences. Are the Rich Happy is, in my opinion, the more compelling of the two works perhaps because it is the most unlike my own financial situation.
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In imagining all the woes of the rich, one would never think that any of their problems would be about their financial status.
Stephen Leacock begins his story by declaring his lack of “adequate material” because he has “never seen any rich people”. This assertion by Leacock immediately contrasts to Anna Quindlen’s story where she had been researching and writing on the homeless, in particular a homeless woman named Ann. Their style of writing is very different as well as Leacock seemed to write with a bit of wry sarcasm and Quidlen seemed to be exploring the idea of homelessness and questioning how it could happen with seriousness.
Needless to say, while I enjoyed both of these stories, I tend to favor the story Leacock wrote because he provide numerous examples of the rich stating “how impossible it is to keep up with the rich”, although during the time this story was written, each income he mentioned was fairly large and would have afforded the person speaking a good life. One line I found laughably outrageous “As far as I remember, I have never met Mr. Carnegie. But I know that if I did he would tell me that he found it quite impossible to keep up with Mr.
Rockefeller. No doubt Mr. Rockefeller has the same feeling. ” The irony in this line is palpable because both Carnegie and Rockefeller were enormously rich even by today’s standard of what rich is. Clearly Leacock was beginning to show his unbelief that the rich could ever be happy even when they are blessed with abundance. By contrast when he spoke with those persons of lesser fortune such as a janitor he hears of a rich uncle who “owns his own home”. Indeed by regular standards, owning a home was viewed as rich.
As he moves further into his tale of woe of the rich, Leacock admits “My judgment is that the rich undergo cruel trials and bitter tragedies of which the poor know nothing. ” The idea is that the rich constantly are worried with money concerns not only because of this own living costs but because they must compete with other rich people to keep up pretenses. Each example Leacock gives is more and more laughable and shows the near contempt or pity (depending on how you look at it) he has for the rich.
The idiocy of rich problems caused me to laugh out loud, particularly in this piece of his writing: “I know a man, for example–his name is Spugg–whose private bank account was overdrawn last month twenty thousand dollars. He told me so at dinner at his club, with apologies for feeling out of sorts. He said it was bothering him. He said he thought it rather unfair of his bank to have called his attention to it. ” Leacock goes on to say that Spugg said he’d have to “telephone his secretary in the morning to sell some bonds and cover it”.
The fact that he has bonds he can sell to cover his debt to the bank makes it clear that he was not without means whereas those who truly lacked economic means would be unable to pay at all. In Homeless, Quindlen takes a much different approach to her writing. She humanizes the character, Ann, by telling us how Ann had essentially told her she was wasting my time talking to her because she was just passing through, although she’d been passing through for several weeks.
Ann then produced a picture of a modest house as evidence that “She was not adrift, alone, anonymous, although her bags and her raincoat with the grime shadowing its creases had made me believe she was. She had a house, or at least once upon a time had had one. Inside were curtains, a couch, a stove, potholders. You are where you live. She was somebody. ” Quindlen goes deeper into her story with her admission that she has never understood homelessness. She describes the love she has of her own home and the things in it. Quidlen’s story unfolds in simple postulation into how the roots of the family had become less deep throughout time.
She states “There was a time when where you lived often was where you worked and where you grew the food you ate and even where you were buried. When that era passed, where you lived at least was where your parents had lived and where you would live with your children when you became enfeebled. ” This implies the breakdown of the family unit has led to people being homeless. Her story is short and to the point, it seems she rushed into a crescendo about how society had become desensitized to the plight of homeless people because we view them as “an issue, not a collection of human beings.
” Ann, essentially in this story is used to make homelessness personalized or to give face to the issue as a whole and how in many ways society has failed to maintain the family which has led to large numbers of homeless. As short and succinct as Quindlen’s story was with its description of how homelessness has grown into what it is today, Leacock took his time weaving a cynical story ripe with examples of the excesses of the rich.
He goes on and on about his friend, Spugg, who “would love to be rid of his wealth altogether but dared not give it away because it was his burden to bare. ” Another example was of the Ashcroft-Fowlers who had lost their servants and because they could not care for their sprawling mansion alone during the winter and had “given up in despair”. They decided to “take a little suite of ten rooms and four baths in the Grand Palaver Hotel, and rough it there for the winter.
” He ends this story by giving yet another example of rich problems when he describes the Overjoys who have had a financial downturn but still dressed impeccably and had not sold any possessions whereas poor people in the same situation would have sold what little they had. While these two stories are sides of the same coin, the style of writing and the intention of the writers are very different. Homeless is written in an effort to draw attention to the social problem of homelessness and how society must view those who are homeless as people rather than abstract issues.
Are the Rich Happy is written to expose the folly of rich problems with all its cynical examples. Clearly, both these stories address economics from opposite ends of the financial spectrum. Homeless is written a real and compassionate way while Are the Rich Happy showcases the financial problems of the rich in a very sarcastic and comical manner. Quindlen’s writing seemed to be very straightforward and offered possible reasons for homelessness while describing how society ignores the problem.
Leacock instead focuses on giving examples of ‘hardships’ rich people experience which are seemingly not hardships at all by the standards of regular (not rich) people. When reading these two writings together it is almost maddening to see what rich people considered to be their plight. Homeless was meant to be a more socially conscious commentary while Are the Rich Happy seemed to be written to poke fun at the problems of the rich. For this reader, however, there is no doubt that Are the Rich Happy is by far the more compelling story of the two.