Monday, August 5, 2013

Fictional Moneybags!

Forbes has revealed the richest fictional characters of 2013. Topping the list? Scrooge McDuck!

Wealth is a frequent theme in books (as it is in life, although in books a character we know usually actually has it, which isn't always true in life...)

What does wealth mean? It can be used to represent stability, competence, or power. When the character possessing it is a good guy, it's often a tool that allows the character to continue being a hero without maintaining a day-to-day job. Sometimes it even drives the plot, when characters must travel in order to finish the story--something not always possible without a stock of wealth to draw from. Other times, money acts as a barrier that holds her/his love interest at a distance by intimidation. Frequently, the love interest doesn't know about the wealth, or the wealth is a tool to introduce the characters; it can be seductive, but for the heroes, it's never the main draw--even when obtaining wealth was the initial goal of the hero (I say this thinking about a number of historical romances...). Rarely is money the main draw for the love interest; it ends up being icing on a cake, so to speak, with the cake being the hero. In the hands of heroes, money is used to buy good things and to create happiness, or used to shelter and protect the innocent. While the things that may be bought might be frivolous, they'll be used to make someone happy.

When the villain has it, it's almost inevitably a crippling vice, representing greed, corruption, or ruthlessness. Money is thrown around as a way of hurting others. It can be used to purchase frivolous things that make no one happy but act as a display of power, or to bribe or intimidate the heroes. When the villain/antagonist is in competition for a love interest, the money turns into temptation, or is used to showcase the dark side of the antagonist. Often it's used to hurt, and when it's not directly hurting someone, it's used to establish pecking order. The things that it buys are shallow, and the villain has at her or his core a basic, driving emptiness.

Personally, I found the list rather interesting. It has heroes and anti-heroes, downright villains and even a dragon. I'm personally rather fond of Smaug, the dragon, so that one made me laugh. Christian Grey, from 50 Shades of Grey, makes an appearance.

For a world with relatively few millionaires, there sure are a lot of fictional ones. Looking at the list, though, reminds me of how universal this trope is: a wish-fulfillment, and a warning about letting money become an obsession.

Are any of the characters in your favorite stories wealthy? Which ones, and what role does the wealth play in the story?

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