Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rothschilds: The pursuit of wealth

There is a beautiful number in the first act of The Rothschilds between Mayer and Gutele before they are married. Gutele sings about how she needs very little and Mayer insists that she will have more than a little.

Gutele talks about how all she really wants is a single room--a place to be with him and a few other items. She then says, "It sounds like so little. It's not." It's a sentiment that is easy for me to relate to. It comes down to what is important in life. It isn't the accumulation of goods or the creation of wealth that matters. It is spending life with those you love and being a part of a community.

Given my empathy with Gutele, it surprised me that I was equally touched by why Mayer replied that it wasn't enough. His response:

"I've seen our neighbors' wives, how quickly they grow old when the children coe. In one room, a dozen hungry mouths and not enough to fill even one of htem. To settle for little, for most wives, that's fine. I cannot accept it for mine. My wife will never have to see apologetic looks in her husband's eyes. My wife will have as good a life as my will and my bran can devise."

Later in the play, the accumulation of wealth becomes the means by which they plan to knock down the ghetto walls and end the mistreatment of their people.

Perhaps the key factor is that wealth becomes a means to end, not an end in itself. In this musical, wealth is sought for the sake of making better the lives of those whom they love--which also means sacrificing everything if it is necessary to get to the real end.

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