This study guide will help you analyse the text “The Model Millionaire” by Oscar Wilde. . We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on summary, plot and structure, characterisation, themes and on the questions you find in Gateways.
Presentation of the text
Title: “The Model Millionaire”
Author: Oscar Wilde
Year of publication: 1891
Oscar Wilde was a famous Irish author. He wrote poems, plays, novels and short stories. His dandy lifestyle brought him a lot of popularity, but he was not always seen with good eyes by the British society. Some of his most famous works are the novel “The Picture of Dorian Grey” and the play “The Importance of Being Ernest”.
Excerpt from the study guide:
Baron Hausberg is an eccentric millionaire, as we see him posing and looking like a beggar. He is also a good actor, as he manages to deceive Hughie and plays the role of the beggar: “The old man started, and a faint smile flitted across his withered lips. 'Thank you, sir,' he said, 'thank you.'” (p. 102, ll. 12-13)
Physically he is described as an old man whose beggar looks can only inspire pity: “He was a wizened old man, with a face like wrinkled parchment, and a most piteous expression.” (p. 101, ll. 18-20)
However, his curiosity regarding Hughie and later on his huge 10,000 pounds wedding gift shows that he is a generous person with a big heart and that his wealth has not turned him into a snob or a selfish person. This is why Alan calls him a “model millionaire” (p. 103, l. 41). The Baron’s actions should serve as a model for other wealthy people who can afford to help other people and causes.
Colonel Merton is the father of Laura, the woman Hughie loves. He comes across as a more traditional person. Even if he likes Hughie, he does not approve of the couple getting engaged unless Hughie has a stable 10,000 pounds fortune. This shows that he wants to marry his daughter with a wealthy, reliable person: “The Colonel was very fond of Hughie, but would not hear of any engagement.” (p. 99, ll. 23-24)
The Colonel is a symbol of traditional views on marriage. He does not seem to care that the couple is in love. For him, financial security is more important than love when it comes to marriage: “'Come to me, my boy, when you have got ten thousand pounds of your own, and we will see about it,' he used to say…” (p. 101, ll. 1-2)