‘My Financial Career’ by Stephen Leacock: Short Story Analysis
‘My Financial Career’ is a short humorous piece by Canadian writer Stephen Leacock. Leacock was known as one of the best humorists of his time. In this short story, he mentions in a very humorous way how he tried to get into the habit of saving his earnings in a bank and how he failed miserably in doing so. Leacock receives a rise in his salary, which rounds up to 50 dollars a month. He had on his person 56 dollars and wished to be a wise citizen and bank his dollars. The short story is brief, to the point, and full of subtle humor. It indicates to readers how bankers then and even now are only concerned with the rich who come to bank their money and not the middle-class or the struggling poor.
Leacock had 56 dollars upon him and went to the bank to save his money. However, he is unaware of how to go about opening an account in a bank. Leacock goes to a clerk and asks to see the manager of the bank. He makes a mistake by saying he wanted to see the manager ‘alone’. The word ‘alone’ made the clerk think that Leacock wished to convey some very private information to the manager or deposit a great deal of money in the bank.
The irresponsible and hasty clerk without analyzing the situation promptly goes and calls in the manager. We all know there is no need to call the bank manager for just opening an account. The manager thought that some detective or a rich person had come to see him attends immediately. Again, Leacock repeats that he wishes to talk to the manager ‘alone’. The manager agitatedly leads Leacock to his private room. The manager is used to being questioned by detectives in this manner and firmly believes that Leacock was one. The manager is worried and anxious. When Leacock reveals to the manager that he is not a detective from Pinkerton’s detective agency, the manager then jumps to the conclusion that a significant amount will be deposited in the bank. When Leacock reveals the measly sum of 56 dollars and 50 dollars monthly, the manager is frustrated and annoyed. He hauls Leacock with disdain out of his office for wasting his precious time and instructs his clerk Mr. Montgomery to help Leacock open an account with the bank. He then disappears from the scene after coldly moving Leacock from the direction of the safes to the clerk in question.
As you can see, Leacock is mocking the way people of his time were so fond of detective stories and films that they, when asked to be seen alone, usually concluded that something of a mysterious nature had occurred. There is a mention of ‘Pinkertons Detectives’, which is the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, a private security guard and detective agency established in the United States by Scotsman Allan Pinkerton in 1850. There is also mention of the name ‘Baron Rothschild’, which is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was bestowed in 1885 to Sir Nathan Rothschild, 2nd Baronet, a member of the Rothschild banking family. The family was wealthy and famous, and Leacock used both Rothschild and the detective agency’s name to add an extra dash of humor, on current topics of his day and time, to the short story.
Notice how the manager acts indifferently towards Leacock when he realizes that Leacock was only a middle-class person who didn’t know how the bank operated. The clerks observing that Leacock visited the manager privately think that he is someone important in the bank. They stare in wonderment, trying to help his silliness as he deposits 56 dollars for opening his bank account. Leacock, like a fool, realizes that he has no ready money left with him for his present use. He asks how to withdraw 6 dollars from his current account, and in all sobriety, a clerk hands him a checkbook and pen. Leacock is flummoxed by the whole experience and in a daze which commerce usually causes writes 56 dollars instead of 6 dollars. The clerk then realizes that Leacock was nothing but an imbecile. He sarcastically asks Leacock whether he seriously wanted all of it drawn out again to which Leacock feels that he had better do so. Leacock, who has no notion of banking notes, asks to be paid the 50 dollars in 50-dollar notes, which is ridiculous because of its madness! The clerk who is rich with a straight face removes a 50 dollar note from his pocket and gives it to a now very dazed Leacock. Like a fool, Leacock asks for his 6 dollars in 6 dollar notes instead of asking it in dollar notes or silver coins. He leaves the bank mortified at his foolishness. When he goes, all the people working at the bank have a hearty good laugh at his expense.
Leacock declares to his readers that he never banks his money after that day but keeps them either on him or in a sock. The story is an irreverent but highly impressive humorous piece that only a humorist like Leacock could have penned to show the lack of emotionality in people working at a bank. It is only two sides long and is very brief but funny, like most of Leacock’s works. Thus, Leacock’s career or journey in finances and banking ends with him willing to care for his own money rather than trusting it to people we find in a bank.
I came across Stephen Leacock’s works when I was in school. We had a lesson or two in our English literature textbooks, and his writings always made me laugh out loud. After I passed out of school and earned my own money from giving tuitions, I bought some of Leacock’s books from the Strand Bookstore somewhere in 2006. I still have them with me today. They make an enjoyable read, but the Strand is no longer there. It was a book lover’s treasure trove and the Mecca for book lovers in India. To read more about my experience with the Strand Bookstore, you can go on Amazon and check out my bookish memoirs titled The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra or Scenes of a Reclusive Writer & Reader of Mumbai.
If you are interested in book reviews, book analysis, short story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, check out my blog insaneowl.com. If you are interested in purchasing my books, you can check out my website fizapathanpublishing.us or fizapathan.com. Happy reading to you this weekend!
Copyright © 2020 Fiza Pathan