The play "The Hour of Truth" by Percival Wilde is an intense psychological study on the corrupting influence of money on people. Elaborate this statement.I would also like to know the critical...

The play "The Hour of Truth" by Percival Wilde is an intense psychological study on the corrupting influence of money on people. Elaborate this statement.

I would also like to know the critical analysis of the play.

Asked on by kimoyo

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Percival Wilde's novel The Hour of Truth is indeed an intense psychological study of the corrupting influence of money on people. The reason for this is that the plot explores greed from a myriad of different points of view and, although all individuals are tempted by greed at one point or another in life, this particular story shows how easily people forget their morals and upbringings when money is close by.

This story is positive in that the bad get punished, and the good get rewarded. However, the battle between self and society are intensified in the character of Mr. Robert Baldwin, the secretary of a powerful bank president, Mr. John Gresham.  

Mr. Baldwin represents an everyday American man who works for a living and whose salary may not be as good as he wished to support his family. His family, in turn, also represents the typical American family with its views on morality, and a hope for the American Dream.

Everything changes when we find out that Mr. Gresham, Robert's boss, is accused of appropriating the bank's money, which in turn, hurts the clients of the bank. As Mr. Gresham is arrested we immediately lose confidence in his character. Mr. Gresham was a good boss to Mr. Baldwin, and seems to have been the type of person nobody would suspect. To see him as a thief leaves a bad taste in the reader's rapport with him, making the reader realize how badly money can influence people.

As a result of the arrest, Gresham begs Mr. Baldwin to simply say three words during his examination on trial regarding Mr. Gresham's transactions "I don't remember". As a reward, he offered him one hundred thousand dollars: An amazing amount of money at the time of the story.

Once again, money changed everything, only not with Mr. Baldwin. It is his family who suddenly changes from being virtuous, respectable, and incapable to allow Robert to tell a lie. When they hear about the bribe (which Gresham calls a payment), they insist that maybe Robert should consider saying "just those three words". This is another instance where we may find it shocking how money can overturn family values.

Yet, it is Robert what brings the hope back into the story. He simply cannot accept a bribe but, most importantly, he cannot bear telling a lie. For this reason, he respectfully rejects the offer. This action left Mr. Gresham ashamed of himself, which led him to confess his own crime.

The end of the story is positive because Robert Baldwin's honesty and integrity landed him a job in another bank. His reputation as a decent and dignified man was spread out by Mr. Gresham, who realizes what a good man Robert is.

However, with the exception of Baldwin, we do not find any other positive dynamics in the story. Money only brings with it isolation, punishment, deception, frustration, and the possibility of endless shame.

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