Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

When Lilia reminds Robert that they “are one flesh,” he quickly responds, “And one fortune,” thereby suggesting the extent to which emotional and financial needs are confused in this novel. Money, not love, motivates the men who exploit the weaknesses and addictions of their women. Rather than converse with Lilia during their meals, Robert reads the financial pages of newspapers; when he realizes that Lilia will not return to him, he refers not to his emotional state, but to the “calculations” that she has upset. For him, the marriage is a merger that has not been consummated. Robert, who admits that he is selfish, has two ambitions, both of which involve the accumulation of money; he is so manipulative and greedy that he can quite accurately interpret Miss Chillard’s behavior. The relationship between the Blaises is more complex because both, even to Lilia’s somewhat naive eye, are greedy. In fact, one of the sources of the novel is a short story named “A Household,” which Stead has also titled “Greedy.” The Leglands, a French couple in the short story, seem to have been the forerunners of the Blaises, but in the novel, it is the greedy husband, not the callous wife, who is the real villain. Dr. Blaise will be a “slave” for money only until he can use his wife’s drug addiction to force her to return to Basel, where he will probably kill her and forge her will.

Money and materialism permeate this novel, which involves the...

(The entire section is 469 words.)