Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Serious Money lays bare the greed associated with the money-trading business and in the process bares as well the hypocrisies of both personal conduct and government policy. For an audience of the 1980’s, accustomed to being characterized by press and pulpit as rabid materialists, the point was clear: These characters are reflections of those who first watched them.

Greed corrupts all. Scilla may begin her search for her brother’s murderer from the decent motive of family ties, but when she discovers that Jake was making enormous sums of money, without a qualm she switches to searching for the money instead. Driven by greed, all can justify their actions: Marylou and Jake can do insider trading because, after all, everyone acts on whatever information happens to come his way; Jacinta can double-cross even would-be lover Zac because a businesswoman is supposed to make as much money as possible; Jacinta and Marylou can deal in cocaine because the Central Intelligence Agency also benefits.

Personal greed is hardly a new evil, as the opening scene from The Volunteers makes clear. Caryl Churchill’s point is that the institutionalization of greed has reached alarming proportions. It is relatively harmless when greed lures some traders from BMWs to Lamborghinis. When it invades the boardroom, greed becomes corporate; corporate power is used to enrich the few. Corman’s takeovers create no new product or jobs, yet win or lose...

(The entire section is 480 words.)