In "My Financial Career" by Stephen Leacock, what is the transaction made by the narrator in the bank like?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stephen Leacock intended to make a very simple transaction at the bank, but he had never had any previous experience with banking and made a hash of it. He asked for a private interview with the manager of a large, imposing bank and then revealed that he only wanted to open a very small account. The manager, of course, assumed that Leacock was there on an important mission.

"You are one of Pinkerton's men, I presume," he said.

He had gathered from my mysterious manner that I was a detective. I knew what he was thinking and it made me worse.

Leacock explained his intended transaction in one simple line of dialogue.

“I propose to deposit fifty-six dollars now, and fifty dollars a month regularly.”

Leacock for many years was the most popular English-speaking writer in the world. One of the reasons for his popularity was his simplicity. It can be noted that "My Financial Career" is full of very short paragraphs and that the language is all conversational English. Another famous humorist, Robert Benchley, was so inspired by Leacock's writing that he once said he had written everything Leacock had ever written--not "read" but "written." In other words he had written on every topic covered by Leacock. Both men were obviously inspired by the great Mark Twain, an earlier author who wrote many humorous stories and essays characterized by wild exaggeration.

"My Financial Career" was published in 1914. Even in those days, fifty dollars was not a large sum of money--although it seemed large to Leacock. The manager turns him over to a clerk, who shows him how to open an account and how to write a check. In those days there was no distinction between savings accounts and checking accounts. A check could be written on any personal account. 

Leacock is so flustered by this point that he mistakenly writes a check for fifty-six dollars, although he had only intended to withdraw six dollars for present personal expenses. For some reason it didn't occur to him that he could simply keep six dollars of his cash and deposit fifty. The clerk is astonished.

“What! Are you drawing it all out again?”

An idiot hope struck me that they might think something had insulted me while I was writing the check and that I had changed my mind. I made a wretched attempt to look like a man with a fearfully quick temper.

This, Leacock claims, was his last experience with banking. As the title of the story suggests, it was the whole extent of his "financial career." Leacock, characteristically, is exaggerating wildly. He was a professor of Political Economy and chairman of the Department of Economics and Political Science at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. However, he concludes his story as follows:

As the big doors swung behind me I caught the echo of a roar of laughter that went up to the ceiling of the bank. Since then I bank no more. I keep my money in cash in my trousers pocket, and my savings in silver dollars in a sock.