J. M. Barrie

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What is the relevance of J. M. Barrie's play The Will to the twenty-first century?

Quick answer:

The relevance of J. M. Barrie's play The Will to life in the twenty-first century is that people today still find that money alone is not the key to happiness but, rather, can leave them sad and unfulfilled.

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The Will is relevant to the twenty-first century as it deals with the universal theme that money can't buy happiness.

In this short play, Emily and Philip Ross, a couple with very little money, come to the Devize law practice to make a will. They are young, hopeful, and in love. Emily, in particular, wants their will to be generous and hopes to leave as much as possible to Philip's cousins and a hospital.

Many years later, the couple is quite financially successful, but the marriage and their lives have gone sour. Emily no longer wants to give generously to others: she has gained a taste for the high life and thinks of her own needs first. She wants most of the money to go to her should Philip predecease her. She, in fact, dies first, and forty years after they made the original will, Philip returns to the law offices, unhappy, aggressive, and full of bluster, now an "unsympathetic" character. The play ends ambiguously. Philip would like to redeem some worth from his life by helping another young couple avoid his mistakes, but as the older and wiser man, he now says,

It can’t be done with money.

But what else does Philip have to offer? That's the implicit question the play ends on.

Then, as now, money can't buy happiness, and wealth seems to increase, rather than decrease, greed. The number of wealthy and successful people today who commit suicide show that money and success still leave people empty and unsatisfied.

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