What is the satiric point of the writer's working title in the title essay, "Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine," in Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine by Tom Wolfe?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The satire in this opening essay, describing an unnamed writer, occurs because of the ironic juxtaposition of his attitudes and behaviors to his working title. The non-fiction writer has donned his writing clothes and has repeated his "Discipline!" mantra and sat down to write. His introductory ritual however is to go over the inspiring series of dollar signs that have accompanied his success: as his success has grown, so have his fixed costs of living. Not only does he need an appropriately sized and decorated apartment in New York, suitable for dinners and cocktail parties, he needs a rented summer house on Martha's Vineyard island, summer sojourn of notables and luminaries in the literary and publishing worlds.

After having entered all his expenses and watched the figure grow to seven digits (including the cents columns); after thinking about the accumulation of wealth and fame; after thinking in awe about his rising list of necessities, which includes a library stairway that "goes nowhere"; when he is ready to assert his discipline and write in that "tubercular blue glow, as his mind comprehends it," he ironically types a title that bespeaks of economic contraction--which is what a recession is and which is the opposite of his own personal economic expansion--and of implied social and economic repression in America.

The subtitle, "Police State America and the Spirit of '76," alludes to a Willard painting (Spirit of '76, 1875) that dramatizes the jubilant feelings associated with winning freedom, independence and liberty. This allusion relates to recession and repression because it is an antithetical idea that opposes repression of a people and contradicts a recessive, contractionist economy because of the philosophical recognition that economic well being is one of the hallmarks of a free people. To relate this to Wolfe's essay, "Mauve Glove," the writer has economic success, but, Wolfe suggests, he seems to be imposing economic repression on himself by allowing accumulating dollar signs to represent his success while (ironically) repressing him.

yet in his secret heart he loves these little sessions ... an electric diagram of his infinitely expanding life .... Far from throwing him into panic, ... these tote sessions are ... [a] regular vice! ... it is a permissible way to avoid the only thing that can possibly keep him afloat: ... more writing.

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