Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 440
The titular financial expert, Margayya, is a modest man who becomes obsessed with money and its power. His changing fortunes at first improve his life, but his increasing preoccupation with money and the trappings of wealth overwhelm and then ruin him.
Because Margayya has been poor (or earns barely enough for his family), he becomes increasingly convinced that money will solve all of his problems and that nothing but more money will provide the key to happiness. The powerful medium of money fascinates Margayya because people require it so basically or desperately—even as much as the air they breathe—and it possesses an almost magical ability to affect human behavior:
Money was man's greatest need like air or food. People went to horrifying lengths for its sake, like collecting rent on a dead body—it left him admiring the power and dynamism of money, its capacity to make people do strange deeds.
Margayya experiences confusion when having money confers certain changes in the attitudes of those who have not treated him properly in the past. Those people include both the neighbors who have looked down on him and the bank workers who have criticized his behavior and threatened to remove him from his customary spot at the banyan tree. Margayya tells his wife:
No more torn mats and dirty, greasy sarees for you. . . . And those people (he indicated the next house) will have to wonder and burst their hearts with envy.
The character of Balu, Margayya and Meena's son, transitions from spoiled child to indulged teenager and then to indolent student. Having been indulged his whole life and put forward as the symbol of his father's success, Balu has no resources that will support his necessary transition into adulthood. He assumes that his parents are there primarily to care for him:
Balu devoted himself to the art of cultivating leisure. He was never in a hurry to get out of bed. At about nine o'clock, his father came to his bedside and in general reminded him; had you not better getup before the coffee gets too stale? . . . [While he was away from the house, his] mother waited for him interminably. . . . Sometimes he came home very late.
Margayya's desire for money is tied up with his aspirations for Balu, which included getting a prestigious foreign education. More than concern for his son's well-being and career, Margayya is more interested in Balu's role of providing the grandchildren that Margayya believes will secure his lineage and new social position. The material goods that Margayya desires will enable Balu's "marriage with a Judge's daughter and the realization of the next generation of aristocrats."
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