Student Question

In Frank Norris's McTeague, where does Marcus Schouler show a money obsession?

Quick answer:

Marcus's obsession with money is perhaps best displayed in the final chapters of the book. The reader sees Marcus first become angry that his friend McTeague has won $5000 in a lottery, and later he hears Marcus complaining about how he should have received part of that money. The reader also sees how much this obsession affects Marcus's relationship with McTeague. His obsession with the money even makes him act out of character at times—he attacks McTeague verbally and becomes bitter and angry when McTeague refuses to pay him back for a room he once let McTeague use. Marcus'

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In Frank Norris’s novel McTeague, Marcus Schouler at first seems a generous and even altruistic man. When he realizes that he and his friend McTeague are in love with the same young woman (Trina), he steps aside so that McTeague can have her. Later, however, when Trina literally wins the lottery and she and McTeague come into a sizable sum of money ($5000), Marcus begins to regret his earlier behavior. At the very end of chapter seven, for instance, he exclaims to himself,

"You fool, you fool, Marcus Schouler! If you'd kept Trina you'd have had that money. You might have had it yourself. You've thrown away your chance in life—to give up the girl, yes—but this," he stamped his foot with rage—"to throw five thousand dollars out of the window—to stuff it into the pockets of someone else, when it might have been yours, when you might have had Trina and the money—and all for what? Because we were pals. Oh, 'pals' is all right—but five thousand dollars—to have played it right into his hands—God damn the luck!"

Here Marcus’s desire for the money seems more important than his friendship with McTeague.

Later, McTeague notices that Marcus is beginning to behave with coolness toward him. At one point Marcus even tells McTeague that he wants to be repaid for the “four bits” (four quarters; one dollar) he once gave McTeague. He even implies that McTeague should pay him for the use of a room Marcus had offered McTeague to sleep in.

Later still, Marcus’s thoughts about the “lost” $5000 lead him to attack McTeague verbally:

"If I had my rights," cried Marcus, bitterly, "I'd have part of that money. It's my due—it's only justice. If it hadn't been for me . . . you wouldn't have had a cent of it—no, not a cent. Where's my share, I'd like to know?"

Immediately after this outburst, Marcus continues to complain about the money he thinks is rightfully his. His obsession continues, in fa ct, until the very final pages of the book, where his fixation on the cash ultimately leads not only to his own death but also to the probable death of McTeague as well.

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