1) Introduction. A man of seemingly inexhaustible talents, Stephen Butler Leacock (born December 30, 1869) easily juggled being a humorist, essayist, teacher, political economist, lecturer, and historian. He received many awards and honorary degrees, among them the Lorne Pierce Medal the Leacock Medal for Humour was established in his honor and has been awarded annually since 1947 to the best humorous book by a Canadian author. At the height of his career from 1915 through 1925, Leacock was undeniably the English-speaking worlds best-known humorist. His parents, Peter Leacock and Agnes Emma Butler, had been secretly married Agnes was three years older than her new husband. When Leacock was about 7, his large family (ultimately ten brothers and sisters) moved to Canada and settled on a 100-acre farm. Despite living a hard life on the farm, and having a charming but shiftless alcoholic father, Leacock was fortunate in that his mother believed strongly in a good education. With her devoted support and guidance, he did well in school, and graduated in 1887 as Head Boy from Upper Canada College. He received a B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1891. During this time, he wrote humorous articles for magazines for extra income. In 1900, he married Beatrix Hamilton, daughter of a well-to-do Toronto businessman.
Her death from breast cancer in 1925 grieved him greatly, but he kept his anguish private, and spearheaded fundraisers to aid cancer research. Among his professional accomplishments, Leacock was appointed to full professor at McGill University in 1908. He was also appointed William Dow Professor of Political Economy and chair of the Department of Economics and Political Science, a position he held for 30 years until his forced retirement at age 65. Leacocks prolific written observations–sharp, funny, and timely–were critically applauded and loved by the public. He published what many consider his literary masterpiece, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, in 1912. Leacock wrote two excellent biographies Mark Twain, published in 1932, and Charles Dickens, His Life and Work, in 1933. In 1935, he published Humour Its Theory and Technique. He died of throat cancer in 1944, leaving his autobiography, The Boy I Left Behind Me, unfinished. It was published in 1946. But death did not sweep him from Canadas cherished memory. To mark the 100th anniversary of Leacocks birth, the government of Canada issued a six-cent stamp in his honor in 1969. Leacocks former homes were declared historic sites, more awards were heaped upon him posthumously, and in 1970, a mountain in the Yukons Saint Elias range was named after him.
2) The summary. The sketch opens quickly with the narrators frank admission that banks and everything about them rattle him.He confesses to falling into a state of near idiocy at any attempt to transact business but is determined, now that he has more than fifty dollars in his pocket, to open an account. Timidly, he asks to speak to the manager. The manager takes him into a private room, locks the door, and proceeds to assure the narrator of utmost security. Because of the narrators air of confidentiality and distrust, the manager assumes he is a private detective or that he has a large sum to invest. Learning that the narrator has only fifty-six dollars, he unkindly turns him over to a clerk. The narrator is now flustered, mistakenly walks into the safe, and is eventually led to the clerks window, into which he thrusts the money. When assured that it had been deposited, the narrator quickly asks for a withdrawal slip. Meanwhile he feels that people in the bank are staring at him, thinking him a millionaire. Intimidated and miserable, he quickly withdraws his fifty-six dollars and rushes out. The sketch concludes with the narrators observation that he keeps his money in his pants pocket and his life savings in a sock.
3) The structure. This short story with ongoing tradition has traditional elements of structure. The principle of unity enables the reader to perceive the relationship between the individual units. Each incident contributes to the perception of that relationship there we can find an ordered arrangement of the parts. This story is written in accordance with dramatic pattern so it has the traditional structure of conflict, sequential action and resolution. This short story, though short in length and simple in characterization, also reflects its writers characteristics of narration and thought with its narrative structure. We can be alert on a storys structure even as we read it for the first time, primarily by paying attention to repeated elements and recurrent details of action and gesture, of dialogue and description, and to shifts in direction and changes of focus. Repetition signals are important connections to the relationships between characters, and connections between ideas. Shifts in direction are often signaled by such visual or aural clues as a change of scene, a new voice, and a blank space in the text. They may also include changes in the time and place of action or alternations in characters entrances and exits, or in their behavior.
Or they may appear as changes in the pace of the story and in its texture of language. The structure of stories can never be regarded as a matter of little importance The plot is the carrier of the structure. The plot is the sequence of unfolding action, and structure is the design or form of the completed action. Structure satisfies our need for order, proportion, and arrangement. A storys symmetry or balance of details may please us, as may its alternating of moments of tension and relaxation. The short story requires the readers utmost attention, a focus of the mind on each detail like a fine lyric poem. The structure of a traditional plot is essentially dramatic. There may be a geometrical quality to its plot structure. It follows Aristotles statement that a proposition is stated, developed by arguments and finally proved. Therefore a conflict, in this case – internal within the character, is stated at the beginning of a story, developed by a series of scenes, and resolved at the end. Each scene, incident, and its resolution, but most also carry its bit of significance in the progression that it occupies.
So we can divide My Financial Career into 4 logical parts. The exposition starts from the very beginning of the text and continues up to the procedure with the deposit of a narrator. In its turn, the exposition consists of the series of complications meeting with the manager, stepping into the safe, formalization process. Then goes the key event, which is the withdrawal of the money by making a mistake in a cheque. It was the point of highest emotional tension. The denouement is the last thoughts of the narrator, where he concludes not to have any deals with a bank any more.
4), 5) General atmosphere characters. The humor of the piece is achieved not only by the exaggerated situation but also by a skillful use of short clips of dialogue. The narrators psychological intimidation is clearly presented by an economy of detail in which the scene richly suggests more than it relates. It is a very funny piece that appeals to all ages. Perhaps as times change and we no longer refer to tellers as clerks at their wickets and we forget what the Rothschilds and Goulds represented and our banking experience is reduced to online transactions, it will become more difficult to identify with the situation of the main character. But the basic empathy with the embarrassment of someone in an unfamiliar environment remains. When he asks to speak to the bank manager and adds a conspiratorial alone without knowing why he does so, leading to a misunderstanding, we understand. We understand because its the kind of inexplicable thing we recognize we do ourselves when were nervously trying not to appear nervous. The other characters have no vivid characteristics.
The only things were an accountant was a tall, cool devil, the manager was a grave, calm man. These lines show us that the narrator see the bank clerks like something blurred and obscure. 6) The style. The most vivid characteristic is the usage of 1st person perspective. Stephen Leacock uses the first-person perspective in his short autobiographical story My Financial Career, and that is an effective narrative choice in comic fiction. First of all, telling his story in first person is more interesting. It is generally much more interesting to hear someone tell his own story than to hear him tell someone elses story. Readers would much rather hear him say I went to the bank the other day than Someone I know went to the bank the other day. Even worse is A guy went into a bank, which is more for spoken (stand-up) comedy than written comedy. Second, the readers know exactly what the character (in this case, the author) is feeling as he fearfully walks into the bank, armed with years of distrust. While he could try to explain someone elses feelings, Leacock is certainly able to share with us exactly how humiliating this experience was for him. Third, the first-person point of view adds credibility to the story.
This is not just something that happened to somebody at some point in time at a random bank this happened tohimand he knows the particulars and details which both add humor and make the story believable. Fourth, no one is hurt by his humor except for himself. It is often uncomfortable for readers to hear an author make fun of others somehow it is more humorous for us to know that the writer is making fun of himself, which gives readers the right to laugh, too. Finally, the story is told by a narrator, from the perspective of time, who can use humor to teach his readers the lessons he learned. We could not know what someone else might have learned from this banking experience, but we can know what Stephen Leacock learned because it is his story. The story is full of puns and innuendos, especially the text is filled with allusions Pinkertons, Baron Rothschild and young Gould. Some metaphors are used make a plunge, idiot hope struck me etc.
7), 8) The mail idea personal evaluation. The main topic of My Financial Career is a confession of Leacocks phobia about banks. This humorous essay is one of his most popular pieces because many of his readers share his fear of big, imposing institutions. Banks in Leacocks time were more intimidating places than most of them are today. In fact, it is possible to do most banking without ever entering a bank. But Leacock picks out the aspects of the old-fashioned bank that were most intimidating. They had thick stone walls, high ceilings, uniformed and armed guards, bars separating tellers from customers, and imposing vaults with incredibly thick steel doors. The men and women handling all that money were deadly serious and also suspicious of any stranger. Leacock seems to have been most intimidated by the people in the bank. No doubt Leacock received many penetrating looks when he first went in to open his modest account. As with most humor and comedy, we laugh at him because we are really laughing at ourselves. When I go into a bank I get rattled. The clerks rattle me the wickets rattle me the sight of the money rattles me everything rattles me. After his interview with the manager, Leacock rose to leave the office.
A big iron door stood open at the side of the room. Good morning, I said, and stepped into the safe. Come out, said the manager coldly, and showed me the other way. Personally, I must admit that Leacock wrote excellent and very readable biographies of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. He must have been influenced by the humor pieces in which Mark Twain confesses some of his own foibles and idiosyncracies. One of his best is about his feelings about barber shops. Another is about how he allowed a traveling salesman to put so many lightning rods and metal coils around his house that the big Victorian building attracted every bolt of lignting in the county. Another very funny essay by Mark Twain deals with how he couldnt get a ridiculous little jingle out of his mind until he passed it on to a friend, who was then stuck with it himself. To my mind, Leacocks humor, like Mark Twains, is built on exaggeration. Leacocks style is unpretentious, personal, friendly, and informal like that of Mark Twain. Notice how short all of the paragraphs are in My Financial Career. Such short paragraphs and short sentences have eye-appeal.
Leacock was an extremely popular writer at one time, both in Canada and the United States. He ranked with Robert Benchley and James Thurber as a popular humorist. He is not so well remembered today. But humor essays can become dated quickly. As for the text, the main idea is even deeper as I could imagine. My Financial Career deals with the idea of the emasculation (made to not feel manly) of the individual by societal exceptions. The man feels forced to practice in banking which seems like a place of importance and masculinity. The individual fears of being emasculated or embarrassed because of his lack of wealth compared with supposed expectations leads him to perform idiotically and causes further embarrassment. The contrast between the bank managers expectations (that he is someone of importance financially or for situational reasons) and the reality of what the man is highlights this unavoidable emasculation of the individual due to societal expectations.
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