“Master of the House” is one of the few songs in the musicale Les Miserables that has a happy air, although I would say there is nothing happy or good-natured in the lyrics of the song. The song is sung primarily by M. Thenardier and a chorus group, with Mme. Thenardier, also known as the Thenardiess as Hugo calls her, joining her husband near the end of the song. “Master of the House” is one of the songs sung at the inn scene of the musicale in Act I.
It typifies the demeanor of an unscrupulous inn-keeper who is bent on squeezing as much as he can from his clientele by posing such marketing pitch so base that even his wife deplores him. Like all other businessmen, it is understandable that Thenardier would try to entice a prospective client with lines that would highlight the best in him and his establishment. He tries to be charming, amiable, and always ready to be of service to his clients for a fee, after all, “everything has got a little price.
” But his price tends to be a bit exorbitant, bordering on plain thievery. Although nothing is said in the song as to what he charges his clients for the services he offers, the list of “extras” that he charges, however, would easily outweigh the main service charge as the list could easily ran into miles for “when it comes to fixing prices, there are a lot of tricks he knows.
” More than that, he practically overcharges for the wine and food that he serves his guests: watered-down wine, minced-meat posed as beef, and sausage made from horse kidney and cat liver. What he serves as porridge or clear soup to his guests, I would not even try to make a guess for sure enough it would appall us who have been born at a time when consumer protection laws are tighter than the belts on our waists. But then again, Les Miserables is set in the early 19th century, when such laws are not yet thought of as necessary.
The thinking was that if one can get away with deceit, good for him as he gets a “good” bargain for his products and services; as for the poor client on discovering the deceit, better luck next time if he can’t force a refund. Thenardier was such a despicable tradesman engaging in deceitful activities in his inn that even the Thenardiess could not hold him in any esteem. Such expletives coming from the Thenardiess could only show her great contempt in being married to such a man, “hypocrite, toady and inebriate.
” In a toast where glasses are asked to the raised in honor of the master, she would rather raise the glass “up the master’s arse,” or ass in American English. “Master of the House” is a very good song. It is good in terms of instrumentation, lyrics, and when interpreted properly, it can even be viewed as hilarious. But on close reading of the lyrics and the mirth presented in its interpretation we are presented with a reality that nowadays we, as consumers, are protected from this kind of a tradesman.
We are lucky, that when we discover deceit committed on us, there are agencies that can help us get our money back or at least get the value of the product that we agreed to pay for. We do not have to resort to brawny resolutions of dubious transactions involving money. But to make consumer protection laws a lot more fierce and efficient, consumers should do their part: not to engage in illegal trade, intellectual property rights piracy, tax evasion and to report to proper authorities suspicious trade activities.
There can never be enough an amount of legislation to protect consumer rights as long as consumers would not learn to defend and fight for his rights. After all, it would not cost us anything to be vigilant on small matters like these. I believe, personally, that it would cost us more when we are duped by the ready handshake, open palm and saucy tale of the next Thenardier that comes along our way. It may be 21st century, but Thenardier is still out there.