Malachi Stacks in the Matchmaker
Malachi Stacks in the Matchmaker
In the world of business there are always those men and women who are not recognized for the contributions they make to certain products, projects, or works even though without them the result would never exist. Nonetheless, these people go on with their daily lives working hard, knowing that all their dedication is going to benefit others and not them. Yet, they can’t blame the big companies for not being recognized, because these men and women do this willingly. They are fully aware that their actions serve a purpose to the greater rather than a personal one, and for them that is enough. Such people do not need the recognition of others because they themselves know the importance of their actions.
One example of such a human being is portrayed in Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. His name is Malachi Stacks, and though he only shows up on stage two or three times, he is the one who gives the entire production meaning. Malachi is the person who sets into motion a series of events that completely change not only the characters, but also their lives. With this character, Thornton Wilder takes what used to be just a regular farce comedy and gives it meaning which makes all the difference, Malachi Stacks makes all the difference.
Thornton carefully crafted the role of Stacks in such a way that made him distinct from the rest of the characters. Even with being in his fifties, sadness and depression are entirely absent from his life. Every line spoken by him has a joyful feeling to, and almost puts a smile on the reader’s face. Even at times when he is being put down by Mr. Vandergelder, joy is felt in his words. Wilder makes Malachi seem like a little adolescent, who has not yet been exposed to reality, and still thinks the world is perfect. However, all this is just an image that Malachi establishes for his own purposes. He makes people believe he can be trusted by pretending to be respectful and following orders. Malachi creates a relationship between himself and the others, especially Mr. Vandergelder, which makes him seem gullible and easy to control when in fact it is he who controls them.
This sort of maneuver is portrayed very well in his first scene with Mr. Vandergelder, in which he says “You’ll never regret it, Mr. Vandergelder. You’ll never regret it.” It is such a simple line, and yet there is so much there. Malachi makes it seem like he is just another man who is happy about getting a job, when in reality he is masking his true intentions behind these innocent words. The real reason Malachi is happy to have gotten the job, is because he now has the ability to fix the inequality which exists between Vandergelder and the others. Truth be told, Malachi is actually the only individual who see this flaw amongst the characters, and he knows it should not be there. Therefore, by formulating this sort of innocent personality, Malachi Stacks gives himself the perfect opportunity to finally bring equality into the lives of the characters.
It all happens in Act III when Mr. Vandelgelder is having his coat taken off as his purse filled with money falls to the ground. Malachi, knowing that the primary reason for such inequality amongst the characters is their financial situations, takes his chance to balance the scale. However, he does not make a big deal out of it. Malachi simply takes the purse, asks Vandelgelder if it’s his, and since the response is no he gives it to Cornelius. It’s very quick, subtle, and seems like the right thing to do. Yet, even though what he did was so simple, it was enough to bring equality into their lives and he knew that. By asking Vandergelder whether or not the purse was his, Malachi tested him to check if he deserves the money. For in his short little monologue that he has right after picking up the purse, Mr. Stacks says “The law is there to protect property, but- sure the law doesn’t care whether a property owner deserves his property or not, and the law has to be corrected”.
Therefore when he asked Vandelgelder “Did you drop something” the real question was “Are you worthy of all this money that you have”. Vandelgelder responding quickly said no, and that was enough for Malachi to know that the money deserved to be in the hands of someone else, Cornelius. It is also at this point that inequality begins to slowly disappear between the characters. First, Cornelius and Barnaby are able to pay for their expensive dinner and truly impress Mrs. Malloy along with Minnie. Then Mrs. Levi finally tells Mr. Vandergelder what she thinks of him when he cannot pay the bill, and that is when he finally realizes what kind of man he is. Slowly through scenes like these, the balance between the characters begins to even out and by the end, everyone is happy, joyful, and most of all the inequality amongst them completely vanishes all thanks to Malachi Stacks.
Though Thornton chose Malachi to be the tool for equilibrium amongst the characters by having him “redistribute the superfluities”, the part also is important when it comes to the moral of the story. Of course, after reading The Matchmaker it safe to say that there are multiple lessons to be learned from this play, but one of the main ones shows up in Malachi’s monologue. Right after discussing the entire matter of redistributing property, Thornton has the character talk about how one man should not have more than one vice. In fact, he ends his line with the words “One vice at a time”. Now this entire concept might seem abstract, because after all even in today’s world vices are looked down upon. However, Thornton shows what two vices can do to a man by having Malachi use Vandergelder’s wrongs against him.
His first true frailty is that in his own world Mr. Vandergelder sees himself a king, where no one can stop him because he has so much money. The second is his passion for money. In fact, his first vice comes from this one, because to him a person who has more money has more authority. So instead of merely having Vandergelder destroy himself through his vices, Thornton uses Malachi to show how having more than one vice is recipe for destruction. First, he uses Vandergelder’s attitude towards himself to gain his trust, by pretending to be loyal to him. Next, once Vandergelder thinks he has him under his control, Malachi uses the second frailty against him taking that which is most precious, his money, and giving it away. By using both of these flaws in his master’s character, Mr. Stacks brings Vandergelder into a state of despair where he has lost everything that made him, a King in his own mind.
One man. Three Scenes. Yet without him, The Matchmaker would never be the same. Thornton Wilder made a smart decision in imgaging such a character, because he is developed in such a way that his importance to the whole play is not realized until the conclusion. For with just a simple action of handing off a purse to Cornelius, Malachi made a ripple effect which changed the course of the entire production and made all the difference. Malachi Stacks made all the difference.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 January 2017
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