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Rich for One Day
Transcript of Rich for One Day
Suzanne Jacob's story “Rich for One Day” exhibits how optimism can exist anywhere, and that at the end of the day, an individual's happiness or lack thereof, matters entirely on perception. The protagonist, Aline, is a perfect example of this; she does not have money, is inherently lazy and lacks motivation. However, she does not care, and despite her somewhat squalid living conditions, she remains happy, and could be characterised as blissfully ignorant. The theme of self-perceived happiness is conveyed by the use of symbolism.
Throughout the story, Aline is shown as very happy-go-lucky and intent about life in general, but is shown to hold dislike towards lights, stating herself that “[she] didn't like them. There is not much Aline didn't like...” (Jacob 259). This is one of the most prominent symbols in the story and is shown from very early on, when Aline is shown to possess “black burlap curtains that held out the light” (Jacob 258) and sounds as though she is actually afraid of light, as she describes that it would be “risky” (Jacob 258) to open the aforementioned curtains and that “the sky could be too bright, it could be too much” (Jacob 258). Aline and her immense dislike of light symbolises her ignorance; her preference to be kept in the dark and to not be exposed to the light (which is symbolic of truth and enlightenment). She ignores the light the same way she ignores the fact that her life is rather dreary, yet she is better for it, for life as she sees it is good, whereas if she were to let the “light” in, she would be miserable. She subconsciously knows this, for if she didn't, she would not actively avoid light.
Aline fantasises that “when she grows up, she would be very, very rich and that she would have a car and a chauffeur, and that she would have the whole backseat to herself and would be surrounded by... very astonishing things... and she would travel[,] spend all her time in her car[,] and stroll over the whole world”. (Jacob 259) This particular passage is somewhat contradictory to the rest of the story. She is depicted as not caring about her lack of wealth and poverty, yet she fantasises about possessing wealth, enough of it to afford trips around the world, a private car, a chauffeur and material possessions. This could imply that Aline is lying to herself and is not truly as happy and blissfully ignorant as she lets on, which is also supported by her subconscious efforts to keep the truth (or light) out – because she knows if she were to be exposed to the truth, she would not be content – and that perhaps she is aware of the unpleasant truth, but represses her knowledge to maintain her happiness.
It is true that there are some very conflicting observations can be made within the story, but I believe that this was Jacob's intention, as these anomalies can be perceived as Aline's true feelings which are being repressed by her false happy-go-lucky personality that she has made for herself. Yet all this contributes to the story's theme of self-perceived happiness. Even if she is not happy internally, she is happy outwardly and might not even be aware of her inner discontent, which means that she still perceives herself as happy. Towards the conclusion of the story, there is another interesting contradiction in Aline's general attitude. When she is in the cinema it describes that she “enjoyed the arrival of other people that came in... The lights went out... The first image lit up the screen. I love life, thought Aline.” (Jacob 259) There is some more symbolism at work here, as her earlier desire of solitude is conflicted by her enjoyment of other people filling up the theatre, and it is also interesting to note that the lights go out before a partial light takes its place, meaning that she is now in the light, so to speak. This is then followed by her stating her love for life. This sudden change in Aline's attitudes imply that at the end she is accepting other people into her life as well as the light, and that she has actually changed from the beginning of the story. The light is representing that she is now being truthful and true to herself, letting go of her fear of the light to see her true self. She finds that letting this truth in does not affect her happiness and that she still loves life even though it is not perfect, and as such, our central theme comes to fruition; that life is what you make of it.
Story by Suzanne Jacob
Essay by Jason Botham
Along with her fantasy of travelling the world, Aline is shown to be anti-social, as it is stated that “Usually her friends invited her to eat with them” (Jacob 258) which is quickly followed by “She wasn't difficult, whatever you say” (Jacob 258), which implies that despite the frequent invitations, she declines and is subsequently called difficult by her friends. It is also worthwhile to note that during the description of her fantasy it is emphasised that, apart from her driver, she is alone in the car with her possessions and just wants to travel in said car, with no intention of stopping or doing anything social mentioned. Once again, this may mean that she is not as happy as she appears to be, as her current solitude and her future solitude seem to be a form of escapism, perhaps stemming from her true or subconscious view of reality that makes her 'happiness' less consistent within the narrative.
Early on in the story, Aline declares that she “takes pity on the rest of the world” (Jacob 257), and that “[she] felt like converting the whole world to her style of living.” (Jacob 258) This could correlate with the rest of their story hinting that she is not as happy as the narrative describes, because it seems that with these passages, she is keeping herself on a pedestal so that she may feel superior to the rest of the world. Her superior feelings reveal insight into how arrogant she is, and that she makes herself feel superior in order to void herself of the desire to change, and so makes herself believe that she is happy so she can reason that she need not money or responsibility, even though her dream is to have money. This is supported further at the beginning when her agent Lucien calls her with a job opportunity and she replies that “she was not quite awake yet and felt too rich today to give an answer” (Jacob 257). Once again, she is making herself superior so that she doesn't feel the need to change anything or get jobs, because she is making herself believe that she is currently happy, and that it doesn't matter what she does as long as she's happy.