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The Death Throes of a Dying Class

Mildred Pierce(1945) is an outstanding movie that depicts the dying of the wealthy upper class who lived off the money of their family and lived ridiculous, extravagant, expensive lives without working a day in their lives. The Great Depression has just started in the United States and everyone was looking for work that could not survive for longer than a month or two on whatever money they had saved up. There was a group of people that appeared to be unaffected by this global tragedy. They continued to live frivolously despite the economic collapse. However, as this historically valuable film shows, they were on their way out.

Descent of the bourgeoisie

Mildred’s second husband, Monte Beragon, is one of these men who inherited a large estate from their family and has not truly worked as Mildred has to purchase whatever he desires. In order to fuel his expensive tastes, Monte is forced to sell one of his properties to Mildred and later even has to resort to borrowing money from Mildred instead of trying to get a job like the rest of the country  in the midst of Depression. Large families with large sums of money have been around for a long time and still exist today, however, the Great Depression cut many of those families off who could not adapt to the downward spiraling economy. Veda is a good example of a person who wanted to be one of the non-working wealthy citizens, however, she didn’t have the money to back up the lifestyle she wished to live. Because Veda was groomed to live like a princess, she didn’t know how else to live and married at the age of 17 and shortly divorced her young husband,Ted Forrester, claiming that she had a baby on the way in order to acquire more money to try to make her happy. Had her mother not ripped up the substantial check she was granted for her non-existent child, she would have burned through the money quickly, with little satisfaction, and returned to scheming to find her next source of easy income.

Misfits in Society

This film also shows how the current socioeconomic environment no longer suited those who wouldn’t work to live. “Monte: ‘I wish i could get that interested in work’ Ida: ‘You were probably frightened of a callous at an early age!’ ” With many people suffering from the Depression, those who had expensive tastes often enjoyed those tastes alone or with only a few others who could either afford it or were too foolish enough to spend most of their money on activities or objects that granted very little happiness. This class of people never learned that money can’t buy happiness and so they spent all their money trying to be happy to no avail. Monte shows this perfectly by always taking Veda out to expensive outings but it only causes more trouble than enjoyment, like most other activities either Veda or Monte were involved in. Veda married for money like a lot of girls who want expensive things and she was not in love and she was not happy. Monte married Mildred for a share in her business. Needless to say, their marriage did not have a happy ending.


One response to “The Death Throes of a Dying Class

  1. tnp773

    I enjoyed your analysis of the historical context surrounding the film. Great Depression America marked significant hardships for citizens as labor plundered and economic woes tormented lives. Interesting that there is little mention of this context despite it’s primarily wealth driven cast of characters. It was very astute of you to draw on the “money can’t buy you happiness” theme that was at the forefront of the film and the strain it put on Mildred’s marriages and even the relationship she had with her daughter Veda. I would have liked to see you get into more how the individual characters were influenced by money in the context of this theme. Overall I enjoyed your post.

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