Hart Crane’s “My Grandmother’s Love”

Hart Crane is sometimes criticized for being obscure, even a bit precious with his pedantic allusions and difficult subject matter to express his personal points of view. Here is one poem that is very understandable which speaks to women and their grandchildren, a group not often the subject of twentieth century poetry.

MY GRANDMOTHER'S LOVE LETTER

There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.

There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother’s mother,
Elizabeth,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.
Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It tremble as birch limbs webbing the air.

And I ask myself:

“Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?”

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

This poem is a departure from Hart Crane’s other poems that search his soul, a poem that tells of his desire to link himself with a relative who has lived her life before him. He strives to find the connection: There are no stars tonight But those of memory...in the loose girdle of soft rain.

Crane paints the scene. He finds his grandmother’s love letters hidden in a corner of the attic, brown and soft...liable to melt as snow...hung by an invisible white hair...

He hopes the link is strong enough to let him talk with her of things he knows she will not understand about his life. And the rain continues on the roof With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

This is a poem for grandmothers and their grandchildren, expressing the connection a grandmother would hope her grandchildren would want to experience. There is much neither generation will understand about the other, and yet the compassion and the love for one another exists.
Diane McCormick

Stranger-than-Fiction Tale Predicts Future

Hawthorne, a largely-forgotten, easily-dismissed, early American Romantic writer, strangely enough, accurately predicted the genetic manipulation of plants to produce toxins that would make the plants invulnerable to insect damage with STARTLING, UNEXPECTED results as reported by WIRED and that bastion of counterculture hippies, TIMES in his story “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Of course, if we can trust the much-maligned Department of Agriculture, such distrust is largely unjustified. It’s O.K.A.Y. You do NOT have to do anything. Trust your government. Trust industrial giants to create that much-promised NEW EDEN. STAND BY, there will be a virtual cornucopia of new foods emerging from our gardens shortly.

When an author boldly states that his source for a story has “an inveterate love of allegory, which is apt to invest his plots and characters with the aspect of scenery and people in the clouds, and to steal away the human warmth out of his conceptions,” it’s hard to ignore the idea that this story, too, might be an allegory, disguised or otherwise. It’s even harder when a major character makes the following observation:

It was strangely frightful to the young man's imagination to see this air of insecurity in a person cultivating a garden, that most simple and innocent of human toils, and which had been alike the joy and labor of the unfallen parents of the race. Was this garden, then, the Eden of the present world? And this man, with such a perception of harm in what his own hands caused to grow,--was he the Adam?

However, considering that this character in the end turns out to be not too bright, we might not want to go along with him entirely.

I would propose that Hawthorne, indeed, is recreating the story of the Garden of Eden, but with some major variations:

Garden = Eden, not THAT Eden, nor the Eden of the romantic writer, the scientist’s E.D.E.N., in this case the geneticist’s Eden.
Rappaccini = SCIENTIST a.k.a. G.O.D.
Beatrice = Eve, also guide through hell in Divine comedy, Beatrice, Dante’s own personal and unattainable incarnation of the Virgin, who represents divine knowledge, or faith., our guide through this hell created by scientists like Rappaccini
Giovanni = Adam, in this story, though, he, not Eve, is the one who introduces the devil into Eden
Professor Pietro Baglioni = Satan, a.k.a.serpent, not necessarily a bad thing when a scientist is G.O.D., unfortunately he is merely another scientist, a.k.a. SATAN

First, let us look at what the new Eden through Giovanni’s eyes, or perhaps through Hawthorne’s:

The aspect of one and all of them dissatisfied him; their gorgeousness seemed fierce, passionate, and even unnatural. There was hardly an individual shrub which a wanderer, straying by himself through a forest, would not have been startled to find growing wild, as if an unearthly face had glared at him out of the thicket. Several also would have shocked a delicate instinct by an appearance of artificialness indicating that there had been such commixture, and, as it were, adultery, of various vegetable species, that the production was no longer of God's making, but the monstrous offspring of man's depraved fancy, glowing with only an evil mockery of beauty.

It is, indeed, a beautiful garden, but it is unlike any other garden before it. One shrub, more than any other, seems to symbolize the garden:

There was one shrub in particular, set in a marble vase in the midst of the pool, that bore a profusion of purple blossoms, each of which had the lustre and richness of a gem; and the whole together made a show so resplendent that it seemed enough to illuminate the garden, even had there been no sunshine.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, this beautiful, artificially beautiful, plant has one very desirable, or not-so-desirable quality depending on your particular outlook: it is deadly poisonous. It kills the very insects that would feed upon it. And, as it turns out, the whole garden of Eden, to a lesser degree, has this same quality.

And what genius created this poisonous wonderland? None other than Rappaccini himself, scientist par excellance, playing God by creating new life forms to serve his own purposes. In most regards he does not seem a particularly remarkable man:

He was beyond the middle term of life, with gray hair, a thin, gray beard, and a face singularly marked with intellect and cultivation, but which could never, even in his more youthful days, have expressed much warmth of heart.

He may not be a remarkable man, but Rappaccini appears to be a very good scientist:

But as for Rappaccini, it is said of him--and I, who know the man well, can answer for its truth--that he cares infinitely more for science than for mankind. His patients are interesting to him only as subjects for some new experiment. He would sacrifice human life, his own among the rest, or whatever else was dearest to him, for the sake of adding so much as a grain of mustard seed to the great heap of his accumulated knowledge."

Of course, we must take these observations with a grain of sand, for they are made by Baglioni, his arch enemy and scientific competitor. Still, they don’t seem too far off the mark as we get more involved in the story. Rappacinni’s fault seems to be mainly his arrogance, or egotism, for he is only able to see the world from his own point of view, never bothering to ask the views of Beatrice, the center of his experiment. It’s not that he doesn’t love his daughter and want the best for her; he simply can’t imagine that she wouldn’t want exactly what he wants for her. Remind you of any doctors you’ve been to lately?

Rappacinni created this new Eden for his daughter Beatrice, the new Adam, as it were.

Her face being now more revealed than on the former occasion, he was struck by its expression of simplicity and sweetness,--qualities that had not entered into his idea of her character, and which made him ask anew what manner of mortal she might be. Nor did he fail again to observe, or imagine, an analogy between the beautiful girl and the gorgeous shrub that hung its gemlike flowers over the fountain,--a resemblance which Beatrice seemed to have indulged a fantastic humor in heightening, both by the arrangement of her dress and the selection of its hues.

She and the garden are One; she is merely the most beautiful flower in the garden, and is, unfortunately, just as poisonous as the others are. Rappacinni creates the garden in hopes that Beatrice will “ be endowed with marvellous gifts against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy.” When he realizes that she is lonely, he, like God himself, decides to create an Eve, or Adam, as it were, for Beatrice.

"There was an awful doom," she continued, "the effect of my father's fatal love of science, which estranged me from all society of my kind. Until Heaven sent thee, dearest Giovanni, oh, how lonely was thy poor Beatrice!"

When he finds the two together in the garden, Rappaccini finally seemed pleased with his creation:

As he drew near, the pale man of science seemed to gaze with a triumphant expression at the beautiful youth and maiden, as might an artist who should spend his life in achieving a picture or a group of statuary and finally be satisfied with his success.

There is finally a Scientist’s Garden of Eden populated by an Adam and an Eve ready to raise a little Cain if only they are Able.

Unfortunately, Giovanni seems as flawed as the original Eve, eventually bringing an end to Paradise:

Guasconti had not a deep heart--or, at all events, its depths were not sounded now; but he had a quick fancy, and an ardent southern temperament, which rose every instant to a higher fever pitch.

Such ardor can be dangerous when combined with vanity and egotism:

Before descending into the garden, Giovanni failed not to look at his figure in the mirror,--a vanity to be expected in a beautiful young man, yet, as displaying itself at that troubled and feverish moment, the token of a certain shallowness of feeling and insincerity of character. He did gaze, however, and said to himself that his features had never before possessed so rich a grace, nor his eyes such vivacity, nor his cheeks so warm a hue of superabundant life.

Of course, such a person would blame everyone but himself for the predicament he finds himself in:

"Yes, poisonous thing!" repeated Giovanni, beside himself with passion. "Thou hast done it! Thou hast blasted me! Thou hast filled my veins with poison! Thou hast made me as hateful, as ugly, as loathsome and deadly a creature as thyself--a world's wonder of hideous monstrosity! Now, if our breath be happily as fatal to ourselves as to all others, let us join our lips in one kiss of unutterable hatred, and so die!"

Even after this terrible accusation, Giovanni lusts after the beautiful Beatrice:

Besides, thought Giovanni, might there not still be a hope of his returning within the limits of ordinary nature, and leading Beatrice, the redeemed Beatrice, by the hand? O, weak, and selfish, and unworthy spirit, that could dream of an earthly union and earthly happiness as possible, after such deep love had been so bitterly wronged as was Beatrice's love by Giovanni's blighting words!

Not surprisingly, this shallow young man after having gotten himself mired in this mess causes even more problems when he tries to work his way out of it.

For it is Giovanni himself that introduces the Serpent into this garden of Eden. Driven by his doubts and fears, Giovanni betrays the only truly innocent person in the whole affair:

There is something truer and more real than what we can see with the eyes and touch with the finger. On such better evidence had Giovanni founded his confidence in Beatrice, though rather by the necessary force of her high attributes than by any deep and generous faith on his part. But now his spirit was incapable of sustaining itself at the height to which the early enthusiasm of passion had exalted it; he fell down, grovelling among earthly doubts, and defiled therewith the pure whiteness of Beatrice's image.

He is convinced by Baglioni that he must give Beatrice the antidote to her father’s administrations. Of course, our shallow young hero does not realize Baglioni’s true motives:

"We will thwart Rappaccini yet," thought he, chuckling to himself, as he descended the stairs; "but, let us confess the truth of him, he is a wonderful man--a wonderful man indeed; a vile empiric, however, in his practice, and therefore not to be tolerated by those who respect the good old rules of the medical profession."

Baglioni plays on the fears of the vain young Giovanni so that he can thwart Rappaccini, just as the Devil attempted to undermine God in the original Paradise. In the end, Baglioni is “victorious,” if one can consider causing the death of an innocent person “victorious:”

Just at that moment Professor Pietro Baglioni looked forth from the window, and called loudly, in a tone of triumph mixed with horror, to the thunderstricken man of science,"Rappaccini! Rappaccini! and is this the upshot of your experiment!"

The only question left unanswered is: who are we in this little allegorical tale? Are we the innocent, but foolishly trusting, Beatrice, betrayed by those that would fatten us up on their genetically-modified Bt corn only to discover, probably too late, that we’ve wiped out the last of the Monarch butterflies? Or, more likely, are we the shallow, self-blinded Giovanni who helps our “friends” to introduce their products with the “best of intentions?” Then blames everyone but himself for the disastrous results? Unlikely though it may seem, are we the Rappacciini sure that we know better than Nature, attempting to create our own Paradise?

Loren Webster

An Updated Allegory

“Rappaccini’s Daughter,” Hawthorne begins, is a story first told by M. de l’Aubepine, a French writer who occupied an unfortunate position “between the Transcendentalists and those who addressed the intellect and sympathies of the multitude,” an author who interpreted the allegory according to the parallel events of his time. Indeed his love of allegory removed any human warmth from his stories. This is Hawthorne’s way of commenting on the position of those irritating Transcendentalists in his life and his answer to the criticism that his own stories lacked warmth of character and setting. It is true Hawthorne wouldn’t be considered a mass market story teller today. He tells us readers rather than shows us what we need to know to enjoy the story. Oh, well, he seems to have succeeded well enough to earn a place in all the high school anthologies 140 years after his death.

To begin, in the story “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” a professor obsessed with “a spiritual love of science” pursues his experiments until he destroys his daughter. In other words he practices unfettered science.

Now substitute the word technology or capitalism or globalization or progress or sports or entertainment or law for the word science--get the picture? Pursuits not contained by ethics will be destructive.

I would like to offer a modern interpretation of the allegory, based upon yesterday’s news and Arizona Republican Senator John McCain’s comment this morning on the Don Imus show, lamenting “unfettered capitalism” as the source of our pain emanating from corporate greed and voodoo accounting which is bringing the stock market to its knees.

Other aspects of the story, for example, the Italian Renaissance, the fantastic imagery of the garden, the parallel of science run amok can easily be researched on the Web.

For my purposes I have divided the story into its major literary elements: characters, setting, and conflict.


THE STORY

CHARACTERS

Giovanni Guasconti

At the time of the Italian Renaissance, Giovanni Guasconti, a handsome student at the University of Padua, becomes the subject of one of Dr. Rappaccini’s experiments when he falls in love with Rappaccini’s daughter, Beatrice, whom he has sighted in an alluring garden filled with poisonous plants. After a secret visit, he is aware of an ominous mixture of beauty and poison so much so that “hope and dread kept a continual warfare in his breast.” Hawthorne comments “Blessed are all simple emotions, be they dark or bright! It is the lurid intermixture of the two that produces the illuminating blaze of the infernal regions.” Giovanni senses Beatrice’s destructive potential yet continues his visits. He is literally burned when Beatrice touches his arm, leaving “a burning and tingling agony in his hand and a purple print like that of four small fingers” on his arm where Beatrice touched him but he “soon forgot his pain in a reverie” of Beatrice.

THE ANALOGY

Giovanni represents an enthusiastic but inexperienced participant, I will call him Stock Holder, who is attracted to get-rich-quick-in-the-market-schemes and jumps on the band wagon too late and too enthusiastically without researching the consequences of his impulsive actions. He is the second wave, not the initiator, who may or may not benefit from the innovation. He ignores warnings; even though he begins to see the truth, he feels no doubt or fear until he is burned.

Lisabetta

Lisabetta is the caretaker at the old palace of a Paduan noble where Giovanni will live. Her actions on the surface seems to benefit Giovanni, permitting him to proceed with his pursuit of Beatrice. Lisabetta shows Giovanni a secret entrance to the garden so he can visit Beatrice. Giovanni wonders if Lisabetta’s help might in some way be “connected with the intrigue.”

THE ANALOGY

In reality Lisabetta’s help only propels Giovanni deeper into trouble just as Stock Broker would today as he advises Stock Holder. Remember the stock brokers who advised us to buy stock in Intel? Stock Holder trusts his broker without stopping to question Stock Broker’s motives.

Beatrice

Beatrice, Rappaccini’s daughter, is the alluring beauty filled with life, health and energy. Her father looks at her as if she were another flower in the garden, the “human sister of those vegetable ones...still to be touched with a glove;” however, Beatrice can touch and smell the plants Rappaccini avoids. She is knowledgeable enough to be a professor herself.

“Flower and maiden were different and yet the same, and fraught with some strange peril in either shape.”

She is surprised to see Giovanni but “brightened by a simple and kind expression of pleasure...Do people say that I am skilled in my father’s science of plants?” Don’t listen to what people say about me... the words of Beatrice Rappaccini’s lips are true from the heart outward.”

Beatrice is the attractive product, the instant love, the fast fortune, innocent of the poison which lies under her beauty. She never intends to hurt Giovanni. At the same time she is aware of the danger which surrounds her and her ability to cause pain.

Warnings abound. For example, a chameleon crosses Beatrice’s and instantly dies. An insect shivers and dies after Beatrice looks at it. She merely if sadly crosses herself at the sight of the dead bug . When Giovanni gives her flowers, they wither and die in her hands. Yet Beatrice loves Giovanni’s company, and shows her awareness of her deadly power only when Giovanni advances to touch her. In her growing affection for Giovanni, she says to her sister shrub “For the first time in my life, I had forgotten thee!” But she knows the plant is poisonous to everyone but her and warns Giovanni, “Touch it not!” Not for thy life! It is fatal!”

Giovanni’s fatal attraction continues.”[Beatrice] was human, her nature was endowed with all gentle and feminine qualities; she was worthiest to be worshipped; she was capable, surely on her part, of the height and heroism of love...Whatever had looked ugly, was now beautiful...”

THE ANALOGY

Beatrice as attractive enterprise--something to hold and cherish to make Stock Holder rich; some risk is apparent but the company’s prospectus looks so good...Stock Holder ignores a PE ratio as high as his roof--only good times are ahead, right? Some stock analysts write a warning in Time Magazine, but who pays attention to them? The stock still looks beautiful...

Rappaccini

Signor Giacomo Rappaccini, the famous Doctor, is the creator, the scientist, the entrepreneur. Today he would be young but in Hawthorne’s story he is tall, emaciated, a cultivated intellectual who “never even in youth was very warm hearted. He “cares infinitely more for science than for mankind.” Giovanni comments, isn’t that good to have such a “spiritual love of science”? To make matters worse, Rappaccini isn’t satisfied with growing poisonous plants found in nature; he creates some of his own and offers up his own daughter to his “insane zeal for science.”

THE ANALOGY

Dr. Rappaccini is the CEO who launches the Initial Public Offering based upon manipulated accounting. In addition he wouldn’t acknowledge ethical limits to his work. The Rappaccinis of today would care infinitely more for making their own fortunes than practicing ethical business. If the books don’t show a profit, fix the books. A “spiritual love of capitalism” or of anything else is beneficial to society only when it follows ethical guidelines.

Signor Pietro Baglioni

Family friend Signor Pietro Baglioni, Professor of Medicine at the University recounts the history of Rappaccini to Giovanni because it would be awful to withhold such information about a “man who might hereafter chance to hold your life and death in his hands.”
Baglioni would destroy Rappaccini because he cannot “be tolerated by those who respect the good old rules of the medical profession!”

Baglioni hints he may plot to stop Rappaccini. “Perchance, most learned Rappaccini, I may foil you where you little dream of it!” The foil is in the form of an antidote to the poison that Beatrice shares with the plants.

THE ANALOGY

Baglioni is the analyst who knows what is going on in the company but never acts soon enough or forcefully enough to prevent the approaching disaster. He could be the one honest accountant at Arthur Anderson who waits too long to offer the antidote which now saves no one, only destroys the firm.

SETTING

THE STORY

Rappaccini’s garden in reality is his laboratory, surrounded by a wall to keep his experiment secret. In the middle of the garden are the ruins of a marble fountain; a magnificent shrub with purple blossoms blooms beside it. Rappaccini by now dares not touch his creations for they poison even him so he protects his hands with gloves. Hawthorne asks is this the “Eden of the present world”?

With the help of Lisabetta, Giovanni enters the garden. Now that the long awaited meeting is really taking place, Giovanni is calm, “coldly self-possessed, the “delirium of joy or agony” of the anticipation gone.

Giovanni sees the plants. “Gorgeousness seemed fierce, passionate, and even unnatural... production was no longer of God’s making, but the monstrous offspring of man’s depraved fancy, glowing with only an evil mockery of beauty.”

In the garden, Beatrice tells Giovanni that Rappaccini created the shrub with the purple flowers. Rappaccini is “a man fearfully acquainted with the secrets of nature” and when Beatrice was born “this plant sprang from the soil, the offspring of his science, of his intellect, while I was but his earthly child...It was my sister, and I loved it with a human affection; for--alas! hast thou not suspected it? there was an awful doom”...the effect of my father’s fatal love of science--which estranged me from all society of my kind.”

THE ANALOGY

Stock Holder is allowed into the inner circle; he, too, can become rich. He has been allowed to purchase shares during the Initial Public Offering which rise 200 percent the first year. He is encouraged by the fantastic tale of the creation of the company which sets it apart from all its competition.

CONFLICT

THE STORY

After his first glimpse of Beatrice, Giovanni asks “beautiful shall I call her?---or inexpressibly terrible?”

Because of the mystery, warnings, and possible interventions that Giovanni does not heed, he continues to pursue Beatrice because he is so attracted to her beauty. The attraction is never consummated even though they loved, there “had been no seal of lips.”

Beatrice, in fact, protects Giovanni. She grows sad and stern with a “look of desolate separation” when Giovanni approaches her. He begins to doubt his ability to win her, and the moment he withdraws, Beatrice is “transformed at once from the mysterious, questionable being, whom he had watched with so much awe and horror; she was now the beautiful and unsophisticated girl, whom he felt that “his spirit knew with a certainty beyond all other knowledge.”

Giovanni has had doubts concerning Beatrice and has “been haunted by “dark surmises as to her character.” But for the most part she has appeared as “a simple, natural, most affectionate and guileless creature.” He continues his visits even though he distrusts her, testing her with a flower, saying “At least, I am no flower to perish in her grasp!” Then he sees the flower he has given her begin to wilt.

When Baglioni visits Giovanni in his rooms he comments on the sweet mysterious odor that pervades the apartment. Suspicious that he may have been poisoned, Giovanni tests his predicament, breathing on a spider in the corner of his room. The spider dies, creating the horror that Beatrice may be the only living creature who will not die from his breath.

As he did in Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, Hawthorne addresses the reader, acknowledging this tale may be mere fable. “All this ugly mystery was but an earthly illusion, and that, whatever mist of evil might seem to have gathered over her, the real Beatrice was a heavenly angel,” establishing the ambiguity in his tale. Nothing is simple. There are many interpretations, one of which would be a tale to warn readers of the consequences of ignoring ethics.

Realizing what has happened to him, Giovanni rounds on Beatrice. ”And finding thy solitude wearisome, thou hast severed me, likewise, from all the warmth of life, and enticed me into thy region of unspeakable horror!”...Thou hast filled my veins with poison! Thou hast made me as hateful, as ugly, as loathsome and deadly a creature as thyself--a world’s wonder of hideous monstrosity! Now--if our breath be happily as fatal to ourselves as to all others--let us join lips in one kiss of unutterable hatred, and so die!”

Beatrice laments she hasn’t known she has poisoned him and suggests he leave her to join the natural world and “forget that there ever crawled on earth such a monster as poor. To prove it is too late for him, Giovanni breathes on a cloud of passing insects which die, demonstrating that he is a victim of the poison.

Beatrice cries “It is my father’s fatal science. No, no, Giovanni; it was not I! Never Never.--though my body be nourished with poison, my spirit is God’s creature, and craves loves as its daily food....my father...has united us in this fearful sympathy. “

“They stood ...in utter solitude...If they should be cruel to one another, who was there to be kind to them?...might there not still be a hope of his returning within the limits of ordinary nature, and leading Beatrice--the redeemed Beatrice--by the hand? Oh, weak, and selfish, and unworthy spirit, that could dream of an earthly union and earthly happiness as possible..no, there could be no such hope. She must pass heavily, with that broken heart, across the borders of Time--she must bathe her hurts in some fount of Paradise, and forget her grief in the light of immortality --and there be well!” But Giovanni doesn’t recognise the inevitability of this outcome, and hoping to save Beatrice for himself, retrieves the antidote. Beatrice is about to drink when Rappaccini appears, saying “ My daughter, thou art no longer lonely in the world! Pluck one of those precious gems from they sister shrub, and bid they bridegroom wear it,. ..he now stands apart from common men...pass on, then, through the world, most dear to one another, and dreadful to all besides!”

His words do not persuade her. Beatrice recognizes the harm her father has done. “Wherefore didst though inflict this miserable doom upon thy child?”

Rappaccini replies, “What mean you, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvelous gifts, against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy? Misery, to be able to quell the mightiest with a breath? Misery, to be as terrible as thou art beautiful? Wouldst thou, then, have preferred the condition of a weak woman, exposed to all evil, and capable of none?”

Beatrice understands now. ”I would fain have been loved, not feared...I am going, father...farewell, Giovanni...Oh, was there not, from the first more poison in thy nature than in mine?” The poison within Giovanni is his blindness to the mixture of good and evil within all human beings.

“As poison had been life, so the powerful antidote was death...the poor victim of man’s ingenuity and of thwarted nature, and of the fatality that attends all such efforts of perverted wisdom, perished there...just as Professor Baglioni “...called loudly, in a tone of triumph mixed with horror, to the thunder-stricken man of science: “Rappaccini! Rappaccini! And is this the upshot of your experiment?”

THE ANALOGY

Operating in secret, CEO continues to support Stock in his company, hiding debt as capital expense, operating costs as profit. The compulsion to become rich by purchasing stock cannot be denied even though Stock Holder senses the risks and after reading the prospectus does acknowledge some weaknesses.

Stock Holder badgers his broker to purchase more shares.

Several days after his purchase, Stock Holder checks the value of his stock. It’s down $1.45. But this drop in price may be temporary. Tomorrow will see a gain, he hopes.

Senate and House committees form to investigate the company’s accounting practices. The stock price plummets. It is time to abuse his broker. “Why didn’t you tell me this company followed unethical business practices?” I wanted to become rich. Now I am merely a victim of an unfulfilled promise of wealth.”

“We didn’t know,” explains Broker. Stock Holder cannot endure his loss. “I want to be rich like everyone else,” laments Stock Holder.

Stock claims innocence in the ruin of Stock Holder, blaming CEO for cooking the books to make her look so attractive.

CEO is approached. His suggestion is for Stock Holder to ignore the accounting to hide debt. “Stay with Stock and living happily, rich and powerful beyond your wildest dreams. No one will be able to touch you. We all believe in capitalism, right? It’s the American way. Grab as much as you can when you can. The ends justify the means, right?”

But Stock sees the crime. To the CEO she cries,“How can you ask someone to be so unethical”?

Stock plummets, taking many investors in 401Ks with her. “Who is more damaging now, she asks Stock Holder. “Weren’t you ever with your greed, your desire for me, more poisonous than I ever was?”

The Security Exchange Commission investigates the thunder-stricken man practicing unfettered capitalism as the stock market sinks to a five year low. “And is this the upshot of your experiment,” the analyst writes?

The conclusion? Unfettered capitalism like unfettered science leads to disaster, accomplishing the opposite of the desired effect. We humans pay a price for ignoring ethics.


Diane McCormick