In Mark Twain’s “The £1,000,000 Bank Note,” a man by the name of Henry Adams finds himself stranded in London with literally no money to his name. However, by a stroke of luck two eccentric millionaires happen to be bickering about the possibility of a million-dollar bank-note being of any worth. These millionaires decide to give the note to a stranger that appears to be “honest and intelligent…and with no money” and see if he can survive a month in London without starving or being thrown in jail. Henry happens to be this fortunate gentleman. Naturally this saves and changes his life forever. But there seems to be a deeper level to this tale then just the surface plot. This act of giving a stranger one-million dollars which evokes a great change in the man’s life illuminates the power of the rich to do good or evil to less monetarily endowed individuals.
Soon after receiving the note, Henry began using it to his full advantage; first to buy clothes, then food, and so on until he was nearly infamous for his use of the note. Millionaires today sometimes attempt to help others through charity, but may not produce such a drastic change. However, their donations surely accomplish something.
On the other hand, the rich also have the same power not to change people’s lives, and therefore leave them in harm’s way. The fact that these eccentrics used this man to resolve a mere argument must be remembered at all times. Just as easily this could have been another man or perhaps even no man at all, and if either of these were the case I fear that the story would have ended with Henry’s death as opposed to his promised grand life.
Aside from telling an entertaining tale of a man with the power to obtain virtually anything he desired, this story portrays the rich as beings with the power to severely alter the paths of less rich people. That, I’m both glad and sorry to say, is true.