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Success in the Works of Horace and Vonnegut

            Because money can buy many pleasures in life such as power, fame, and comfort, it has long been viewed as a measure of success. However, two satirists separated by two thousand years, the Roman poet Horace, and the American writer Kurt Vonnegut, tackle the societal challenge: what do we value most? In asking this question, they challenge readers to consider what the pursuit of wealth really means while criticizing its role in their respective societies. Horace argues that man becomes easily consumed by the accumulation of wealth and in the pursuit, his greed produces dissatisfaction and envy, leading to a life of unhappiness. On the other hand, in the short story "The Foster Portfolio." Vonnegut illustrates how the main character Foster dismisses the value of wealth, focusing on the more noble pursuits of familial ties and a life of simplicity only to become the absent, idle father he strove to avoid. While Vonnegut and Horace employ humor and irony to convince the reader of the futility of the pursuit of wealth, they each select a different tone to engage the reader and challenge the way she thinks about wealth and how it is defined in valuing man's existence. .
             In "The Foster Portfolio," Vonnegut uses the main character, Herbert Foster, to argue that money isn't everything as Foster does not value money. He notes, Foster "hadn't had a new suit in three years; he had never owned more than one pair of shoes at a time. He worried about payments on his secondhand car, and ate tuna and cheese instead of meat, because meat was too expensive" (63). Here the reader is offered an insight into Foster's practical lifestyle and the frugal ways in which he chooses to lead his life. This leads the reader to believe that Foster is poor, but Vonnegut soon turns this idea on its head when the reader learns that Foster has actually inherited quite a large amount of money and clearly lives this frugal lifestyle by choice.

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