Mammon and the Archer is one of the more popular short stories by O. Henry. Published more than a century ago, the story is about wealth, love, and time and how one of those enables the others.
It is centered around a wealthy businessman who, by means of his wealth, creates circumstances for his son to propose to a woman who will soon leave the States for Europe.
Mammon and the Archer: Summary and Plot Analysis
The story opens in the library of Rockwall mansion. A retired soap manufacturer Anthony Rockwall – the owner – worships ‘Mammon’ (Hebrew for Money). He lives with his son, Richard, in a fifth avenue New York mansion, served by an apparent army of servants.
He calls for a servant to send for his son. When the young Rockwall shows up, he is gently reprimanded about his frugality before the conversation turns to what money can and can’t do.
Richard’s opinion that there are certain things money can’t buy is troubling to his old man. After all, he is a Mammon-worshiper, and all his life hasn’t been able to find one thing money can’t do.
Noticing his son being off for the past few weeks, he enquires about the reason behind his torment and soon learns that he is in love with a woman who’s soon to be leaving for Europe.
Richard hasn’t been able to get a chance to reveal his emotions or ask for her hand for want of time with her. Even millionaires, he says, can’t buy time.
Richard’s Aunt Ellen values love over money and even reprimands Rockwall Senior for being so materialistic. She goes on to hand over his wife’s ring to Richard, for it brought luck in love, and he was to give it to the woman he loved.
As if the gift ignited something in him, he slipped the ring on and ordered a cab right away to meet Miss Lantry.
He picks her up, and they head to the theater. On the way, he accidentally drops his mother’s ring and stops for a minute to pick it up. During that time, however, there is enormous traffic congestion, and Richard and Miss Lantry are stranded in the cab.
Fast forward a few hours, Aunt Ellen tells Anthony that Richard proposed, and Miss Lantry accepted amid the holdup. She proclaims the power of love, and Anthony does nothing to refute her argument.
It is later revealed that Anthony engineered the holdup with the help of a man named Kelly for a paltry thousand dollars and change.
Mammon and the Archer: Review and My Thoughts
While most of O.Henry’s stories celebrate love over riches, in this one, you could see him leaning on the Mammon’s side. Anthony considers money a powerful tool, and his belief in it is steadfast. At the same time, his son Richard isn’t as thoroughly convinced.
Here’s Anthony’s take on wealth and its power
Said the rules of power couldn’t be bucked for a yard by a team of ten millionaires.
I bet my money on money every time. I have been through the encyclopedia down to Y looking for something you can’t buy with it; and I expect to have to take the appendix next week.
And here’s Richard’s –
No, dad, this is one tangle that your money can’t unravel
We can’t buy one minute of time with cash; if we could, rich people will live longer.
Richard’s aunt Ellen, is the same as Ricaard when it comes to matters of the heart. We do hear from her:
Love is all powerful.
But in the story, proud denunciation of her brother’s materialistic worldview is in contrast to the final twist: money actually can buy you time. And that was why Richard could afford the tete-a-tete and the resulting proposal. Only in part, though.
Money wasn’t the only reason.
Anthony Rockwell, unlike his neighbors, is a self-made man and a caring one. His interactions with his son and his sister reveal that he loves them, despite being a money worshipper. His love for money hasn’t corrupted his emotions for human beings. He spoils his son, gently reprimanding his son for his moderate expenses despite his wealth –
You have got as much money to waste as any of them, and yet you stick to what’s decent and moderate.
At the same time, he doesn’t shy away from solving his son’s problems and affording him time using money.
While Ellen and Richard are oblivious to Anthony’s part in enabling the proposal and reiterate the Love Reigns theory, he doesn’t feel the need to correct them. Which again speaks to the truth of his love for them.
That goodness of heart, however, doesn’t stop him from making a wry comment to Mr.Kelly about a kind of naked fat boy, shooting arrows at people- who was nowhere to be seen when the proposal took place.
Mammon (money), not the fat boy (cupid), was responsible for bringing the lovebirds together.
Or you might say Anthony Rockwall played cupid.