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Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2013

    The Perspectives of Debt In our everyday society you will most

    The Perspectives of Debt
    In our everyday society you will most likely encounter debt somehow. Whether it be a conversation, on the radio, on tv, or even a situation of obtaining your own debt. Most people cringe when they hear anything about debt, but why? Where does debt even come from? Why does debt have such a bad image in our society? Many professionals provide research for those people interested in the subject of debt. Margaret Atwood has done her research and provides some very intriguing insight into the subject of debt in her book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. This book is not going to explain how to pay off your debt and it is not going to tell you what your best option is to become wealthy. Atwood’s book evaluates the author’s own research into the topic and provides many references to help readers relate to the different ideas presented.
    Throughout this book, the author provides many references to literary work, real life scenarios, Greek mythology, and even personal imagination.  From Charles Dickens’s character, Ebenezer Scrooge, to Saint Nick, to the Bible and ancient legends of Gods and Goddesses, Atwood develops multiple perspectives that help the reader develop their own perspective of debt. One of the most recognizable references is Mr. Scrooge himself from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Atwood p86). The author evaluates the life story of Scrooge and helps develop the background of the character. She helps the reader understand how Scrooge relates to our everyday lives and the debt within it all. The character, Scrooge, is used throughout the book and is also compared with another literary character, Doctor Faustus, from Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. Both characters have many similarities, but they have different outcomes in the end. By comparing these two characters, Atwood provides an image of multiple results of debt and the different types of debt. Doctor Faustus and Ebenezer Scrooge are referenced throughout the book, but Atwood provides a much deeper analysis for Scrooge. 
    During the explanation of Scrooge, the author eventually dissects the multiple personalities of the character. Each personality is given its own title and made into new characters. The first personality is named “Scrooge Original”, the second is “Scrooge Lite”, and the third is a personality developed by Atwood named “Scrooge Nouveau” (Atwood p173-4). Payback is filled with references to Scrooge, so by taking each personality by itself, the reader gets a much deeper understanding of the overall character and different scenarios that are used throughout the book. Because Scrooge is so recognizable, it makes it very easy to develop a personal perspective within these different personalities. Scrooge Original is the stingy old man that is present in the beginning of the story. He is the character that nobody wants to be, nor does anybody want to be around. Scrooge Lite is the character at the end of the story that is given a second chance. He is given the opportunity to “redeem” himself. Scrooge Nouveau is the twenty-first century version of Ebenezer and is opposite to Scrooge Original. This new character spends his money, but not on others, he spends it all on himself. The development and analysis of Scrooge Nouveau is provided to help bring a more relatable character into the setting. By doing this, Atwood helps the reader grasp the reference of Scrooge throughout the book. All of the different ideas that are provided by Atwood can be wrapped into the story of Scrooge and that is why it is easy to reference the character throughout the book. 
    The development of all of the author’s references can be difficult to readers if they are not knowledgeable on the different subjects. To completely understand this book, it may take some research by the reader. Atwood never states a solid answer to where debt comes from, what it is, or how to get out of it, but she provides many different perspectives, and challenges the reader to develop their own perspective. Payback has an open conclusion, lets the reader evaluate what they have read and provides a good starting point for anybody interested in researching the overall subject of debt. This book makes the reader think and analyze many different things with the overall goal of developing a new perspective of debt. “Maybe it’s time for us to think about it differently” (Atwood p203). 

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