In "The Bare Necessities" the Punch cartoonist charges that love occupies a very small position in the minds and hearts of the Victorian nobility. These three young girls, in discussing their future husbands, have little to say about love but much to say about wealth. As the caption reveals, their parents have clearly brought them up to think in this manner. The humor of this piece functions on two separate levels. The youngest daughter's insistence that she will have the richest of husbands seems amusing in its naiveté. The reader can easily find humor in her youthful optimism. At the same time there exists a darker humor in exposing the manner in which these girls have been taught to think. One can laugh only bitterly at the coldness of the upper-class.
Against this backdrop Hetta Carbury's true heart appears even more remarkable. Like the girls of the cartoon, she has been encouraged from an early age to marry for money. Rather than accepting this belief system, however, Hetta rebels and decides that she will only marry for love. She rejects even Roger Carbury in spite of the fact that he possesses a large estate and has genuine concern for her well-being. Hetta's devotion to love, which may at first strike the reader as somewhat overly romantic, serves an important function in the novel insofar as it diverges from the conventional wisdom of the day. Felix, by contrast, embraces a mercenary view of love and marriage. His interest in Marie centers solely on her wealth. While this aspect of Felix's personality plays an important part in his villainy, it is important to remember that the boy's beliefs merely reflect the standards of his society. Time and time again Lady Carbury tells Felix that winning Marie's heart, even for the wrong reasons, would make him a model son in her eyes. Again, Trollope criticizes an entire class of people rather than one individual.
Last modified 1996