Study Guide

Fargo Greed

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In early Christian teachings, greed was one of the Seven Deadly Sins. In Dante's Inferno, the fourth circle of hell is reserved for greedy people. In Fargo, greed lives up to its nasty rep as something that ends in disaster for everyone, starting with Jerry Lundegaard.

We don't get to see why Jerry needs money—maybe it's because he's about to get nailed for extortion by taking those loans on the non-existent cars—we just see the consequences. The more he desperately tries to cover his losses, the worse things get.

Everyone in the film who's motivated by money comes to a violent end, even Wade, whose business is completely legal. Jerry's wife is collateral damage in this greed-fest. Only Marge and Norm, with their ability to enjoy a simple life, seem to have the right idea. They seem pretty happy with what they've got.

Questions About Greed

  1. Would knowing why Jerry needs (or wants) money change our perception of him? Explain.
  2. Can greed ever be—as the villainous Gordon Gecko put it in Wall Street—"good"? Or is it always an evil, as Fargo might imply?
  3. What's the "right" amount of money to have? That is, what is enough and what is too little or too much? How do the characters in Fargo approach this question?
  4. What's Marge's philosophy about money?

Chew on This

The fact that Jerry's father-in-law is wealthy doesn't help matters for Jerry; it just pushes him to do crazy things for money.

Greed, being an "extreme" kind of motivation, is totally out of place in the modulated emotional lives of the everyday Minnesotans in this film. It's just not done. It ain't that kind of place.

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