Study Guide

Gigi Wealth

Wealth

MADAME ALVAREZ: And when I think of that delightful old gentleman…with all those flour mills…

GIGI: Who?

MADAME ALVAREZ: Nothing.

Mamita is thinking about her daughter's singing career, which isn't exactly going gangbusters, and sighing about an offer her daughter apparently received in the past to be the mistress of a rich old man. Gigi protests that her mother seems happy, but to Mamita, she may be happy but she's still poor.

SALESMAN: Monsieur Lachaille, about the car.

GASTON: Send it over in the morning with the bill.

SALESMAN: Yes, monsieur. Thank you. But which one?

GASTON: My dear fellow, I don't care. Either one.

The salesman has been eagerly describing two different cars to Gaston, who isn't even listening and couldn't care less. Money definitely means something different to him than it does to Madame Alvarez. Gaston was born into his fortune, so it's all he's ever known. Boring.

MADAME ALVAREZ: It's always a pleasure to watch the rich enjoy the pleasures of the poor.

Gaston's wealth hasn't brought him happiness, even though his uncle seems to be as jolly as can be enjoying all the perks of being rich. All Gaston's wealth is nothing but a burden to him because of the expectations society's put on him to be wining and dining all over town every night. It's not so much the pleasures of the poor that he enjoys as the privacy; no one's watching him. He can be himself.

AUNT ALICIA: Do you remember Madam Dunard? [...] Did you notice that rope of black pearls around her neck? [...] Dipped!

Dipped pearls are fake pearls. The only thing worse about pretending you're something you're not is having people notice it.

DINERS AT MAXIM'S: There's Gaston Lachaille/with his little friend./Is that passion never going to end?/Did you see her ring?/Not a bagatelle./Dear Liane is doing very well!

A bagatelle is a small, trifling thing. Evidently, Liane's ring is not. This illustrates the structure of the courtesan relationship: Liane has a ring that she would never have been able to afford on her own. It's worth it for her to be in this position to acquire a semblance of wealth, even if it depends on the temporary attentions of a man who she's expected to please and flatter in bed and elsewhere.

MADAM ALVAREZ: You'll spoil your hands.

GASTON: Don't worry, I have a manicure in the morning.

GIGI: What a nuisance!

Here's another indication of Gigi's complete lack of interest in the perks of wealth. To her, it's just a hassle. Mamita still shows deference to Gaston's wealth—she doesn't want him to ruin his hands working in the kitchen.

GIGI: What will you eat for dinner tonight?

GASTON: Filet of sole with mussels. And a lamb filet with truffles. It's always the same. It can't compare with your grandmother's cassoulet.

You'd think that all Gaston's money could buy him some variety, but he feels that everything in his life is the same. The attraction of the cassoulet is that it's not something he usually gets to eat. Maxim's wouldn't serve it and he'd be laughed out of the restaurant if he asked for it. And he'd be a laughingstock if he was seen ducking into a bistro that had cassoulet on the menu. It's comfort food for Gaston, just as Mamita's home is relaxing to him.

MADAM ALVAREZ: It's just a pork cassoulet. It was impossible to get any goose this week.

GASTON: Well I'll have them send you a brace from the country.

To his credit, Gaston's very generous with Gigi's family. He never comes by without bringing some kind of treat they might not be able to afford. Nothing extravagant—that would be insulting—but those little extras that Gigi and Mamita enjoy. He probably sees how easy it is to make Gigi happy, as opposed to women like Liane who expect expensive gifts. It's only when he begins to think of Gigi as a potential lover that he buys her an expensive bracelet.

MADAM ALVAREZ: One has to be as rich as you, Gaston, to be bored in Monte Carlo.

Monte Carlo was the local glamorous playground for the rich. It was (still is) the ultimate in luxury and excitement. But for Gaston, it's business as usual. He'd probably been there many, many times. Mamita and Gigi could only dream of going there with enough money to be bored.

GIGI: I'm dying to take a ride in your beautiful automobile.

The French automotive industry was hitting its stride by 1900, but possession of an automobile was still a sign of wealth. This is another exchange that offers a look into the contrasting financial status of Gigi's family and Gaston's.

AUNT ALICIA: Did he say precisely where she would live?

MADAME ALVAREZ: He said a suitable house on the Avenue du Bois.

AUNT ALICIA: You're sure?

MADAME ALVAREZ: Of course.

AUNT ALICIA: Well, very good. Servants?

MADAME ALVAREZ: Yes, he mentioned servants.

AUNT ALICIA: What about an automobile?

MADAME ALVAREZ: I think so. I'm not quite sure.

AUNT ALICIA: She must have an automobile and a chauffer.

Gigi's about to be launched into the world of the very rich, and you can see which sister is more preoccupied with the details. Alicia sees this as the fulfillment of their wishes for Gigi—to be taken care of in luxurious style. This lifestyle has always been important to Alicia, but Mamita sounds like she has some reservations. She knows Gigi has "no material ambitions," something Alicia wouldn't understand.

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