Arcadian Adventures With the Idle Rich
Arguably Stephen Leacock's funniest book (1914), Arcadian Adventures is certainly one of his best and most popular works.
Arguably Stephen Leacock's funniest book (1914), Arcadian Adventures is certainly one of his best and most popular works. It was published two years after Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912), and numerous parallels between the two books in overall structure and detail make it a companion piece. The short story cycle portrays the full flowering in a large, unnamed American city (actually based on Montréal) of the seeds of corrupt materialism and individualism already detected in smalltown Mariposa. The plutocrats who inhabit Plutoria Avenue pursue money and power, and unrestricted capitalism corrupts the city's social, religious, educational, and political institutions. Arcadian Adventures exposes to laughter and ridicule the human greed, hypocrisy and pride behind such things as stock-market scams, the rage for mystical experience, the back-to-nature vogue, financially expedient ecumenism and muck-raking politics.
Unlike Sunshine Sketches, Arcadian Adventures shows sympathy not for those it satirizes but only for their hapless victims. In its bitter satire of the "conspicuous consumption" and leisure of the "idle rich," it shows the influence of The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) by Thorstein Veblen, Leacock's teacher at the University of Chicago. As the book proceeds it becomes progressively darker; in its final chapter, "The Great Fight for Clean Government," the triumph of plutocratic totalitarianism grimly foreshadows the violence and tyranny of the 1920s and 1930s.