Inherited money is held in much higher esteem than earned money in Savannah, Georgia. This is a theme seen throughout Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt's non-fictional account of life in Savannah. Characters such as Jim Williams, who worked for their money and brought themselves up the social ladder, are seen as being beneath those who inherited their money, such as Lee Adler. The old wealth tend to look down on anyone who wasn't born with their money. Their views of just about everything, including laws and punishments, differ depending on whether the person in question is of wealth due to blood or sweat.
While Savannah is a town full of rich people, there isn't a whole lot of earned wealth. Most of Savannah's wealthy people have been rich for generations. Among the few exceptions is Jim Williams. He was born in Gordon, Georgia, a small town near Macon. "My father was a barber, and my mother worked as a secretary for the [town's chalk] mine. My money - what there is of it - is about eleven years old," says Williams (Berendt 4).
Jim Williams is an oddity in Savannah. This "socially prominent antiques dealer" (Bellafante 79) is arrogant and pompous, but unlike those who are this way because they believe they were born with the right to be so, he is this way because he knows he has earned the right. It is because of this, though, that he is not truly accepted by his neighbors. For instance, there is the Oglethorpe Club, one of the highest class social clubs, even by Savannah standards. It would make sense for one of the richest aristocrats to be a premier member of the club. This is not the case, however. According to Berendt, bachelo...
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... greatly upset those who hadn't had their turn. Appropriately enough, it seemed to Williams at least, it was Adler who prodded the district attorney to charge Williams with murder rather than a lesser crime.
John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a non-fictional account of the aristocratic lifestyle of Savannah, Georgia. The book examines many aspects of life in Savannah, as well as the mind sets of its people. One of these mind sets is the conflict between "old money" and "new money." People who have always had money seem to think that they are of a higher class than those who have had to work for it. Lee Adler and Jim Williams are two of the combatants in this ongoing war. Adler fights for the side of inherited money, Williams for earned. The problem for Williams is that the inherited side seems to control all the cards, even those of the law.
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