It is difficult for an honest man to live in a corrupt world. This is the premise of Marcel Pagnol’s play entitled Topaze. An honest man in a corrupt world is like a fish out of water. In the said play the protagonist adhered to a set of values that are alien to the people that have adapted to a belief system that was rooted in corruption (Pagnol 10).

If this is the case, then, the future looks bleak for those who aspire to follow the right path. It is therefore important to answer the query with regards to the difficulty of living in a corrupt world. However, a closer reading of the play will reveal that Pagnol did not write about the difficulty of living in a corrupt world, instead, he focused on the difficulty of attaining success.

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An honest man is an alien in a corrupt world. He possesses values that are counter-intuitive to a corrupt man. This can be seen in the early part of the story wherein the reader is cautioned about the foolishness of seeking after immoral gain (Pagnol 9). In the case of the protagonist named Topaze, he was naive enough to believe that the world he lived in shared his values (Popkin 164).

His name symbolizes a precious stone in the midst of useless decaying matter. Corruption in its basic form means something is unable to survive till the end. A piece of meat left in open air cannot see the end of the week because the decomposing flesh is consumed by elements of decay.

A precious stone on the other hand is precious not only because of its beauty but its staying power. Thus, a corrupt man may enjoy the trappings of wealth but unable to enjoy the true meaning of life. The rich man in the play wore beautiful clothes but endures the pain of a broken family (Pagnol 15).

The wife of the wealthy patriarch possesses all the fine things that money can buy but goes home to an empty house because her husband spends the majority of his time with his mistress. The author said that it is better to suffer evil rather than to enjoy the fruits of immoral actions (Pagnol 9).

An honest man may not be able to afford gold and diamonds but he can go home to a family that loves him. He can enjoy life with a wife that treats him with respect. In addition, an honest man can produce children that treat him with respect.

There is one thing that can be expected in the life of a corrupt man and that is to replicate the same manner of thinking through his children (Pagnol 10) Consider for instance the way the son of the rich man tried to manipulate the system as he desired to achieve academic excellence without putting in real effort in his studies (Pagnol 11).

Going back to the query regarding honesty, one can argue that an honest man can live in a corrupt world. However, it is difficult to attain success. Topaze can survive in a corrupted world, but he found out that it is impossible to succeed (Pagnol 139). There is a big difference between the idea of survival and success.

Survival means the ability to live in a society with just the bare essentials. It is living in constant worry that there may not be enough food for the family. It is a life without assurance of permanent shelter and access to healthcare. This is illustrated through the transformation of Topaze from a poor teacher to a man of wealth and power (Pagnol 135).

A successful person on the other goes beyond survival. He and his family enjoy privileges that are inaccessible to other people Success is understood as the accumulation of wealth and everything that goes with it. Success is the capability to provide comfort for the family. Success means the assurance of access to solutions for almost every conceivable need.

This was illustrated by the evidence of accumulated wealth when Topaze displayed the fruits of his labor like an office with all the trappings of power and titles that speak about his status in the community (Pagnol 183). Nevertheless, Topaze’s life was also an example of the price that has to be paid in terms of exchanging a happy and peaceful life with one that is full of stress and inner turmoil (Pagnol 141).

A successful person provides all these things. But a poor man does not have access to resources that enables him to attain success. As a result there is great temptation to bend the rules and sometimes to break them in order to accumulate wealth that leads to success.

At the end Topaze succumbed to the temptation because he could not resist not only the charm of wealth but the beauty of women (Pagnol 183). In the end Topaze was not only seduced by wealth but also by the charms of a seductress (Pagnol 183). Thus, it can be said that an honest man can live in a corrupt world but it would be very difficult for him to find success.


The play entitled Topaze seems to argue that an honest man cannot live in a corrupt world. But a closer reading of the play will reveal that an honest man can live in a corrupt world but will find it difficult to attain success. The difficulty lies in his decision not to violate the principles instilled in his mind and heart. Although an honest man may not find success, he can survive in a corrupt world. Nevertheless, he may find it extremely difficult to remain honest for long.

Works Cited

Pagnol, Marcel. Topaze. Paris: Aux Grandes, 1930. Print.

Popkin, Debra. Modern French Literature. MI: Ungar Press, 1977. Print.