Introduction: This is a funny little satirical tale by the great Leo Tolstoy. What happens if you sentence a killer to death but your country won’t go to the cost of killing him? This short story explores the greed of the rulers of Monaco’s small country and the impractical steps they take in confronting this issue. Monaco’s ruler doesn’t want to bear the expense of properly guillotining the guy and none of their tiny army of soldiers wants to take on the task of beheading the criminal. It seems that shooting him just isn’t an option? Inefficient bureaucracy at its best!
Summary of “Too Dear!”
“Too Dear!” is a story written by a famous Russian writer count Leo Tolstoy who is considered as a master of realistic fiction and widely regarded as one of the greatest novelists in the world. “Too Dear!” is a satire on one of the modern governance systems. It ridicules the ways in which criminals are punished and justice is dispensed in modern states. The story is narrated in fact-tone but with a sarcasm undercurrent. Leo Tolstoy satirizes the hunger for power that is exerted by upperclassmen, and how it affects society. Moreover, it also raises a major question of capital punishment.
The story starts with the description of the Monaco Kingdom. It was a tiny Kingdom with a small population of around seven thousand, and each would hardly get one acre if the land were to be shared. Like in other countries, it also had a ruler, a palace, ministers, army, etc.
There were only sixty troops in the Army. The king has levied taxes on tobacco, alcohol and poll. In addition to these, he also owned gaming houses, where people play, roulette and were a source of special profits. If a person loses or wins in gambling he must pay a percentage to the keeper who had to give the king a large amount. And the king of Monaco got a decent revenue stream to keep his ministers, courtiers, and officials alive.
According to the speaker, the gambling establishment was flourishing in Monaco as it was the only such gambling establishment left in Europe. Such establishments were found in Germany but the Germans forbade them as they did much harm for the people. A man would go and try his luck and all his money. Then he would gamble money which did not belong to him and lose it too. In despair, he would drown or shoot himself.
Realising the ethical perspective, the German sovereigns banned such gambling establishments. But there was no one to speak up against the King of Monaco and thus he held a monopoly of the business. Anyone in Europe, who wanted to gamble, would try his luck by visiting the gambling establishment in Monaco as it was the only such establishment left in Europe. The gamekeeper would get a percentage of the turnover whether people who gambled won or lost and out of his profits, he would pay a large sum to the King.
The Kingdom of Monaco would have a revenue deficit if it banned gambling establishments. Instead of cutting down on expenses related to the monarchy, the king decided to play with his subject’s lives by allowing the gambling establishment to stay in his tiny Country.
Everything is going well in the Monaco Kingdom until a man commits a murder. The people were peaceful and happy and this had not happened before. Both the lawyers and judges gathered, and a death sentence was given to the murderer after the trial. When they went to inform the king, he confirmed it too. But then, the real problem began. Till the time the man was sentenced to death, the king had never had to deal with the murder. He runs into considerable trouble trying to make the sentence come true. Monaco had neither a guillotine nor an executioner, so they asked for the French government. France has agreed to send the requirements for the sum of the 16,000 francs. That would require to impose more tax on people. So the king asked the king of Italy for help, who agreed to provide the requirements at a cost of 12000 francs. The death penalty was changed to life imprisonment because the King could not bear the expenses.
However, life imprisonment brought forth its own set of problems. There had to be a guard to watch the criminal and give him food. The expense came to be 600 francs, which also would entail tax increases. It was decided to dismiss the guard, to the risk of losing the prisoner.
However, the prisoner did not try to escape and remained in prison. It was then decided by the government to pay an annuity of 600 francs, and he left the domains of the King.
The narrator comments in the concluding paragraph that it is good that the prisoner did not commit his crime in a country where they do not grudge the expense of getting a man’s head off or keeping him in jail for life. The author seems to doubt the rulers’ very belief and about their established system of law and governance.
The author seems to appreciate Monaco’s courage and open-mindedness and recognizes its limitations and allows the prisoner to be released on humanitarian grounds. It’s worth mentioning the author’s puns on the word “Too Dear! “Which either means too expensive or of great value. The author leaves this to the reader to decide if “Too Dear! ” refers to executing the criminal or saving the criminal’s life.
Very Short Answer Type Questions
Answer the following in a word, a phrase or a sentence.
1. Who according to the council, was the brother monarch in “Too Dear!”?
Ans. According to the council, King of Italy was the brother monarch in “Too Dear!”.
2. How much did the French government expect for a guillotine and an executioner in “Too Dear!”?
Ans. The French government expected 16,000 Francs for a guillotine and an executioner in “Too Dear!”.
3. Which country in Europe stopped the gaming houses as mentioned in “Too Dear!”?
And. Germany stopped the gaming houses as mentioned in “Too Dear!”
4. The King’s special revenue was from…… in Too dear.
Ans. Gaming houses.
5. Mention one of the reasons as to why the death sentence was altered to life imprisonment?
And. The death sentence was altered to life imprisonment because they could not afford a guillotine nor an executioner.
6. What was the initial punishment suggested to the criminal by the council in Too dear?
Ans. The initial punishment suggested to the criminal by the council was a death sentence
7. Mention one of the taxes imposed by the King of Monaco.
And. It was the tax on tobacco/wine and spirits/poll tax/gaming houses.
8. What were the duties expected of the guard?
Ans. The guard was expected to watch the criminal and also fetch his food from the palace kitchen
9. What did people play in gaming houses?
Ans. The people played Roulette.
10. What is the population of Monaco?
Ans. The population of Monaco was seven thousand inhabitants.
Short Answer Type Questions
1. Why ‘Monaco’ was called a `toy Kingdom’?
Ans: Because the population was very less. It was only 7000.
2. Name the commodities taxed in Monaco.
Ans: There was a tax on tobacco, on wine and spirits and a poll tax.
3. What was the source of the King’s special revenue? Who were its beneficiaries?
Ans: It was from a gaming house where people play Roulette. The owner of the game house and the king were the beneficiaries.
4. Why did the Germans stop gaming houses in their country and how did it benefit Monaco?
Ans: Because the gaming house was caused much harm and the people risked their money. Some who lost it committed suicide. The king of Monaco allowed it and received a large sum because it was an only gambling house left in Europe.
5. What was the punishment given to the murderer?
Ans: The murdered was condemned to have his head cut off.
6. The death sentence was converted into life imprisonment because :
a. Monaco had abolished the death penalty.
b. Carrying out the death sentence was expensive.
C. Monaco wanted to show mercy on the criminal.
Ans: b. Carrying out the death sentence was expensive.
7. How much did the king spend on the criminal, annually?
Ans: The king spent 600 francs on the criminals annually.
8. On what condition did the criminal agree to go away from the prison? Why was his demand fulfilled?
Ans: On a condition that he should be given pension regularly. It was too dear to keep the criminal. So his demand was fulfilled.
Long Answer Type Questions
1. Though gambling is a dirty business, why does the king of Monaco resort to it?
Ans: Monaco is a small kingdom and the population is 7000. There is Real kinglet that has courtiers, ministers, bishop and generals. It is an army of 60 men. There is the tax on Tobacco, wine and a poll-tax the king receives special revenue from a gaming house where people play roulette. The owner of the gaming house receives money whether the players lose or win, he gets the percentage. And out of his profits, the owner pays a large sum to the prince because it is the only gambling establishment left in Europe. The Germans banned this play because people committed suicide but the prince of Monaco continued it because there is no another source to draw revenue. The king knows that it is a dirty business but he is helpless and runs it.
2. Why did the King of Monaco keep changing his mind in dealing with the criminal?
Ans: A few years ago, a murder was committed in Prince’s domains. Such a thing had never earlier. At last, after trials and arguments, the men of law condemned the criminal to cut his head off and had submitted the sentence report to the prince. The prince ordered the execution of the criminal. But there was an obstacle in the matter. They had neither a guillotine for cutting heads off nor an executioner. The ministers decided to order an enquiry to the Italian and French Government regarding a guillotine and an expert to cut off the criminal’s head. The French Govt. quoted 16000 francs and that of Italy 12000 francs. The ministers considered it a costly affair. They assembled a commission, and a committee, and a Sub-Committee, and at last, they decided to alter the death sentence to imprisonment for life. After one year, the kinglet was looking over the account of his income and expenditure one day and noticed additional expenditure of 600 francs spent towards the criminal and his food. It also seemed costly and the council decided to offer a pension to the criminal. So the matter was settled and the criminal was let free with 600 francs pension.
3. Why was the criminal reluctant to go out of the prison?
Ans: The prisoner, however, does not try to escape and continues to eat the food provided by the government. The Minister of Justice decides that the criminal is not worth the trouble and asks him why he does not escape. The criminal responds that, he has nowhere to go in Monaco and that his reputation is ruined. He agreed with all the things without complaining and he didn’t think of going away because the people would turn their backs on him. Besides he has forgotten work.
4. How did the criminal lead his life after his release?
Ans: He bought a bit of land, started market gardening and lived with happiness. He went to the king regularly to receive his pension. While coming back, he played Roulette with 2 or 3 francs. Sometimes he won and lost sometimes. Anyway, he lived comfortably.
5. “You can’t earn stone palaces by honest labour.” In what context is this statement made?
Ans: Too Dear! is a short story by Russian author Leo Tolstoy first published in 1897. It is a humorous account of the troubles of dealing with a criminal in the kingdom of Monaco. Monaco is a small kingdom and the population is 7000. There is Real kinglet that has courtiers, ministers, bishop and generals. It is an army of 60 men. There is the tax on Tobacco, wine and a poll tax. The king receives special revenue from a gaming house, where people play roulette. The owner of the gaming house receives money whether the players lose or win, he gets the percentage. And out of his profits, the owner pays a large sum to the prince because it is the only gambling establishment left in Europe. The Germans banned this play because people committed suicide but the prince of Monaco continued it because there is no another source to draw revenue. The king knows that it is a dirty business but he is helpless and runs it. He gives permission because honest labour cannot fetch more money as it does. He thinks so because he believes the above proverb.
6. Though the trial and imprisonment of the criminal is depicted in a comic mode in this story, it does give rise to serious questions. What are they?
Ans. 1. Is it just to encourage gambling only because of the large sum of money?
2. Why did not the king find out new ways of raising funds?
3. Is it good to send a criminal by giving pension?
3. Were there other ways of dealing with crime and the criminal? Discuss in the light of the story.
Ans: There are many other ways of dealing with crime and criminals. To stop crimes, we should never encourage chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and playing Roulette because these are the sources of crime. The criminals should have been punished without altering the verdict so that they would be more careful.