Importance of Money in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
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, bachelors from middle Georgia who sold antiques were not likely to be asked to join (6). This doesn't bother Williams, though. He is as prejudiced towards the local elite as they are towards him. In his own words, "Blue bloods are so inbred and weak. All those generations of importance and grandeur to live up to. No wonder they lack ambition" (4).
On the other side of the spectrum is Lee Adler, who is, in essence, the arch-nemesis of Jim Williams. The two are more or less at war. Adler, like Williams, was deeply involved in the restoration of Savannah. Unlike Williams, though, Adler seemed to be doing so for attention, going from town to town making speeches about low income housing...