Picture This Summary
Joseph Heller

Everything you need to understand or teach Picture This by Joseph Heller.

  • Picture This Summary & Study Guide

Picture This Summary

In 1986, when Heller was composing Picture This, which he originally entitled Poetics, he remarked that his manuscript was "becoming a book about money and war." Although clearly an oversimplification, his statement nevertheless does identify two of the novel's predominant concerns.

Money references pervade the narrative as Heller chronicles consumerism from the invention of money by the Lydians in the seventh century before Christ to the rise of banks and corporations in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century and then to the entrepreneurial maneuverings of Cornelius Vanderbilt and J. P. Morgan in the nineteenth century. Heller's exploration of capitalism centers most strongly, however, upon Rembrandt, whose financial rise and fall parallels the economic fate of the Dutch Republic.

As Heller portrays him, Rembrandt is embroiled in a seemingly endless series of financial woes concerning his wife's dowry, inheritance, and will, the high cost of real estate, collecting and paying debts...

(read more from the Short Guide)

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Picture This Short Guide

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