Wall Street vs. Doctor Faustus The movie Wall Street, directed by Oliver Stone has many parallels with the play Doctor Faustus, written by Christopher Marlowe. Both are stories of men who dare to push the boundaries of right and wrong to get what they desire. Both main characters “join the dark side” to get the things they desire most. The main characters are tempted by the devil, literally for Faustus and figuratively for Bud Fox, and they each give into temptation even though they know the consequences. Unfortunately Doctor Faustus and Bud Fox cannot escape the consequences of their actions.
In Doctor Faustus the main character, Doctor Faustus, is a scholar whose knowledge has far surpassed the knowledge of other scholars, not to mention other men. He has learned all there is to learn, but he seeks so much more. Faustus decides to push the limits of man set down by God. He wants to surpass his place as a human and ascend to the level of a deity by learning magic. Faustus is well aware that learning black magic will cost him his soul, and a place in heaven, however the idea of magic is tempting, and Faustus ignore the consequences.
Bud Fox, the main character of Wall Street, is a broker, who dreams of becoming a rich and powerful business man, buying the stocks instead of selling them; “You know what my dream is? It’s to one day be on the other end of that phone. ” Bud Fox wants to be the one making millions, he wants the brokers to be calling him and trying to get him as a client. When Bud finally meets Gordon Gekko after two months of trying to get him as a client, Bud wants nothing more, than to be like him. Like Mephostophilis is to Faustus, Gekko is temptation for Bud. And like Faustus, Bud sells his soul in a deal to the devil to get what he wants.
In Doctor Faustus, Faustus literally sells his soul to the devil; in return Mephostophilis (a servant of Lucifer) becomes Faustus’ slave so that Faustus can perform whatever magic he wishes and conjure whatever his heart desires. Faustus knows that he must sell his soul to get such power, and at first thinks twice, but is tempted by a bad angel, Faustus: Contrition, prayer, repentance, what of these? Good Angel: O, they are means to bring thee unto heaven Bad Angel: Rather illusions, fruits of lunacy, That make men foolish that do use them most. Good Angel: Sweet Faustus, think of heaven and heavenly things.
Bad Angel: No Faustus, think of honor and wealth. (2. 1. 17-23) The bad angel convinces Faustus, tempts him with the though of power and riches. Though the good angel warns him to trust in God, Faustus sells his soul. Bud Fox sells his soul metaphorically. He uses inside information that he learned from his father to get Gekko to listen to him. Insider trading is illegal, but the thought of money is overpowering. Bud Fox leaves Gordon Gekko’s office without a smile, even though he succeeded in catching his attention, which is all he has been trying to do for the past two months.
Bud knows the consequences of giving Gekko the inside information he knows. Later in the movie when Gekko confronts him about it and asks him to do it again Bud says that he could lose his license, or worse, be arrested for insider trading. But unfortunately the power and money Gekko offers is too tempting. So against his better judgment, Bud ignores the voice in his head telling him to do the right thing, and decides to break the law and risk his job, and his freedom. Like Faustus however, Bud has “good angels” warning him against what is wrong.
One of Fox’s colleagues, Lou Manheim, tells him, “The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do. ” Lou is warning him about the consequences of thinking only of his wallet, but Bud doesn’t seem to listen. Even when Bud’s dad, Carl Fox gives him advice, “Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buy and selling of others. ” Bud still ignores it and listens to the devil who is offering the world up on a silver platter, just like Faustus does. Through out the entire play Faustus struggles; should he repent?
Or should he continue sinning and reaping the rewards? Each time he considers the consequences he well knows, he thinks of repenting and saving himself from the horrors that lie in wait for him. However Mephostophilis tempts him with more promise of power and riches, Mephostophilis: I’ll fetch him somewhat to delight his mind. Faustus: What means this show? Speak, Mephostophilis. Mephostophilis: Nothing Faustus, but to delight thy mind And let thee see what magic can perform. Faustus: But may I raise such spirits when I please? Mephostophilis: Ay Faustus, and do greater things than these. (2. 1. 3-88) And with the promise of power Faustus ignores the pleas of the good angel and his conscious, to repent and save his soul. Unfortunately Bud and Faustus could not cheat their fates forever. In the end of both the play and movie, the main characters are forced to face the consequences of their deal with the devil. When Bud finally realizes that giving Gekko inside information is going to hurt his family and people he’s known for so long, he sees the error of his ways and tries to fix things, to repent, but the devil doesn’t give back souls so easily. Gekko, enraged that Bud turned on him, rats Bud out.
Bud is arrested, and faces jail, unless he’s lucky. The movie ends with Bud walking into the courthouse, his fate about to be decided, freedom or jail, heaven or hell. Just like the end of the movie, the ending of Doctor Faustus is unclear. When Faustus’ time is up, he suddenly realizes that he does not want to face the consequences, and he repents, asking the lord to save his soul, he asks for forgiveness and prays to God. In the end Faustus dies, ripped limb from limb by the devils. Some think that God forgave Faustus and saved his soul, and that’s why the devils rip him apart.
Others think Faustus couldn’t escape his fate and that the devils tore him apart for trying. The main difference between the movie and the book is that Bud actually sees the errors of his ways before he is arrested; he tries to fix things, to “repent”. Faustus on the other hand only decides to repent when his time is up, and the bad angel tells him of the horrors that now await him in hell. Out of fear for his own soul, Faustus begs for forgiveness in his last hour, saying, “O, Faustus! / Now hast thou but one bare hour to live / and then thou must be damned perpetually. Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven / That time may cease and midnight never come… That Faustus may repent and save his soul. ” (5. 2. 140-148) Through out the play Faustus knows what awaits him, and time after time refuses to repent, even when others tell him to save his soul and warn him. Not until his time is up and he does not get to enjoy the magic he sold his soul for, does he take back his mistakes. Only in an effort to save himself from pain does he apologize for his sins. Bud repents in order to save his friends and family, he has lready accepted that he will probably end up in jail. When Bud Fox “repents” he is sincere, Faustus is not. In the end neither Faustus nor Bud could really escape the consequences. When the chance for power and money was given to them, they took it, ignoring the knowledge of what lies ahead of them. Both were warned of what lies ahead should they continue to sin. Neither paid any attention to the warnings until it was too late. Perhaps Marlowe and Oliver Stone are trying to tell us the same thing; the consequences of our actions do not just disappear because we wish them to.