This is something that as an author I didn't care much about. The origins of the money is of little importance to the story. I cared more about its significance and what it represented for Sābanto and Oliver.
When Oliver met Mark in the second chapter, he was no one, simply a stranger with a lot of money. Here are a few questions I wanted the readers to ask after reading the conversation in Mark’s office:
Is this legal?
How did he obtain money when the war was raging? Is he a war criminal?
Did he steal it? Who did he steal it from?
What is he planning to do with the money?
Through the story, we learn that the money is tainted with the blood of innocent people. The money came from the pain and suffering of others, and that is its significance. Oliver is very secretive about the origins of the money because he knows that if word got out, there would be trouble. He tells White that it is in neither of their interests to discuss it. It’s a Pandora’s Box he doesn’t want to open. In Chapter 13 the first real account of events is expressed by Eric, but because this scene is from Oliver’s point of view, we see Oliver trying to justify his actions in his mind. He even accuses Eric of having flawed memories of the events from the war.
Eventually, we get the whole story of how Oliver got his money. The kidnapping exposes Oliver and his troubled past. I made Oliver run back into the factory to transfer the money he thinks is the genuine gift that Karl gave him for the work that he had done for him.
His dealings with those running the factory and being a guard and executioner were not the only idea I had on how Oliver would take possession of the fortune. It was just one of the examples that the real world is giving us. Every time there is war or turmoil in the world, there are those that feel no shame in exploiting others and building their own wealth. There are many high money, high profile, illegal activities that can be additionally exploited during the fog of a major conflict.
Discussion Topic (Please comment below)
How would your view of Oliver change if he stole the money from someone rich rather that it was given to him for his contribution to the atrocities at the factory?
How would the book change if you knew earlier in the book that Oliver was complicit in the war crimes?
Because of the length of the story, the main plot is split between multiple books, so I will omit it here to avoid spoilers for future books. The main plots of the first book, however, are Oliver’s Rise and Fall, and the story of Steven White.
Oliver’s Rise: (Rise - Fall - Rise) Oliver describes himself in favorable terms when talking about his and Eric’s time during the war. He speaks of them helping each other so they could get through the hardship of working as slaves in a factory. When he meets Violet he does not initially seem to take advantage of her, and gives the impression that he is not like the other men. When speaking of Gutters, he describes them as bad people, thus clarifying that he is the good guy. Subsequently, his choice to pay his workers a fair wage and get the blankets out to people for free or at a reasonable price gives the impression that he is a favorable character in the story.
As the story progresses, more is revealed about Oliver and his troubled past. When he kills Eric and his wife Ana in cold blood, it becomes clear that Oliver is not who we thought he was. Regardless of whether it was self-preservation or paranoia that drove him to it, it is a bad move and not the behavior of a hero. He is also not honest with anyone around him which adds another layer of distrust to his character.
Oliver becomes an anti-hero, but is he? His motivations are selfish, but he does good in the end which elevates his status. His ideas on how to help the poor and people of Riverlea are worthy of praise. With the limited amount of money trickling in from World United, he and Ben find a way to preserve the lives of others who are disadvantaged.
Oliver’s Fall: (Fall - Rise - Fall) The reader quickly learns that Oliver was not a free man during the war. That was his Fall. He lost his freedom and was forced to do back-breaking work manufacturing ammunition.
In the first chapter, he is finally back on solid ground and feels free. That is his Rise. He knows he can get money and that is exactly what he needs to feel complete. He is capable of making his own decisions and choices which define the freedom he has. He uses his freedom to the fullest, indulging in it.
As the story progresses, Oliver struggles to maintain his freedom. Gutters ask him to do something. He needs to ask White for permission to stay in Covedale and do business. Eventually, as the reader learns of Oliver’s past, it becomes clear that he was never truly free. The money he sees as his ticket to freedom is also a prison. The past and the people he worked with before are holding him in chains and directing his life.
Conclusions about Oliver Though Oliver seems like a good person in the beginning, we soon see that he is capable of evil. Despite this, he does not seem to be a bad person, deep down. We can see that there are far more amoral people in this world, and that his evil behavior can likely be attributed to other external factors such as bad parenting, allowing the reader to sympathize with the character.
Learning that he had never got his freedom back might also make the reader feel pity for Oliver in the end. He expresses his willingness to be a different man multiple times throughout the book, but he is being steered by people who are forcing him to remain a killer.
What about Steven White? The story of Steven White is a perfect example of a tragic plot. We meet him when he is at the peak of his glory. He is the protector of Covedale and a respected man. His decisions carry a lot of weight and are final. He has dreams of bringing power to the city. The future seems bright as long as everything stays the same.
The arrival of Oliver in Covedale changes everything. Steven White is exposed. He is no longer a leader, but a puppet. His past decisions are coming back to haunt him. Slowly he loses everything including his daughter through his inaction and inability to stand up to those that control him. He is a failure as a leader and as a father.
When he decides to finally stand up, it’s too late. He treats Oliver as an enemy he must confront, but he is wrong. Oliver is the one who is trying to save his life. White’s actions lead to a deadly fate which could have been avoided, making White a tragic character in Sābanto.
Discussion Topic (Please comment below)
What are your thoughts about Oliver at the end of the book?
Did he change through the book? If yes, how? If not, why not?