Tag Archives: class

Class in Fellow Feeling

“Bah!’ exclaimed the newcomer. As if I didn’t know what these police were.”

This comment made by the newcomer shows a far separation between classes, through the Indian Caste system. The newcomer’s familiarity with the police suggests that he has been arrested before or is used to seeing them around. This shows a serious disparity faced by the poor where the newcomer is of the lower class and is portrayed as a brute who is uneducated, has a possible criminal background and hates the upper class.

Narayan, R.K. “Father’s Help.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print. p.43

 

Disparity only changes it’s face.

One of the greatest topics that I have noticed being covered by nearly every work we have read is that of class.  Anand’s Untouchable (1935), Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) , Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1925)  and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), illustrate to us that through the years, no matter the location or specific group of characters, class continues to be a factor of major importance and intrigue.

There is a clear continuity in class distinction and disparity throughout each of these novels, with no clear resolution through time. For instance, while in 1899, Imperialism is shown in spades throughout Heart of Darkness, it is still an issue (although in a different location), in Untouchable. Not only do these two show class disparity, but also inequality in both race and cultures.

As I Lay Dying and Their Eyes Were Watching God reveal a slightly different form of class disparity, in that they don’t revolve around themes of one group of people AGAINST another, but are more revealing in their disparity through the largely missing discussions of these disparities. The reveal is through ignorance rather than understanding.

Over the difference of 38 years, we can see that the face of disparity changes, but it’s power and overall grip on societies, does not. No matter the location, or the cultures and classes involved, this continues to be a problem throughout the world. It’s so interesting to see it from so many points of view, and each authors different style helps to bring us closer to these people that we may never have considered otherwise. Historically, the significance is quite clear, even when the issues never quite get resolved. We cannot make changes if they aren’t consistent

Names and Autonomy

“‘And now we’ll listen tuh uh few words uh encouragement from Mrs. Mayor Starks.’

The burst of applause was cut short by Joe taking the floor himself.

‘Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home'” (43).

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

This moment reflects the themes of both being silenced and being named in Hurston’s novel. When Joe does not allow Janie to speak it is a sharp denial of Janie’s human right to speech because of her gender. Its problematic effect is heightened because this is the first time in which Janie is called “Mrs. Mayor Starks,” with Joe’s following clarification of “mah wife.” This denotes ownership, but it is also follows a theme in other parts of the book, such as when she is called Alphabet, which is before she even realizes the color of her skin. This shows that when names are imposed upon Janie, it stifles the progress of Janie’s self-actualization and self-determination, in turn stifling the novel itself.

The Hyperawareness of Caste

“Bakha picked up the packet and moved away. Then he opened it and took out a cigarette. He recalled that he had forgotten to buy a box of matches. He was too modest to go back, as though some deep instinct told him that as a sweeper-lad, he should show himself in people’s presences as little as possible. For a sweeper, a menial to be seen smoking constituted an offense before the Lord” (42).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London, England: Penguin Books, 1940. Print.

This moment, among many others, features Anand’s use of excessive clarifications of caste distinctions, representing Bakha’s hyperawareness of his own class and his subordinate relation to other characters in the novel, something he perceives through aesthetics and standards created by his society and forces him to understand himself solely in terms of his relationship to others.

Untouchable

“He became the humble, oppressed under-dog that he was by birth, afraid of everything, creeping slowly up, in a curiously hesitant, cringing movement”.

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. 42. Print.

In this moment, you see Bakha’s self doubt of his social class and work. Long years of demeaning and menial work have paid the price on him, leaving physical and emotional burdens. The emotional burden is still present, the self-doubt he always had about climbing up higher. He obviously displays hesitance from years of emotional pains.

Time and Authority

“Shredding and slicing, dividing and subdividing, the clocks of Harley Street nibbled at the June day, counselled submission, upheld authority, and pointed out in chorus the supreme advantages of a sense of proportion, until the mound of time was so far diminished that a commercial clock, suspended above a shop in Oxford Street, announced, genially and fraternally, as if it were a pleasure to Messrs. Rigby and Lowndes to give the information gratis, that it was half-past one” (111).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997. Print.

The striking clocks in Mrs. Dalloway appear multiple times throughout the novel to allude to time as a controlling force as it “upheld authority.” As the people of London walk through expensive, aristocratic Harley Street, Woolf illustrates that all the people of London, despite which class they belong to, will eventually fall to the fate of time and temporality.

One Sentence Impact

“Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”

Woolf, Virginia.  Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt, 1925.

This one sentence does not appear to be very important. However, it is important to note that Clarissa is going by herself instead of sending someone else, like a servant, to complete the task. I also noted that she is “Mrs. Dalloway” here. Her proper name.

James’ Impressionism

“The only effectual way to lay it to rest is to emphasize the analogy to which I just alluded–to insist on the fact that as the picture is reality, so the novel is history. That is the only general description (which does is justice) that we may give the novel. But history is allowed to represent life; it is not, any more than painting, expected to apologize.”

James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction” in Partial Portraits. London; New York: MacMillan & Co. pg. 379

James’ analogy between pictorial art and fiction is a fascinating theme that has added so much to modern fiction. The mere process of using one’s art to comment on his own medium seems to be a common feature of modernism. James’ thoughts on writing the novel take me back to Picasso and Warhol, painters who, through their own work, asked, “What constitutes as art?” changing the purpose of painting thereafter. Since then, art has become much more self-indulgent, and the beauty of art is in the variety of impressions that different painters are able to display through their respective lenses of creativity. In the past, when painting had many more utilitarian purposes, art was meant to appease those who paid for it. For example, painters like Rembrandt who portrayed nobility still altered the reality of the portraits, but they did so in order to portray what the noblemen wished to look like. Likewise, when historians have portrayed reality in the past, they have also done so in order to appease those in power. James wishes to highlight that the novel, like modern painting, has the feature of freedom, and that is beautiful. The freedom to create a work that is solely from one’s imagination, one’s impression of reality, is the Art of Fiction.