The Issue of Civility and Social Class

Heart of Darkness (1899): The novel takes place in the context of the “civilized” English expanding their presence in “uncivilized” Africa.

Mrs. Dalloway (1925): The novel takes place in the core of civilized city life; London. Complications arise when characters have difficulty adjusting to civilized life (Septimus)

As I Lay Dying (1925): “Uncivilized” country folk make a journey into the “civilized” town.

Untouchable (1935): The caste system in India forces social statuses among citizens; separation of classes. Untouchables practically considered uncivilized.

These four novels all take place in drastically different places with characters confronting different social/economical standings; yet they all share the common issue of division of civility. Heart of Darkness in 1899 was written about a time when the English led an imperialist mission to Africa and considered the native Africans wild. 26 years later this issue is presented in a different setting; Mrs. Dalloway showed a thriving metropolis, yet within that civilized life existed people like Septimus, who had trouble adjusting to that kind of life. That same year came As I Lay Dying which showed an opposite world in the deep south of America. The Bundrens were “uncivilized country folk” attempting to enter a “civilized” world (the town) unlike their own. In Untouchable in 10 years later, the same issue arises across the world in India where the caste system forces civility and incivility among its people. The theme of social class crosses all cultural and temporal borders.

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