Social Class in Mrs. Dalloway, Untouchables, Their Eyes Were Watching God, As I Lay Dying

“Worshipping proportion, Sir William not only prospered himself but made England prosper, secluded her lunatics, forbade childbirth, penalized despair, made it impossible for the unfit to propagate their views until they, too, shared his sense of proportion–his, if they were men….” (Woolf 99)

Notes: separation of classes, order, upper class’ view on society

“‘Keep to the side of the road, you low-caste vermin!’ he suddenly heard someone shouting at him.  ‘Why don’t you call, you swine, and announce your approach!  Do you know you have touched me and defiled me, you cock-eyed son of a bow-legged scorpion!  Now I will have to go and bath to purify myself.  And it was a new dhoti and shirt I put on this morning!'” (Anand 46)

Notes: order, ostracized, lower class, dregs of society

“Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in and through Georgy.  Been working’ for white folks all his life.  Saved up some money–round three hundred dollars, yes indeed, right here in his pocket.  Kept hearin’ ’bout them building’ a new state down heah in Floridy and sort of wanted to come.  But he was makin’ money where he was.  But when he heard all about ’em makin’ a town all outa colored folks, he knower dat was de place he wanted to be.  He had always wanted to be a big voice, but de white folks had all de says where he come from and everywhere else, exceptin’ dis place dat colored folks was buildin’ theirselves.  Dat was right too.  De man dat built things ought boss it.  Let colored folks build things too if dry wants to crow over something’.  He was glad he had his money save up.  He meant to git deer whilst de town wuz yet a baby.  He meant to buy in big.  It had always been his wish and desire to be a big voice and he had to live nearly thirty years to find a chance.  Where was Janie’s papa and mama?” (Hurston 28)

Notes: segregation, blacks no power, not in control of their lives, poverty

“‘All right,’ he says, going away.  ‘She looks pretty good for a country girl,’ he says.”

“‘Wait,’ I says.  He waited and I went and peeped through the crack.  But I couldn’t tell nothing except she had a good leg against the light.  ‘Is she young, you say?’ I says.”

“‘She looks like a pretty hot mamma, for a country girl,’ he says” (Faulkner 242).

Notes: poverty, prejudice, class distinctions

Historical Line: Mrs Dalloway was published in 1925; As I Lay Dying in 1930; Untouchables in 1935; Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937.

Comments:  For all these novels I see the stark contrast between the rich and the poor.  Not much has changed in the twelve year period between Woolfs novel and Hurston’s novel.  It suggests that there will always be huge gaps between poverty and wealth no matter the time period and the upper classes will always impose their power on the poor.


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