The Oxford Dictionary defines class as a 'system of ordering society whereby people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status'. Literature according to Marx echoes the social institutions from which it comes and literature is a economic product, that often reflects an author's idea or vision of class. Indeed, when reading Oliver twist by Charles Dickens, the reader will find a description of the different classes that composed the Victorian society and how they interact with each other; each character has been assigned a social and political status and acts accordingly, and the way Dickens portrays them has an impact on our idea of social class, indeed, the reader will find that the upper classes of society can be as corrupt as lower ones. Literature can thus depict and criticize the actions, the values of the bourgeoisie, or denounce the wrongdoings of the poor.
This essay will ask how Literature can reinforce dominant ideas about class and how it can also undermine them. To answer this question this essay will first focus on Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and will then turn to The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
With Robinson Crusoe, Defoe, gives his own definition of class, according to him the world is divided into civilized people and savages. Defoe also emphasizes that the middle station of life is the best station, with The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde, mocks the upper bourgeoisie, he portrays them as arrogant, hypocrites, and shallow, he also derides their values.
' I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York of a good family, tho' not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull: he got a good estate by merchandise, and ...
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...cesses of the French Revolution’, her use of the word bred implies that she sees him as an animal and not a human being, which is very diminishing, indeed here Wilde his emphasizing the shallowness of the aristocracy. Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest, is also criticizing the aristocratic view of education, indeed lady Bracknell, believes that ‘“Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone’, indeed, according to her if you educate the lower class, they would rebell against the system, and if you educate the upper class the would feel guilty about their superior status of life.
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2003. Print.
Wilde, Oscar. "The Importance of being Earnest." The Norton Anthology Of English Literature. 9th.Edition. M. H. Abrams.
New York: Norton, 2012.