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CLASS DISTINCTION AND PREJUDICE

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Introduction

CLASS DISTINCTION AND PREJUDICE In GOD OF SMALL THINGS AND PERSUASION Class distinction and prejudice in 'The God of Small Things' and 'Persuasion' are brought about by social, political and economical developments in the periods the novels are set. These developments arise through "war", "Revolution", caste and class bias. Firstly, in 'Persuasion' the behaviour of Anne's family is so vile that their bigoted opinions affect the moral, spiritual and cultural lives of their victims. From the onset we become aware that It is either the family or people with the power to "persuade" who create divisions within the classes and sexes. Austen's 'Persuasion' exposes the inequalities in Britain that existed. In France the same divisions prompted the French Revolution of 1789. The British Government, taking the events in France on board decided to initiate political and social policies before French history repeated itself in Britain. These policies challenged the status of upper class families, like the Elliots, as the location of wealth and power in British society was changing due to the industrial revolution and "Napoleonic" wars. Anne's father, Sir Walter fears losing control over what he has acquired or inherited. Sir Walter dismisses the rising classes at every opportunity, as he sees them as a threat to the aristocracy. Sir Walter has a kindred spirit, Lady Russell, who aids him in the process of pushing his bigoted behaviour through to the next generation, in the hope that they will guard themselves against the common man's rise from rags to riches. Sir Walter and Lady Russell only acquaint themselves with people who hold a certain "standard of good-breeding" and "rank" along with "consequence". Sir Walter is faced with the possibility of losing everything he has inherited. He is vulnerable, has to go through the process of "retrenchment" or face bankruptcy. If he doesn't change his pattern of spending he will not be able to live in the manner he is accustomed to, and so be looked down on by his elite "circle". ...read more.

Middle

The younger generation see the real value of men who lay down their lives for England. Louisa declares that men of the navy have "more worth" and "deserve to be respected and loved". Sir Walter highlights in chapter one that the "Baronetage" contains 'his' "ancient and respectful family". We are made aware that Sir Walter has delusions of grandeur. His prejudices are in relation to "vanity" and "situation". Sir Walter thinks if people are not good looking, married or with status they have no worth and should not receive his attention. He actually believes that without both you are clearly "inferior" and not from good blood. Bizarrely, Sir Walter believes beauty and perfection are associated with "good-breeding" and must be evident at all times. He discriminates directly against people who are not attractive, and even the slightest mark is considered hideous. This is cruelly brought to us when Sir Walter is "continually making severe remarks" about Mrs Clay's "freckles", "projecting tooth" and "clumsy wrist". All her human faults are linked to being a person of an obscure birth line. Her slight physical imperfections are portrayed to us as grotesque deformities or disabilities by Sir Walter. Sir Walter's friend Lady Rusell too, had "prejudices on the side of ancestry", an important criteria to look at when being in certain company. Lady Rusell is protective of Anne, and guides her, but Lady Russell fosters the same prejudices as Sir Walter, as she was active in the break up of Anne's and Wentworth's relationship, because of his lack of "fortune". In "The God of Small things Baby Kochamma disliked Rahel and Estha because they were "Half Hindu Hybrids" and "doomed fatherless waifs". She is jealous of Ammu because Ammu broke out of her confined and bullied life to find love. Rahel and Estha suffer racial prejudices through their mixed heritage. They are persecuted in their family and by people of their caste, because of their parents' union. ...read more.

Conclusion

This class discrimination was because of their "inferior" and "unpolished" way of living. The Hayters "defective education" had also placed them firmly in a lower class. Education plays a great part in Jane Austen's society. Even Mr Elliot and Anne discuss the merits of a good education and link it to "amusing and diverse company". Mr Elliot supports the idea that a little learning is not a "dangerous thing" and he would rather be in the company of people who are educated, of good birth and who possess manners. For Ammu, education, her father believed, was an "unnecessary expense", as she was only a girl and the process would be wasted on her. Here we have a father showing sexist prejudices towards his own daughter. A female's education was not considered, as the only occupation open to a female was "marriage". Roy makes sure that the reader understands the ignorance behind such prejudices, and the fact that it can also be applied if you are a women. In 'The God of Small Things' and 'Persuasion' we are introduced to women and men who are oppressed by their society, but have a desire to rise to a better position in life, where they are respected, valued and their voices heard. Rahel, Ammu and Anne at the end of the novels either violate or go against the rules that are imposed on them by the power of their patriarchal society. The 'class' and 'caste' divide and prejudice against all who do not adhere to that regime is relayed by negative characters: Pappachi, Mammachi, Baby Kochamma and Koch Maria in 'The God of Small Things'. In 'Persuasion' Sir Walter Elliot, Lady Russell, Elizabeth, Sir William Elliot and Mary drive on prejudice and discrimination. Both heroines desire society and their families to let them rule themselves and be valued. They want to be allowed to make choices without being threatened with poverty, abuse, indifference or death. Ammu and Anne want to live freely, and not be shackled by "male chauvinism", "caste" or "class" ideologies . ...read more.

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