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'How To Get On In Society' by John Betjeman

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'How To Get On In Society' by John Betjeman Phone for the fish knives, Norman As cook is a little unnerved; You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes And I must have things daintily served. Are the requisites all in the toilet? The frills round the cutlets can wait Till the girl has replenished the cruets And switched on the logs in the grate. It's ever so close in the lounge, dear, But the vestibule's comfy for tea And Howard is riding on horseback So do come and take some with me Now here is a fork for your pastries And do use the couch for your feet; I know that I wanted to ask you - Is trifle sufficient for sweet? Milk and then just as it comes dear? I'm afraid the preserve's full of stones; Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doilies With afternoon tea-cakes and scones. Before I proceed any further I believe that this work could not be continued without the actual definition of a society: So�ci�e�ty n. -ties 1 a wide, non-specific group of people who share some of the same background and culture: American society 2 the lives and activities of rich, fashionable people: When she was 16, she entered society and met her future husband. 3 a club or organisation: a musical society 4 company: We like the society of our friends when we play golf. However although this is the actual definition of a society, it is simply not a group of people with similar upbringings. ...read more.


Betjeman was very interested in the study of the Noblesse Oblige, first conducted by A.C.Ross. This is seen throughout his later works such as 'False Security', where he in the final line says: "I WONDER WHERE JULIA FOUND THAT STRANGE, RATHER COMMON LITTLE BOY?" This apart from being a prejudice and snobby statement, where the boy is deemed just to be common, and so strange to the Upper Classes, as he is not distinguished, is a direct statement to Betjeman and his upbringing, as he was from a NON-U family, and so if seen by his family to be he would have been treated the same as the boy, as an outcast. In fact one can assume that Betjeman may be talking about his current predicament, where he is shown to be the outcast in his family, as his father-in-law never accepts him into his Upper Class sorority. His fascination with class is also seen in the poem 'Thoughts on 'The Diary of a Nobody', where in the final stanza once more he states how we should strive for an Upper Class lifestyle, or at least that being the general wishes of the public. Betjeman seems to postpone his poems, creating a sort of anti-climax, until the final stanza where he draws the pieces of the poetical puzzle together to provide the hidden or underlying meaning, and this is non-different as the final quatrain is most telling and dramatic, as he uses a sort of ambiguity for doilies, so to promote a sound that connotes the company for the party to be of a lower class, or stupid to continue this outrageous charade. ...read more.


The use of sweet instead of dessert and the serving of trifle, a manufacture good are all non- U ideas. The notion of traditional England, put forth by afternoon-tea is shown, but the use of paper doilies, preserves, and not jam, is an atypical Non-U mistake. It is all rather like a fashion parade, of separate styles. Betjeman only uses one metaphor ("...soiling the doilies"), along with only a small piece of alliteration ("...sufficient for sweet"), and one piece of assonance ("...soiling the doilies"). However through these pieces of grammar and interior rhyme is picked up on, where a joyful and playful mood is detected. So we can see the evidence of the mocking of the middle class, yet also under the humorous exterior an attack is progressing on the defining Social Class; the peak of the hierarchy; the Upper Class. He is showing their arrogant ways and beliefs, that they are of a higher entity and so should control the masses is not directly, then through their valuation of self and mind, and so through society. Betjeman is using the society issue as a tool, to get to the foremost of his hatred of self-evils. In this poem he portrays much of his own self-demeanours, and so is repenting against himself. He is revising his own choices of life, or lie, and exposing not only the humiliated bourgeoisie but also the anguished governors of the collapsed feudalist system. And so an aphorism is shown in this satire and rhetoric poem, where, to 'Get On In Society', one needs to become 'Normal and Common'. ?? ?? ?? ?? Ken David Burton Stronach Yr.12.A.s. English Literature: Practical Criticism ...read more.

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