Social Class in "Hard Times", by Charles Dickens

Essay by rdraper123College, UndergraduateA, November 2014

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Rachel Draper

English 201H


Hard Times Critical Response #1

Class is an elusive term, one that philosophers throughout the centuries have tried and failed to successfully define. One such hopeful theorizer was Paul Fussell, who attempts to provide a window into the nature of class in his work, "An Anatomy of the Classes." Fussell describes a person's class not merely as the amount of economic stability they have obtained, but also as the mannerisms and habits of the person in question. He claims that it is a combination of class (amount of money and leverage), status (social prestige in relation to the audience), and party (political influence). As an example he discusses white and blue collar employees, who make roughly the same amount of money, but lead completely different lives. If one is to look carefully at Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, they would find that Fussell's ideas of social class are clearly reflected in Mr.

Bounderby's middle class obsession with what others think of him, particularly with regards to his desire to be perceived as a self-made man and the façade that surrounds the stories he has told about his childhood and upbringing.

Before one can dig deeper into the wealth and mannerisms of Bounderby in Hard Times, one must first examine Fussell's definition of social class. He breaks it down into nine divisions-top out of sight, upper, upper middle, middle, high proletarian, mid proletarian, low proletarian, destitute, and bottom out of sight-and then goes on to describe specific characteristics shared by each of the members of these partitions. Let us focus primarily on the middle class and compare it to the mannerisms of those in the upper middle class. Members of the middle class are extremely worried about the opinions of others. They have...