Class

By Deirdre Lynch, Sara Weber, and Jaden Forteau

 

Definitions:

Class is a word that has been given many different definitions over time and has multiple connotations attached to it. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition for class was originally defined as, “An inclusive or general taxonomic category into which species of living organism are grouped” (OED). This definition goes along with the idea of categorizing or identifying an item such as a plant or an animal based on similar characteristics. This definition is commonly used in biology. Another definition for class is, “To place in a class; to assign or regard as belonging to a particular category” (OED). Nowadays when people think of the word “class,” it is typically associated with an individual’s social or economic status. A more commonly used definition is A system of ordering society whereby people are divided into strata of this type; the pattern of social division created by such a system; a person’s position in society as defined by this(OED). 

Etymology:

  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word class comes from multiple origins but the main origin was from France. In French, it is pronounced classe. The OED states that class in France is the “division of the Roman people on the basis of property” (OED).                                                   

Literary Importance: 

The term “class”  helps readers understand literary texts in a more complex way.  Knowing what class structure is, can help a reader better categorize characters within a book. Authors demonstrate class structure by showing the contrast between social and economic statuses. A thorough understanding of class structure at the time that the book takes place, can give the reader a better insight into the characters’ lives by showing how their status affects their daily routine. By evaluating class structure, readers may also be able to understand why a character is treated the way they are, and why they treat other character’s the way they do.  Knowing the meaning of class will help readers better interpret interactions between characters when deciphering conversations. In most cases, wealth is equivalent to power, therefore class can further explain why a character has a certain amount of authority and control. Understanding the definition of class can also help readers recognize certain tensions between one or multiple races within a book. Having an understanding of the term class helps readers better distinguish inequality between characters. Opportunities and rewards of a person are greatly affected by their class position. Therefore, class helps us notice the difference in education, opportunities, power, and even health. The characters in A Raisin in the Sun live in a cramped house in the south side of Chicago. Their position in society affects each character’s life in a different way.  Beneatha was a more progressive thinker than the average minority woman in the 1950’s. She studied in hopes of becoming a doctor, but it was difficult due to her family’s lack of finances. Her brother Walter dreamed of opening a liquor store, but because of his family’s low income, he was stuck working as a chauffeur to a rich- white man. He often takes his frustrations about life out on his wife. Walter’s wife, Ruth is also affected by their family’s poor financial situation. She struggles to obtain any time for herself being a mother, a housewife and cleaning other family’s houses. Ruth even had to consider aborting her unborn baby because she was aware that her family could not financially afford it.

Keyword in Action:

Throughout the story A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, the idea of class is displayed in many interesting ways. Since the Younger family is African American, their class status is heavily defined by this trait. Unfortunately, due to the long-standing racial stereotypes that have been implemented in America, African Americans have been known to be the inferior race. While all of the data to confirm these statements have been proven false, these ideas are still held by some. The idea of race relates heavily to this story since the life of the Younger family is impacted by their low-class status.

One aspect of life that is affected by the class of the Younger family is their jobs and career goals. One example of this is when Beneatha strives to become a doctor, and people underestimate her because of her low status. Beneatha works hard to earn her status as a smart, capable girl, and her progress is inhibited by people who don’t believe in her. Her own brother has trouble believing that she can be an effective doctor and encourages her to be a nurse. He says, “[w]ho the hell told you you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy ’bout messing ’round with sick people- then go be a nurse like other women- or just get married and be quiet” (38). This argument likely would not have come about if their class status was higher. If the Younger family was rich, Beneatha would be able to choose whatever career she wanted and receive no backlash for it. Since the family is lower class, though, it is expected that she sticks to the status quo.

Another way in which class is relevant to the story A Raisin in the Sun is that higher class people try to distance themselves from people of color. Since the Youngers are crammed into a small household, they dream of living in a more spacious home. They end up with the financial means to move, and Mama puts a down payment on a house in a white neighborhood. Mr. Lindner, a member of the welcoming committee tries to encourage the Youngers not to move into his community. Lindner does not say this explicitly, however, it is clear that he does not want them in his community because he believes that their presence will damage his communities’ image. This is evident when he says “…the overwhelming majority of our people out there feel that people get along better, take more of a common interest in the life of the community when they share a common background” (118). He tried to make them believe that his comment was not derogatory, however, it is clear that this is not the case. It is clear that their ‘unshared background’ is their race. This discrimination obviously isn’t fair but is ever so present in the lives of the Younger family in A Raisin in the Sun. The general assumption that the Younger family and African American families alike are somehow inferior to white families is damaging and false. The upper-class citizens, in turn, discriminate against lower-class citizens, who happen to be African American. The Younger family and all other African American families, therefore, face constant discrimination and have to deal with being constantly looked down upon and underestimated. The effects of discrimination are far-ranging, and the idea of class proves this. Certain class distinctions make it extremely clear that white people (typically upper class) have the upper hand over African Americans (typically lower class). 

The meaning of the word ‘class’ is different for each person and society. For this reason, analyzing class will be different depending on the culture that defines it, but it is important to read texts with this concept in mind. Hansberry points out class disparity through her characters, specifically Lindner, who contrasts greatly from the Younger family. She seeks to bring awareness to class differences and show how struggles related to class are damaging.

Works Cited

Image derived from Pixabay, by Andrey_Popov 

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Robert Nemiroff, 1994.

The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Women are paid less.

My found poem was from an article that was titled, “An Economist explains why Women are paid less.” This article was about the wage gaps between genders. I wanted to write something that I could relate to as a female and is also important in today’s issues. After reading the article, I went through and decided to cut out words and statements that stood out to me. I cut the “women are paid less” from the title because the main focus of my poem is the gender inequalities. I repeated it at the end because I wanted to emphasize to the reader the severity of this matter. While working on this poem, I was thinking about why women are still not being paid equally to men. The graph that I took out of the article shows that a global average, women earn almost half that men do annually. I saw that this article was written on March 8, 2019, and wanted to incorporate it in my poem. This demonstrates that this is an ongoing issue that still isn’t solved. 

I really enjoyed reading this informative article and changing it into a poem. I thought it was creative and nice to do something different than writing a paper. I liked how I could take a written article and manipulate it into my own work. Creating a found poem made me look at language differently. It made me realize how powerful words are and that each and every single word no matter how long or short means something. After making my own poem, I can better understand Zong! and how Philip purposely placed those words in a specific order to express the importance of each poem. By. Deirdre Lynch

Women in Traditional Chinese Society: an individual or object?

The book, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston is memoirs based on growing up as a Chinese woman. The first memoir, “No Name Woman” is very a powerful and painful piece. Kingston goes into extreme detail of how women were treated in Chinese culture and the harshness that came along with being a woman. Even to this day, women are always being viewed as lesser than men and unfortunately, they don’t have equal opportunities as men. This book shines a light on this issue of gender inequality that has been going on for hundreds of years. 

Kingston starts off the first memoir by diving into a horrific story that her mother told her when she was a young woman going through puberty. In this story, her mother tells Kingston about an aunt she once had that had brutally killed herself and her baby. The aunt had committed suicide due to the fact that she was having a baby without having a husband. This had been seen as shameful and unforgivable, no woman should be having sex and carrying a child if they are not married. The aunt committing suicide caused the family to neglect that there even was a daughter in the family. They were so disappointed with what she had done that they didn’t want to remember her. 

The family and the village were very aware of the growing baby bump but no one talked about it. They didn’t mention it because it would mean they would have to admit the shameful act she had done. Kingston recalls what her mother had once told her, “The village had also been counting. On the night the baby was born the villagers raided our house… At first they threw mud and rocks at the house. Then they threw eggs and began slaughtering our stock. We could hear the animals scream their deaths- the roosters, the pigs, a last roar from the ox” (5-6). Their house, animals, and food had been destroyed because what her aunt had done was so disgraceful. Not only did the aunt had to face the repercussions but so did the family. This horrible event of slaughtering and suicide had happened in the early 1920s and decades later Kingston’s mother is still warning her on what could happen if she disappoints the family. Kingston states, “Don’t let your father know I told you. He denies her. Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you. Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born. The villagers are watchful” (5). This shows that a woman’s role in society hasn’t changed, they still have similar standards of being secondary to men. 

In Chinese culture, women were just there to listen to their spouse, look pretty, cook and clean. They weren’t viewed as people or as individuals. They had to bond their feet, to keep intact their tiny feet which would have been seen as beautiful but in reality, it was very painful and excruciating. Women had no say in what they could or couldn’t do, it was the men that were making the decisions. Even from the very beginning at birth, females are seen as inferior. Kingston states, “Mothers who love their children take them along. It was probably a girl; there is some hope of forgiveness for boys” (15). She is saying that if her aunt had a boy that things could have maybe been different. The baby could have lived a full happy life but because she was most likely a girl then she wouldn’t have had a good life. Kingston demonstrates in her book how unequal the two genders live. 

Discussion Questions:

To this day, are women still viewed as objects or lesser than men? How? 

Did Kingston’s memoir of “No Name Woman,” help you to understand what Chinese females had to endure in traditional Chinese society or only complicate it? 

Hi, I’m Deirdre!

Hi, my name’s Deirdre Lynch. I am a Sophmore and my major is Inclusive Education with a Humanities minor. I’m from Long Island, NY. I love to swim, the beach and to bake. I swam most of my life on a swim club and on my school team. My favorite thing to bake is chocolate chip cookies. I am looking forward to this semester!