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Clothing and Behavior as representations of class

One thing I noticed as I read on further was the assumptions made by characters concerning class. It was almost as if they expected a certain character to behave in a particular fashion in accordance with their social standing. I realize this is not a main theme of the play, but I couldn’t help noticing on several different occasions that characters seemed to have predetermined how one should behave according to what class they assumed that person belonged to and would treat them in accordance with that assumption. They come to these assumptions based on a number of things -clothes being the one I noticed most perhaps. For example, when Miss Hardcastle gets mistaken for the barmaid and aims to keep up the delusion in order to see Marlow’s true character. It is not why she keeps up this act that interested me because that is pretty clearly stated in the text during her conversation with the maid, but it is the fact that everybody treats her differently when they think she is the barmaid. It is almost the same with Hardcastle as Marlow thinks he is of a lower class so the way he behaves is surprising and somewhat unpleasing to Marlow. (Most of this happens towards the end of the third act as far as I remember). I didn’t really notice the food aspect of signifying status as much until it was pointed out on the blog and I see that now, but was anyone else also drawn to these assumptions being a fairly important part of the play in the sense that they really outline the views of the social structure at that time?

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2 thoughts on “Clothing and Behavior as representations of class

  1. I’m not sure that this is just a part of THOSE times. I believe it something that still happens today. Perhaps not in exactly the same way, but it still happens. People do treat you differently depending on how you dress, what level of education you’ve obtained, what political or religious affiliations you have, etc. Humans have always been prone to being judgmental for one reason or another. We saw this issue of judgment come up in several of our other readings. For instance, in Pope the issue of judgment was one of the key elements discussed. The issue of class (and therefore judgement about class) is also seen in Crusoe in the way he deals with other peoples beliefs, customs, heritage, etc. In other words any sort of class, or social position is based on something as fickle as judgment and so it does change, but it doesn’t disappear, it just evolves with society to fit the current times.

  2. I hope this doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch, but I think that this preoccupation with status transcends more than just the time period. I can’t think of a culture that doesn’t assign people different levels of status, each with associated norms and roles to go with it. And going even further, this behavior is hardly unique to humans. Primates have complex social structures with many different status levels, as do many (or most?) other cooperative species. Perhaps the need to organize society into stratified groups is a biological drive? Does anyone know of a culture in which all members held equal status?

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