Bill Paley (mycroftca) wrote,
Bill Paley

second essay for F&SF

To some degree, Alice's experiences in Wonderland do not resonate easily with American audiences, due to the relatively classless society in which we live. Alice meets many denizens of Wonderland, some of whom are working class such as the various footmen or the playing card gardeners, some of whom are middle-class, such as the Mad Hatter, and some of whom are nobility or royalty, such as the Duchess, the Queen of Hearts, or the Red and White Queens. In each case, the child Alice responds in a childish way, expostulating sometimes statements that are usually manipulated by those she meets into a form that offends them. In Britain, social class was paramount, and when Alice as pawn, or working class, works her way across the board, in Through the Looking Glass, reaching the eighth rank, and becoming Queen, she was not accepted by the other queens, who quizzed her at length, trying to show why it was unacceptable for the "lessers" to be brought to the level of their "betters". To some extent, this is not true in the United States; people often work their way into higher social strata by one means or another. However, it's far less common for this to happen in Great Britain. Speech was often how a person was identified as to their social class. However, in a book, accent would be difficult to show. Instead, word choice would be the manner of showing the character's class. Thus when Alice is quick to speak, not taking care with her language or sentence structure, it leads to the higher social beings to upbraid her. On the other hand, the blue collar folk rarely took her words to heart, and though they didn't always understand her, they didn't act as though slighted.
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