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How is class oppression manifested in The Blithedale Romance?

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monikam89 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 4, 2013 at 8:46 PM via web

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How is class oppression manifested in The Blithedale Romance?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 5, 2013 at 5:11 AM (Answer #1)

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For a place that is supposed to be some sort of utopia, it is clear that issues such as class are not so easily forgotten. This is most clearly shown through the relationship between Zenobia and Priscilla. From the very first moment the reader is introduced to Zenobia at the end of Chapter 2, it is clear that she is a very important woman, not just because of her wealth but also because of her social standing. However, when Priscilla arrives, who strangely seems to place herself in the position of being Zenobia's servant, note Zenobia's assessment of Priscilla's past:

"She is neither more nor less," answered Zenobia, "than a seamstress from the city; and she has probably no more transcendental purpose than to do my miscellaneous sewing, for I suppose she will hardly expect to make my dresses."

Class still defines the characters, and helps create a rough order in position based on the relative importance of each character. The way in which Priscilla is wounded and hurt when she overhears Zenobia's remarks demonstrates the class oppression that lies at the heart of this novel, and this comment foreshadows the way in which Zenobia does her best to keep Priscilla below her and beneath her, as she begins to view her as a love rival. The irony is, of course, that Priscilla is actually Zenobia's half-sister, indicating the judgemental way that views on class are created and how class is based on aspects such as employment and the relative amount of wealth a character has. The theme of class oppression is therefore best demonstrated through an exploration of these two characters and the way that class is an important part of their conflict.

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