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How can the themes of class and economics be compared and/or contrasted in "A Good Man...

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smittyc | Honors

Posted April 10, 2013 at 9:00 PM via web

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How can the themes of class and economics be compared and/or contrasted in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "The Swimmer"?

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

Posted July 11, 2013 at 7:25 AM (Answer #1)

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"The Swimmer" is obviously a tale set in affluent suburban America. The neighbours of Neddy Merril are clearly very wealthy indeed, and this is indicated by both the fact that they seem to spend time having endless parties involving copious quantities of alcohol, and also that all of them seem to have a swimming pool, which would have been considered a luxury item. The fact that Neddy is able to contemplate swimming home through all of the pools of his neighbours reinforces this. As he makes his journey through all of these pools, the narrator comments on the neighbours of Neddy, focusing on their wealth and affluence:

The Hallorans were friends, an elderly couple of enormous wealth who seemed to bask in the suspicion that they might be communists.

The author therefore plunges the reader in a world that is dominated by money, and it is therefore ironic that at the end of the story, the reader learns, along with Neddy Merril, that he is in fact in serious financial difficulties.

In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," it is clear that class and appearances are a central theme, and this is most clearly seen in the character of the grandmother, as she often takes appearances and places incredible importance on them, creating massive comic effect. For example note how the author describes how she is dressed at the beginning of the car journey and her reasons for this:

Her collar and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace at her neckline she had pineed a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

The meaning is clear: the grandmother places so much importance on appearances in order to reinforce her own status as a "lady," indicating how class is vitally important to her. For both Neddy Merril and the grandmother, however, appearances of wealth, status and class do nothing to help them at the end, and both characters are forced to realise this in tragic ways by the conclusion of the story. The themes are therefore presented in both stories to indicate the hollowness of a society that is based purely and solely on wealth and status: these are not sufficient protection from tragedy, in whatever form it may appear.

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