Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens
Start Free Trial

How does Where the Crawdads Sing demonstrate class distinction in society?

Kya struggles to gain an education and become self-sufficient. She is hampered by her poverty and lack of access to education. She never learns to read or write, although she shows a desire to learn, as when she attempts to study the Bible. Later in the novel she says that if she had been able to go to school and learn, she would have liked to be a teacher or work in a library. However, her family's limited finances keep her from attaining even a basic education.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kya represents the extreme lower classes, abandoned by her entire family and left to find a way to feed herself when she's only about seven years old. In one of her father's last appearances in the novel, he takes Kya to town to eat in a restaurant, which rarely happens....

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Kya represents the extreme lower classes, abandoned by her entire family and left to find a way to feed herself when she's only about seven years old. In one of her father's last appearances in the novel, he takes Kya to town to eat in a restaurant, which rarely happens. As they sit at the table, Kya hears women whispering, "Well, they prob'ly can't read the shirt and shoes required" as they look at her with scorn.

She leaves the restaurant and meets the preacher's daughter. She is about four with "blond ringlets" and a "pale blue frock." Kya thinks that the little girl's hand is "maybe the cleanest thing Kya had ever seen." When her mother comes out of a store and sees Kya's proximity, she yells, "Meryl Lynn, dahlin', don't go near that girl, ya hear me. She's dirty." She tells another woman that "they" (meaning Kya's family) are responsible for all the diseases in town. In the novel, Kya's poverty means that she is excluded from town life. Although everyone knows that she is a poverty-stricken young girl living alone in the marsh, no one reaches out to her in kindness. No one except Jumpin' and his wife offer to help her obtain food and clothing. Kya is seen as unworthy of civilization or of compassion and labeled "The Marsh Girl" to further solidify the exclusion.

Chase Andrews also represents the upper classes. He uses Kya, manipulating her need for love and acceptance for his own gain. While he tells Kya that he plans to marry her, he is actually living an entirely separate life in town, engaged to marry a woman whom his family approves of—and who has a background similar to his own. Kya is devastated when she learns the truth—a truth she only discovers by stumbling across an engagement announcement in a newspaper she purchases while in town. Kya can never be "good" enough to be his wife because she is poor and not polished, and Chase never had any intention of marrying her.

The wealthy are seen in the novel as having ultimate power—and that includes the power to manipulate and victimize the poor.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team