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Re: [Slovak-World] TIMRAVA: class distinctions

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  • Helen Fedor
    ... instead ... But when her parents are berating the narrator for
    Message 1 of 24 , May 1, 2003
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      > But why does Timrava use 'cirkev', the general word for church
      instead
      > of 'kostol,'

      <It means that the Lutheran Church is good (to them), not that their
      parish
      is rich.>

      But when her parents are berating the narrator for turning down Somos'
      proposal, her mother says, "Blaznis~ sa dievc~a? C~i nevies~, aka je
      dobra cirkev Chmel'ovo?". Doesn't this mean basically what Norma has:
      "Are you crazy, girl? Don't you know what a good position Chmel'ovo
      is?"

      Helen



      >>> votrubam@... 04/30/03 10:38PM >>>
      > the two castes were socially and economically distinct, but then she
      > seems to contradict herself there with regard to the economic
      > distinction: the peasant caste ranges from "rich farmers" on down,
      while
      > village parsons are part of the intelligentsia but "live meagerly"

      The Americans generally identifying social classes with income. That
      has
      not been the traditional perception in Central Europe. There,
      education
      was more of a factor in how people saw their society.

      A rare sociological survey when a brief relaxation of communist
      control
      allowed it in the late 1960s revealed substantial differences in
      lifestyles between the intelligentsia and the laborers, although the
      range
      of salaries in communist Czechoslovakia was among the narrowest in all
      the
      com. countries. The highest salaries were barely 3x to 4x higher than
      the
      lowest, and the limited supply of goods and services narrowed what
      people
      could do with their money even more. And since communist ideology
      favored
      the "working class," their pay was as likely to be in the top group,
      as
      those of any other group. Yet, how the intelligentsia lived (how they
      spent their free time, what they had at home), was noticeably
      different
      from the laborers.

      The same appears to have been true throughout Central European
      history.

      The minister's family may not have been the richest in the village,
      but
      their lifestyle was different. His daughter's expectations (and
      fantasies) may not have been met by any farmer she knew in the
      village.
      For example, she might have been dreaming of someone who read
      literature.
      In Timrava's _real_ village, most farmers never read any of her short
      stories, even after they learned that some of them were actually
      depicted
      in them, and the stories became part of the school curriculum.


      > Esther. It's a Jewish name from the Old Testament. Would such a
      name
      > have been given to a Lutheran girl?

      Esther, and other names from the Old Testament were quite fashionable
      among the Slovak Lutherans in the 19th century.


      > where would she have gotten her romantic notions, if "the romantic
      ideal
      > of a love match based on free choice.....was still new in central
      > Europe"

      Surely, infatuation cannot have been new. Norma probably meant
      "marriage." The intelligentsia was less bent on arranged marriages
      than
      the farmers, and the protagonist's notions of romantic love (just like
      Timrava's) would have been shaped by massive reading of trashy, as well
      as
      some better romance novels abundant in German, in Hungarian
      translations,
      by sentimental stories in Slovak periodicals, as well as by Slovak
      romantic novels.


      > there must have been a variety of literature available to those with
      > education and the means to obtain books

      The Central European intelligentsia was well read. An English
      traveler
      had this to say in 1835 (correct: eighteen-35):

      "I have often thought that a glance at the booksellers' shops
      gives a
      more correct idea of the state of education in a country than the
      most profound disquisitions on its schools and universities. If
      my
      notion is correct, Bratislava ought to rank pretty high in
      literary
      estimation, for in a tour which we made one day through the
      warehouses of five or six of the chief booksellers, we were
      astonished at the number and excellence of the books they
      contained.
      They were not only rich in Hungarian and German works, but
      contained
      almost every thing of any great merit published in London and
      Paris.
      A fair library both of the French and English classics might
      easily
      be formed in Bratislava. Of the English standard works, we found
      editions of London, Paris and Leipzig, but chiefly the latter."


      > But why does Timrava use 'cirkev', the general word for church
      instead
      > of 'kostol,'

      It means that the Lutheran Church is good (to them), not that their
      parish
      is rich.


      > Only about 5% of the population in S~aris~ and Abov were Lutheran

      The village should be seen as located in south-central Slovakia. We
      can
      safely assume that practically everyone in Timrava's village was
      Lutheran.
      But regardless, the members of the three Churches were not distributed
      evenly. Even in east Slovakia, you'd get a few predominantly Lutheran
      villages. Statistically that gives us 5% for the whole county, but
      the
      parishioners were actually clustered.


      Martin

      votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu



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    • Martin Votruba
      ... Agreed, Helen. It does mean that. I should have responded to the whole question, and checked the whole passage, not just the quoted segment. _kostol_
      Message 2 of 24 , May 1, 2003
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        > Doesn't this mean basically what Norma has: "Are you crazy, girl?
        > Don't you know what a good position Chmel'ovo is?"

        Agreed, Helen. It does mean that. I should have responded to the whole
        question, and checked the whole passage, not just the quoted segment.
        _kostol_ means a building, _cirkev_ means the institution, so saying
        _kostol je velmi dobry_ would be like saying, e.g., "the gym is good,"
        she'd be describing the building. (I hope I understood the question this
        time?)


        Martin
      • BJLK@aol.com
        In our present-day lives it s difficult to understand how pervasive class distinctions influenced the daily lives of prior generations. This theme of class
        Message 3 of 24 , May 1, 2003
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          In our present-day lives it's difficult to understand how pervasive class
          distinctions influenced the daily lives of prior generations. This theme of
          class differences echoes through Timrava's fiction in a very natural way.
          Even though the fictional characters have imaginary personalities which the
          author has developed in varying degrees, there is no ambiguity about their
          class standing. I have no doubt that class-related social artifacts still
          remain in Slovakia (and in the United States) today.

          Something Timrava does very well when describing class differences is to
          fully explore the antagonisms that exist as a kind of ribbon interwoven with
          the everyday social interaction between her characters. These run the gamut
          from playful insolence to bitter resentment.

          My own family is an example of how social-class differences continued to
          influence relationships in ways that were occasionally inappropriate. My
          mother, who left almost all of her family behind, came from a
          well-educational, well-traveled family of professionals, educators, and
          clergy, while my father, whose entire family emigrated to the United States,
          was from a much different social stratum.

          I can remember both of them discussing how lucky they were to meet each other
          in the United States, because they would not have been able to even speak to
          each other (much less marry) had they met in Slovakia. However, their worst
          arguments were over "the right way" to do something. For example, my mother
          loved fine linens and china, good silver, and nice table manners, while my
          father was more concerned about whether there was enough to eat. They both
          agreed that it was necessary to say grace before every meal.

          My father's family never completely warmed up to my mother and often made her
          life miserable--they always regarded her with a little bit of awe and slight
          resentment no matter how hard she tried to fit in. It took me years to
          figure out why. My observations were confirmed by a long conversation I had
          on the subject recently with a kindly Slovak senior.

          I sometimes wonder how Timrava's emigres are doing in today's world.

          Regards,

          B. J. Licko-Keel (BJLK@...)


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Nick Holcz
          ... I don t think that it has disappeared even now. Your experience is a bit like mine my mother was born in Hamburg to a well to do family , her mother and
          Message 4 of 24 , May 1, 2003
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            At 01:03 PM 1/05/2003 -0400, you wrote:
            >In our present-day lives it's difficult to understand how pervasive class
            >distinctions influenced the daily lives of prior generations.


            I don't think that it has disappeared even now.

            Your experience is a bit like mine my mother was born in Hamburg to a well
            to do family , her mother and children moved to England and still had
            servants and lots of money. My father was a Slovak grocer and they met
            because he joined the British army in WW2 and there was shock horror from
            her family about how she married beneath her class. The problem was solved
            when we moved to Australia where no one knew them or cared less.

            I suppose the only time it was discussed was when relating the events of
            their lives to my brother and I and we would only notice the difference in
            their ability to speak and write in English.

            Nick


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Michelle A Mader
            ... I think it depends on where you are from. My husband is from Germany and occasionally, earlier in our marriage, we would talk about moving there. My MIL
            Message 5 of 24 , May 2, 2003
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              Nick wrote:
              >At 01:03 PM 1/05/2003 -0400, you wrote:
              > >In our present-day lives it's difficult to understand how pervasive class
              > >distinctions influenced the daily lives of prior generations.
              >
              >
              >I don't think that it has disappeared even now.
              >
              >Your experience is a bit like mine my mother was born in Hamburg ...

              I think it depends on where you are from. My husband is from Germany
              and occasionally, earlier in our marriage, we would talk about moving
              there. My MIL was always horrified by such talk and tried to explain
              to me about the class distinctions and how I'd never get used to them.
              She talked about how the family of the doctor would barely acknowledge
              the existence of the postman, even if they lived next door to each other
              in identical circumstances.


              Michelle Maco Mader
              Cleveland, Ohio USA
              "I have never let my schooling interfere
              with my education." - Mark Twain
            • Martin Votruba
              ... The distinction between social groups we get in Timrava s stories is not one where deference is obligatory. The relationship of the farmers to the
              Message 6 of 24 , May 2, 2003
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                > What actions of the peasants would be required to show proper respect to
                > the 'betters' as they met them in town

                The distinction between social groups we get in Timrava's stories is not
                one where deference is obligatory. The relationship of the farmers to the
                intelligentsia is not one of subordination, i.e. the intelligentsia are
                not their landlords, masters. Whatever deference was shown would have
                stemmed especially from the narrator's father being the minister, and
                teacher.

                It can be compared to the American doctors addressing their adult, often
                older patients by their first name, and the patients addressing them as
                "doctor," plus perhaps the doctor's last name. Many, if not most
                Americans show deference to their doctors, accept the unequal, subordinate
                position in mutual address, and think it "natural." It's the same when
                the Americans' interact with the clergy: e.g., people call them "Father,"
                and are addressed by their first name by the priest, although many
                parishioners are richer than the clergyman, older, sometimes in high
                positions in their jobs. That's an approximation of the "class" deference
                we see in this story.

                There are tons of ways how class distinctions are expressed in social
                interactions in the U.S.; and most (by no means all) marriages take place
                within one's own "class" defined by education, wealth, family, race --
                just like they did in the past. There's more marriage "outside one's
                group" today than in the past when we define class by the married couple's
                parents, but that's because some of the "class" distinctions between the
                parents have been erased with the next generation: most people finish high
                school today, the majority go on to colleges, the standard of living of
                most of the poorest 20% bears little resemblance to what it meant to be
                poor a century ago, etc.

                However, just like in Timrava's village, few American offspring of parents
                with college degrees marry someone who is hardly literate,
                Caucasian--African-American marriages are but a fraction of all marriages,
                doctors marry their nurses, but not the cleaning women in their hospitals,
                etc. What Timrava describes follows the same principle, but it is more
                striking, and interesting, because it's in a different guise, in a
                different time and place.

                So, to pick up on what Helen mentioned, the narrator's family would
                probably have addressed their farm hands, and perhaps at least the younger
                farmers in the village informally, while the farmers would probably have
                addressed the parson's family formally.

                At the same time, there was plenty of interaction between the
                intelligentsia and the farmers, as Timrava's stories show. If she weren't
                up to date on much of the village gossip, if she hadn't interacted with
                the other villagers quite intimately, she would not have been able to
                write many of her stories. There is no difference in Timrava's attention
                to and intricate description of the psychology, feelings, second-guessing
                of other people's motives, etc., when her protagonist is a girl from the
                intelligentsia, as in this story, and when the central character of her
                story is a farmer.


                Martin

                votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
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