Re: [Slovak-World] TIMRAVA: class distinctions
> Doesn't this mean basically what Norma has: "Are you crazy, girl?Agreed, Helen. It does mean that. I should have responded to the whole
> Don't you know what a good position Chmel'ovo is?"
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
- 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.
B. J. Licko-Keel (BJLK@...)
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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 classI don't think that it has disappeared even now.
>distinctions influenced the daily lives of prior generations.
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.
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- Nick wrote:
>At 01:03 PM 1/05/2003 -0400, you wrote:I think it depends on where you are from. My husband is from Germany
> >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 ...
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
> What actions of the peasants would be required to show proper respect toThe distinction between social groups we get in Timrava's stories is not
> the 'betters' as they met them in town
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
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.
votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu