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Re: [Slovak-World] TIMRAVA: class distinctions

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  • 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 1 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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