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Re: classism in assumptions of appropriateness

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  • jenny2write
    ... books?
    Message 1 of 10 , Jun 3, 2002
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      --- In lewiscarroll@y..., "Ruth Berman" <berma005@m...> wrote:
      > <DOYLE60@a...> WROTE:
      > >Why did Carroll believe poor children wouldn't like the *Alice*
      books?<
      There were several assumptions involved in the belief (and it
      > wasn't just Carroll and "Alice," but most authors of children's
      literature
      > at the time). One was that poor children ....

      About 20 years ago it was considered rather desirable that
      children's books in the UK should be "relevant" to children of poorer
      backgrounds. These fictional kids hung around with their mates in
      horrible parts of town and often had disrupted families, and their
      adventures kept them firmly in their own "class". I don't remember
      any books where such kids wanted to find out about art, classical
      music, literature, countryside, nature, or indeed anything
      intellectual, spiritual or cultural. I totally sympathised with the
      idea of getting away from the prim, sexist, books of the 1960s and
      early 70s, - but it struck me as quite extraordinarily patronising
      that so many writers - nearly always middle class themselves, -
      seemed to believe that poor children and their families could not
      ever want to be cultured or educated.

      Incredibly, this attitude STILL crops up in Britain - ie that certain
      groups of people live lives which nobody in their right mind would
      want, and those more fortunate have some kind of duty to keep them
      there. For instance, a few days ago I read that some social workers
      deliberately take less notice of signs of physical abuse on Afro-
      Caribbean children than white ones, because it is, apparently, (they
      say) the "culture" to beat and injure children in the Caribbean, and
      therefore one must "respect" this "culture". The end result is that
      treatment that is deemed unacceptable for a white child, is deemed
      acceptable for an Afro-Caribbean one.

      So, there seems something in Britain which does keep popping up, no
      matter how hard we try to eradicate it. An idea that society is
      divided firmly into separate groups, all of whom like to feel
      different from the other groups, and it is not a good idea to meddle
      with crossing the cultural barriers which divide these groups,
      whether those are barriers of class, sex, race, or whatever.

      I don't know if this applies in the US but I rather doubt it - that's
      what Americans emigrated to get away from, isn't it?

      To get back to Carroll, I am sure that class barriers in his day
      were so rigid that "poor" children must have seemed like a different
      race. The only parallel I can imagine today is the way that many
      people assess the gypsy children who sometimes beg in the street.

      In fact, I was approached by a child of about five, begging, at
      about 11.30 pm one night recently in the London tube. He seemed to be
      completely alone. He was very vulnerable, and looked terribly tired,
      and so I suggested he came with me because I wanted to take him to
      somewhere he would be safer. His abject terror was palpable as I
      tried gently to lead him away. Of course I let him go. I hope a
      family member was waiting round a corner, and that sending him out
      alone was just a begging scam to make him more appealing. But the
      upshot was that I treated him differently from the way I would want
      my own child to be treated, because he was dirty, wild, scared of me
      and could barely speak a word of English.

      So I wonder, did poor people seem like this to gentlemen and ladies
      of Carroll's day? Like a different variety of human being, to be
      treated differently from how we would treat our own?

      Jenny
    • Ralph Sims
      My view of the Victorian Carroll comes from Roberta Rogow s series of books that is based on an association between Dodgson and Arthur Conan Doyle. I sense
      Message 2 of 10 , Jun 3, 2002
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        My view of the Victorian Carroll comes from Roberta Rogow's series of
        books that is based on an association between Dodgson and Arthur Conan
        Doyle. I sense she has done quite a bit of research into those times
        and while "fictionalizing" on many points, seems to paint a descriptive
        picture of England, especially as it relates to the "classes".

        > So I wonder, did poor people seem like this to gentlemen and ladies
        > of Carroll's day? Like a different variety of human being, to be
        > treated differently from how we would treat our own?
      • AnisaT@aol.com
        In a message dated 03/06/2002 20:15:55 GMT Daylight Time, ralph@ralphsimsrarebooks.com writes:
        Message 3 of 10 , Jun 3, 2002
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          In a message dated 03/06/2002 20:15:55 GMT Daylight Time,
          ralph@... writes:

          << So I wonder, did poor people seem like this to gentlemen and ladies
          > of Carroll's day? Like a different variety of human being, to be
          > treated differently from how we would treat our own?
          >>
          This is a question that begs a number of other questions. Not least is what
          one means by the term poor. Don't forget, ever, that poverty in the 19th
          century was defined in terms of location and environment. For example, the
          'poor' in Charles Kingsley's view of the world were the rural poor, people
          who were literally controlled by the prices of corn (especially) and other
          foodstock. To Dickens, the 'poor' were the urban poor (though he romaticised
          them and did them little favours!). Carroll seems to have taken on the rural
          definition of 'poor' - the ragged rosy cheeked child. There is no evidence
          that he ever observed the poverty of urban England (Manchester, Birmingham
          etc) or had any real understanding of the differences between the two.
          Certainly Alton Locke had an effect on him, but this again was primarily
          rural.

          John Tufail
        • DOYLE60@aol.com
          John admonished us:
          Message 4 of 10 , Jun 4, 2002
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            John admonished us:
            < Don't forget, ever, that poverty in the 19th century was defined in terms
            of location and environment. >

            I read this morning on the train this passage from Dickens' *The Old
            Curiosity Shop* (Chapter 52):
            ___

            "This first boy, Schoolmaster," said the Bachelor, "is John Owen; a lad of
            good parts, sir, and frank, honest temper; but too thoughtless, too playful,
            too lightheaded by far."
            ___

            Without John's comment I would have thought the boy had squared shoulders, a
            perfectly formed chin and well developed calf muscles.

            Matt
          • knaveofarts
            ... So I wonder, did poor people seem like this to gentlemen and ladies of Carroll s day? Like a different variety of human being, to be treated differently
            Message 5 of 10 , Jun 4, 2002
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              --- In lewiscarroll@y..., "jenny2write" <woolf@j...> wrote:

              So I wonder, did poor people seem like this to gentlemen and
              ladies
              of Carroll's day? Like a different variety of human being, to be
              treated differently from how we would treat our own?


              $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$



              "And the moral of that is - 'The more there is of mine, the less
              there is of yours.'" [The Mock Turtle's Story]
            • keith
              Matt, I think the best way to look at poverty is in some of the photographic images of the 19c but being careful not to make too much of a comparison with
              Message 6 of 10 , Jun 4, 2002
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                Matt,

                I think the best way to look at poverty is in some of the photographic
                images of the 19c but being careful not to make too much of a comparison
                with today's world. An author's definition is too narrow - poverty is not
                having enough food on the table and not knowing where your next amount of
                income will come from. Few people had a home of their own and most families
                lived from week to week and had to put their youngsters into the mills at
                five years old. Poverty was rife in England throughout the 19 century and
                into the early part of the 20th century. In the town I lived in during the
                1940/50's a weekly visit to the pawn shop by some families was my definition
                of poverty, although compared to 19 century folk these people would be
                considered well off in actually having something that they could pawn!

                Keith


                ----- Original Message -----
                From: <DOYLE60@...>
                To: <lewiscarroll@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, June 04, 2002 2:11 PM
                Subject: Re: [lewiscarroll] Re: classism in assumptions of appropriateness


                > John admonished us:
                > < Don't forget, ever, that poverty in the 19th century was defined in
                terms
                > of location and environment. >
                >
                > I read this morning on the train this passage from Dickens' *The Old
                > Curiosity Shop* (Chapter 52):
                > ___
                >
                > "This first boy, Schoolmaster," said the Bachelor, "is John Owen; a lad of
                > good parts, sir, and frank, honest temper; but too thoughtless, too
                playful,
                > too lightheaded by far."
                > ___
                >
                > Without John's comment I would have thought the boy had squared shoulders,
                a
                > perfectly formed chin and well developed calf muscles.
                >
                > Matt
                >
                >
                > to unsubscribe send a blank email to:
                lewiscarroll-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                >
                > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                >
                >
                >
                >
              • AnisaT@aol.com
                In a message dated 04/06/2002 14:13:35 GMT Daylight Time, DOYLE60@aol.com writes:
                Message 7 of 10 , Jun 5, 2002
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                  In a message dated 04/06/2002 14:13:35 GMT Daylight Time, DOYLE60@...
                  writes:

                  << Without John's comment I would have thought the boy had squared shoulders,
                  a
                  perfectly formed chin and well developed calf muscles. >>

                  Matt,

                  This is humorous but does it have a point to it (see Neilson for references)!

                  Regards

                  John
                • DOYLE60@aol.com
                  I m quite serious, John. I read your post the day before I read that
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jun 5, 2002
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                    < This is humorous but does it have a point to it (see Neilson for
                    references)! >>

                    I'm quite serious, John. I read your post the day before I read that passage
                    in *The Old Curiosity Shop*. If I hadn't, I probably wouldn't have
                    understood the lines completely. The point was that I was illustrating your
                    comment with an example, a citation, a back-up, a reinforcement, an
                    illustration.

                    Matt
                  • AnisaT@aol.com
                    In a message dated 06/06/2002 04:50:44 GMT Daylight Time, DOYLE60@aol.com writes:
                    Message 9 of 10 , Jun 6, 2002
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                      In a message dated 06/06/2002 04:50:44 GMT Daylight Time, DOYLE60@...
                      writes:

                      << I'm quite serious, John. I read your post the day before I read that
                      passage
                      in *The Old Curiosity Shop*. If I hadn't, I probably wouldn't have
                      understood the lines completely. The point was that I was illustrating your
                      comment with an example, a citation, a back-up, a reinforcement, an
                      illustration. >>


                      Hey Matt,

                      'For once' I was only joking, being light hearted! I was referring to
                      Neilson's wonderful children's musical fairytale 'The Point' Platng with
                      words.

                      John
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