Fantomina

Class and Characterization within Early Novels College

Since feudal times, class has played a distinctly formative role within social structure in England. Whether a person resided within the upper class, middle class, or lower class could determine political influence, economic success, and social freedoms alike. In early novels, characters were expected to follow these cleanly cut societal rules in a way that mimicked a perfect class ruled pseudo-reality. This meant carefully adhering to the expectations of the class and acting in a way that did not overstep the boundaries set in place. In some ways, this adherence to societal norms created specific archetypes which minimized realism, as 1700’s European society contained many individuals leading vastly contradictory double lives. If unacknowledged, this could cause a failure on the author’s part to produce novelistic characters who feel true to life in a modern sense. Truly realistic characters are produced from a balance of rejection and submission to the expectations of class, and attention to how these rejections and submissions affect the character’s perception of the world he or she exists in. Critically considering how this balance affects the character’s actions and interactions can uncover a complexity not clearly seen...

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