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How Does Class Influence Identity? Essay

1282 words - 5 pages

Influence of class on an individual's identity is greater than many would like to perceive. The main reason for this misconception is the fact that everyone wants to hear what they can accomplish and not what factors (i.e. socio-economic standing) stand in their way. Identity is composed of many separate factors and therefore is affected is by many factors as well. The idea of what factors affect identity has been touched upon by many writers. Three such works consist of Horatio Alger's "Ragged Dick", "The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara and Gregory Mantsios' "Class in America: Myths and Realities". Each of these writer's at one point or another had to make the decision of "How does class influence identity" and each of them confronted this topic in different ways.Horatio Alger's "Ragged Dick" is a book based upon the fact that success is based upon an individual's merit. Alger tackles the concept of class and its affect on one's identity very slowly. He is hesitant because it would go against the morale he is portraying. This rags to riches story is too naive, it only depicts the fact that the main character (Richard Dick) moves up in life due to his actions and nothing more.Dick's boss in the story, Mr. Rockwell offers dick the job based solely on merit and does not look at Dick's socioeconomic standing. Dick is the one in the story who makes the slightest change on identity based upon his new position. When Mr. Rockwell asked, "How would you like to enter my counting-room as clerk, Richard?" Dick was about to reply, "Bully," when he recollected himself, and responded, "Very much." This change depicts that Dick is aware that he now is in higher position and therefore his regular slang "Bully" would not be acceptable.Alger maintains that class has no major influence on society. As is seen when Dick returns the favor and hands over his old job to Johnny Nolan. This story however does not hold a strong of an argument because Alger's view of what affects identity is too narrow. It fails to mention the affect of Race, Education, Qualifications and Connections. These factors are purposely left out by Alger because they contradict his idea that merit is the underlying factor. However, in the actual these factors would be what decide class mobility. These factors most often decide if you get the position. The failure to mention these factors made this story unbelievable."The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara goes further than Alger. Bambara analyzes the differences in classes. It is based upon the fact that class does indeed affect an individual's identity. Bambara does this by depicting different classes and expanding on the slight differences. The story is more believable from the start by being in the first person narrative. Whereas "Ragged Dick" was fiction, "The Lesson" is from experience.This story is written through the eyes of Sylvia, a young low class girl. Sylvia and her "cousins" reside in a poor apartment complex. They are first exposed to the...

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