The Effect Of Social Status On Literary Characters

1235 words - 5 pages

When The Beatles released the song “Can’t Buy Me Love” on March 16, 1964, its intention was to become yet another hit rock number. While Paul McCartney may not have composed the tune for philosophical purposes, the idea is worth further consideration; how can money and power affect love and affection? This concept has been applied throughout many different works, long before McCartney decided to put his lyrics together. In From Sleep Unbound and The Tin Flute, Andree Chedid and Gabrielle Roy demonstrate how money and social status (real and perceived) influence characters’ relationships through the use of vivid imagery, symbolism, and voice.
Throughout both novels, relationships between various characters are greatly influenced by each person’s social status and wealth. A change in either social standing or finances can change any type of relationship. At the boarding school in From Sleep Unbound, Samya and her friend Sarah grow apart after Sarah leaves the school to be married.
We had sat together on the same benches, and yet I hardly recognized her. High heels, furs in which she seemed lost, brown suede gloves dangling from her fingers. The diamond she wore gave off a bright light. I no longer knew her. She was old and ugly, dressed-up this way…I felt like hitting Sarah, and yet at the same time, I wanted to hold her tightly and chase away this nightmare. (Chedid 33)

The imagery Chedid creates highlights the changes that have transformed Sarah and their effects on her friendship with Samya. Sarah treats the girls at the school differently after she comes into money with her marriage, and Samya reacts differently to the wealthy version of Sarah. “Say you don’t need no diamond rings…” (McCartney). The acquisition or loss of money dictates how one will treat others. In The Tin Flute when Jean Levesque recalls his college days, he remembers associating with less fortunate others and “occasionally, more out of pride than generosity, he would share his wealth with [them]. Already he knew that money buys prestige and respect.” (Roy 202). In Samya and Jean’s societies, status and wealth define a person’s attitude and outlook—any changes in these areas of life will cause a change in how the person will react with other people of other statuses.
Status not only affects how characters react to change, but also dictates the changes that will occur in a person’s life. For female protagonists such as Florentine and Samya, marriage is the most common path a woman takes in order to alter her situation. For Florentine, marrying Emmanuel is the most promising option she has to improve her life. “I [do] care too much for money…” (McCartney). With Emmanuel, Florentine realizes that
…she was better off than she would have been with Jean… And she extended these advantages to her mother and the whole family, with the proud sensation of having redeemed herself….for the hundredth time [she] congratulated herself on the way she had managed the whole business....

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