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A frustrated and largely rhetorical question. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
A frustrated and largely rhetorical question.
WHY do people persist in describing the Weasleys, not as skint, which they are, but as 'working class'?  WHY?

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sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 11:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: additional thoughts

There are gradations of unemployed, from currently out of work to long term. A lot depends on what you are not employed as, and indeed whether you have ever worked.
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: additional thoughts

(though come to think of it, though "my daughter the theologian" has never worked as anything but bar staff, being an officer's daughter and ex Public School she is firmly and definitely middle class)
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From: (Anonymous) Date: May 27th, 2007 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: To save <lj user=wemyss> the bother of answering

Thank you!
But Arthur Weasley is a white collar, according to this classification, isn't he?
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themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: May 27th, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: To save <lj user=wemyss> the bother of answering

There are shades of grey in this spectrum, too:

It is very easy to drift downwards from "working class" to "lumpenproletariat". Not so easy to claw your way back up again, but it is do-able.

"Middle class" has a lot of sub-gradations. Lower middles are those who have climbed their way up from "working class". Usually first generation property owners. Thatcher created a lot of aspiring lower middles.

Middle middles are second or third generation sons and daughters of lower middles. Busy making sure their offspring are pushed higher up the tree by virtue of a first-rate education. These are the sort of people who will go to any lengths to get their sons and daughters into a "good" state school.

Upper middles are the sort of people where there's been money in the family for generations but money is not the defining characteristic. Privilege (a private education, for example) is. Not to be confused with the artistocracy - they are more the sort of people Jane Austen would have described as "a gentleman or a gentleman's daughter".

This is only a personal view - feel free to argue with it if you wish.

MM
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 03:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: To save <lj user=wemyss> the bother of answering

I wouldn't use social movement to define the gradations. Foremen and owners of small shops are lower middle class and often have been so for generations.

I class my family as middle middle by the time I was born (my father becae middle middle when he got his commission) and I have definitely been middle middle all my life; my daughters are third generation middle middle on my side of the family, third generation on their father's father's side and very long term middle middle on their father's mother's side.

Upper middle tend to be several generations in of lawyers, doctors etc and the higher services ranks (an admiral is definitely upper middle). Money has nothing to do with it except insofar as if they don't have money, their children can't go to the schools they went to.
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: May 27th, 2007 04:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: To save <lj user=wemyss> the bother of answering

I wouldn't use social movement to define the gradations. Foremen and owners of small shops are lower middle class and often have been so for generations.

That is a good point and just goes to show how difficult it really is to pin this "class" business down properly. It's like trying to nail smoke to a wall.

I suppose it is my own experience that leads me to put a lot of emphasis on social mobility - particularly when it comes to the "middle" class. Hubby and I are both what Willy Russell called "first generation" middle class - both of us are from working class backgrounds and we moved in to the "middle" class via education and the ownership of property. My Esteemed Father in Law escaped life as a plumber in Grimsby by joining the Army and ended his career as an RSM. Excellent Mother in Law did a number of paid jobs from barmaiding to bookeeping but mostly followed him around the world as an army wife. My father was a fitter for De Havilland (later Hawker Siddeley) and very self consciously "working class" (he was a trade union rep for most of his working life). Mother came from a "first generation" middle class background and lowered herself by marrying him (and boy did she never let him forget it). When we were growing up she took a job as a cleaner to keep the wolf from the door and that was his fault too.

And here's another bit of irony for you. Both of us were well qualified professionals with good salaries yet the only house we could afford to live in in the UK was originally built as rented acommodation for workers in the Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory. We never really managed to get away from our class roots, did we? :-).

MM
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: To save <lj user=wemyss> the bother of answering

Oh, my father was a white-collar worker before the war, gained a commission in the RAF during the war and ended up in a very high position in the North Thames Gas Board, but the house I grew up in, now very high priced professional-class-only territory, was the one his father, a gas fitter, bought in the 1920s.
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: May 27th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: To save <lj user=wemyss> the bother of answering

the house I grew up in, now very high priced professional-class-only territory, was the one his father, a gas fitter, bought in the 1920s

*Grin* Crazy, isn't it?

Here's a question I've been mulling over. I suppose I should now call myself an innkeeper. After all, that's what I do - offer people a meal and a bed for the night - does this make any difference to my class status?

I ask this because one of the first things English people tend to ask each other at parties is, "and what do you do?"

MM
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: To save <lj user=wemyss> the bother of answering

Middle class - boundary between lower middle and middle middle, like my grandmother.
alexia75 From: alexia75 Date: May 27th, 2007 10:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Because "people" do not understand the class system but persist on using it as though they do.
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eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: May 27th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
OK, I guess not what you're looking for but...

..because Molly's as common as muck, Fred&George are chavs, Percy's in a rebellion against his parents by being middle-class and Ron cares about money to the extent of admitting so. Bill and Charlie are the sterortypical working-class grammar-school pupils who emigrate to get away from home.

But yes, Arthur's middle-class.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: May 27th, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
But more than anything - Molly and Arthur don't *aspire*. Not an ounce. And I daresay Ron's very existence depended on that.

titti From: titti Date: May 27th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Priceless and so very true. *giggles*
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: May 27th, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you about Molly, she's definitely a couple of rungs down the class ladder from Arthur.

As for Fred and George - chavs is to kind a word for those two.

MM
serriadh From: serriadh Date: May 27th, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always think of Fred and George as a slightly more malicious type of Del Boy and Rodney, except their schemes for money-making actually work.

The whole family, with the exception of Arthur, is far too concerned about money (they actually discuss it) to be the sort of middle-class I recognise, but then I don't think the working-class typically like discussing money much either. Perhaps the Weasleys are just ill-bred ;) (or inbred, quite likely)
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: May 27th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think the Weasleys are either in-bred or ill-bred; I see no fault in talking about money but will happily admit to hedging around the subject myself - I think some of the children are individually hurt by a lack of it, and may struggle to get over it - F&G are rather amoral if cash is flashed, and I feel for Ron. Ginny got a better deal; her clothes may be her own.

I do see their large family as a lack of concern about dosh rather than a failure of family planning; I think they kept going until they had a girl and then stopped completely.

serriadh From: serriadh Date: May 27th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
(I should probably clarify that I'm not using 'ill-bred' as synonymous with 'lower class' - I mean some combination of that and 'bad manners', which the Weasleys have in abundance.)

Intellectually, I see no reason why we shouldn't discuss money, but I instinctively clam up and feel very uncomfortable if it's mentioned. House prices/mortages stuff is ok (though I'm a student, so I don't hear that much) but discussion of personal finances is... odd.
alexia75 From: alexia75 Date: May 27th, 2007 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd say the way that the Weasleys talk about money is kind of typical of an upwardly-aspirational lower-middle-class family that is afraid of continuing to drift downwards in the social hierarchy. They don't discuss money at left in a vulgar fashion, but sometimes they can't help but be a bit pissed off that they don't have the kind of money their social equals enjoy.

Personally I don't think it is possible to say that preoccupation with money automatically indicates working-class status. What about all those younger sons of earls shipping off to the East Indies to make their fortune?
alexia75 From: alexia75 Date: May 27th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have no idea what I meant to say when I typed "at left". Ignore that at will :)
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think they are moving in any direction socially. They are very like a lot of middle class people of my childhood who were uncomfortable about the fact that they did not have the money to live in the style they were brought up in. Not much of a lower middle class problem, more middle and upper middle; women having to do the cooking and mending who really were not too clued in about either, and often (like Molly!) had masses of cookery books even to do the most basic of cooking from. The Weasleys' worst money worries concern getting their children kitted out for school, and that too was typical of the 50s.
serriadh From: serriadh Date: May 27th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
As always with class, I'd agree that it's impossible to say clearly that anything automatically indicates working-class status. Thinking about it more carefully, I think I'm working from my mother's repeated dictum that Talking About Money (not being worried about it, or thinking about it, but talking about it - which is something Ron does more than any of the others - but that might just be his age) is definitely Lower Class.
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, Molly is not common as muck. She is a dead ringer for the mother of friends of mine (also a large family... either five or six, I lost count) whose father was a baronet. She belonged to the class that simply didn't have to bother. Their biggest problem is that they are hard up. If Molly really had been common, she would have come up with a far better solution to the problem of Ron's dress robe. Her own problem is that she is impractical.
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just noticed a possible ambiguity. It was the mother's father who was a baronet.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: May 27th, 2007 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree totally that the family's biggest problem is money.

I don't see Molly as impractical - her cooking skills seem good and I'd think she'd be good at patching up clothes after the third or fourth son. So those robes of Ron - that's a lack of bothering, or wanting him to learn that clothes don't make the man, or she has no fashion sense, not having bought clothes for herself or Arthur for the last twenty years (but then she bought fine robes for Harry, just when I was considering she was vulgar rather than common.)

The Howler (post flying-car), shouting about shame and Arthur's position to the Great Hall; that's not the act of a woman who's unbothered, though it shows she doesn't give a damn about shouting in public.

Do you see her obvious love for her children as a pointer either way? (Assuming 'middle-class' is out of the question.)
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 27th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Howler isn't just the sort of thing my friend's mother would have done, it's the sort of thing her mother would have done! And hand-me-downs were normal in the family.

The thing about the robe is that she has made no effort at all to make it suitable for Ron. Harry gets a new robe because there is nobody for him to have one handed down from. I don't think she has any idea of teaching Ron that clothes don't make the man; it's more either that Ron is simply bottom of the pile or she doesn't appreciate what effect clothes can make, and that's a pretty middle class attitude. A social climber in particular would worry about getting it right and then get it completely wrong. A known feather of Services wives who had found themselves suddenly yanked into a higher class than they were born in from their husbands being commissioned certainly used to be that they would spend far too much money on clothes as opposed to wearing the same outfit for five to ten years.

I would call it possessive/protective rather than love as such.
shezan From: shezan Date: May 27th, 2007 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I'm with ajhalluk in seeing Molly as lower-lower-middle or working-class (her entire speech is unself-conscious lower-middle) who married above her station (Arthur.)
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: May 28th, 2007 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I second this - there are times when Molly's speech patterns remind me powerfully of my own mother when she was trying to be "posh".

Molly also reminds me a lot of Mrs Bennett in P&P at times and Jane Austen makes it clear that Mrs B "married up" by virtue of being good looking. I don't see Arthur and Molly as a particularly well matched couple, so my version of their back story is very similar to that of Mr and Mrs Bennett.

MM
From: kaskait Date: May 27th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Weaseleys are "working class", since when?

The family always struck me as a family that were prior big deals in the WW and now are just holding on by their finger nails. If they weren't then Malfoy would have been able to crush Arthur into dust in the MOM and Molly wouldn't be so concerned with isolating her children from "lesser" families.

That was my impression.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 28th, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Quite.

Well stated.
j_lunatic From: j_lunatic Date: May 27th, 2007 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do the people who assume "broke = working class" tend to be American? The average American's attitude to class issues is to 1) deny that social classes exist in the U.S.; 2) directly correlate income to class; and 3) count as middle-class everyone who is not a manual laborer.

Also, the typical American attitude to civil servants is not positive; there's an assumption (going back to Ronald Reagan if not earlier) that the people who take these jobs are parasites making a living off honest workers' taxes; are too incompetent to succeed in the private sector; and are hiding this incompetence behind union regulations and other protective measures.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 28th, 2007 12:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

'Yes, Sir Humphrey?' '(Sigh.) Yes, Minister.'

The Yanks are by no means alone in their views of civil servants....

As to yr real question, I believe most of these class identifications I wonder at are indeed by overseas readers.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 28th, 2007 12:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

It's no bother, actually.

Looking at the responses thus far above, I simply find that I am in at least partial agreement with each of you and in complete agreement with one or two of you.

For more, please refer to (and weigh in at) the follow-on, which I will answer quite soon with my own dogmatic views: http://wemyss.livejournal.com/81284.html.
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