Wednesday, April 17, 2013

World Building A to Z: Privilege and Marginalization

This month, I'm writing about the stuff I've noticed in world building and setting from a bunch of different stories. 

Privilege and Marginalization:  Just because someone is privileged in an area, it doesn't automatically mean this person marginalizes others. And just because someone comes from less privileged circumstances, it doesn't necessarily mean that their background is what's holding them back. But sometimes those with privilege can marginalize others, and sometimes those who have been marginalized can marginalize others too. I will explore these concepts today.

In Curtis Sittenfield's PREP, the privileged are the adolescent children of wealthy parents attending an elite boarding school. The marginalized are those that these uppity adolescents look down on- other students, blue collar cafeteria wait staff, and even teachers. The slur used among students to judge those they deem inferior to them is "LMC," which stands for lower middle class.

In Judy Blume's BLUBBER, the privileged are the fifth-grade kids who are part of the clique led by mean girl Wendy, and the marginalized is Linda. The kids give Linda the nickname Blubber, and they find ways to torment and humiliate her throughout the story. Interestingly enough, once Linda joins the clique, she doesn't mind seeing someone else being bullied.  

In Gene Luen Yang's AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, the privileged are those regarded by the mainstream eye to be pure-blooded Americans. The marginalized are those who are mocked for physical features considered "foreign," such as Americans with Chinese heritage. 

In Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP, set in the 1960s, the privileged are the white, affluent housewives of Jackson, Mississippi. Some of these housewives mistreat and discriminate against their African American maids by not allowing them to use the bathroom in the homes they work in, for example. 


In her memoir, THE GLASS CASTLE, author Jeannette Walls recalls her childhood as a lonely white girl at an public school in West Virginia where a group of minority girls single her out for verbal and physical bullying. Here, Jeannette is the one being marginalized. 


In Downton Abbey, the privileged are the aristocrats, and the less privileged are the servants. Usually, the servants are treated fairly. But sometimes there are jerks, like the Duke of Crowborough, who feels he doesn't have to apologize to the servants for entering their quarters unannounced because they are just servants. The Duke also cruelly casts aside Thomas the footman, his secret lover. Though we should feel bad for Thomas, take note that Thomas has bullied other servants. Those who have experienced marginalization are fully capable of marginalizing others, even those within their own group. 

Can you think of other examples in stories where privilege and marginalization is demonstrated?

Have you ever been aware of a time when you were experiencing privilege or marginalization?
Photo credit: PBS

19 comments:

Jeff Hargett said...

This type of marginalization and privilege is so commonplace in our society today that most people don't even notice it, I think. Fiction that doesn't address or reflect this may be missing a key element for believability.

Empty Nest Insider said...

The Help is a perfect example of Privilege and Marginalization. Interesting point about how Downton Abbey's line is drawn within some of the servants themselves. Though Thomas has shown a softer side this season.

Julie

Medeia Sharif said...

You provide great examples from fiction. I see these elements in real life.

Alternative Foodie said...

In history being privileged to marginalize your own people were rampant. That was how colonization was so successful, say by the British in India & Malaya.
Alternative Foodie (of A-Z challenge)

Melanie Schulz said...

Marginalization seems to happen on both sides of the fence; really whenever you get two different groups of people together one of them will look down on the other.

John Wiswell said...

Literature often does well roasting the ugliest parts of privilege. Maus, Middlemarch and Twain's boys' books, for instance, are often about how evil we can treat the unempowered.

John at The Bathroom Monologues

Mark Means said...

A lot of these are good examples of not letting your background keep you down. One can always rise above.

Banker Chick said...

marginalization and privilege can be found in almost all literature.
From Austen to Zola.

Julie Luek said...

I love how books can bring these issues to light and create discussion. Fiction is a perfect and powerful medium to shine a light on the cobwebs and dust our society would sometimes like to insist no longer exist. Good post.

Elise Fallson said...

I think we've all experienced to some degree, marginalization and/or privilege which is why it is often written about in literature. I hate that it exists, but it does and conflicting groups often make for good stories.

Ghadeer said...

Excellent examples. I'm really impressed by your choice of examples for those themes. It's not easy remembering everything you've read. Good job :)

Kathy said...

This can be found in any middle school, junior high, and high school. It happens constantly. Great examples.

Kathy
http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

Jay Noel said...

My post from yesterday, The Outsiders, is another great example. Socs vs Greasers.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We haven't escaped the Middle Ages because it's still around.

Carrie Butler said...

You brought up some excellent points, Cynthia!

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah it is still around indeed, just hidden better in many cases and not out there for all to intially see.

Bob Sanchez said...

Stopping by to say hi on the A-Z Challenge!

Lynda R Young said...

I really need to watch some Downton Abbey. It comes up a lot.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone!

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