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