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|Miss Hamilton/Mrs Smith and the issue of class
Written by Caroline SO
(10/26/2008 3:46 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Is Mrs Smith called Harriet?, penned by Anna Ruby
As Nan Duval points out in her posting above, there are now five lower class women in the novel: Mrs. Clay, Mrs. Smith, the late Mrs. Elliott, the landlady, and Nurse Rooke. Is JA using them to make some comment on the social role of women at the time? My Oxford World's Classics edition notes some complexity in the relationship betw Mrs. Smith and Nurse Rooke. By helping Mrs. Smith to make some pocket money by selling her handicrafts, she is enabling Mrs. Smith to dispense charity to the "poor families in [the] neighborhood." The note goes on: "their arrangement thus permits Mrs. Smith the luxury, despite her poverty, of preserving a genteel class identity that was in new ways pegged to fantasies of female benevolence and to the notion that it was incumbent on a lady to aid and to superintend the poor." Does JA approve of this new idea of female gentility, or is she gently criticizing it?
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