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|Also, remember that the Dashwoods, unlike us
Written by Divya
(9/7/2009 11:53 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, "Wealth is comparative", penned by Elizabeth K
do not have the electronic equivalents of servants - dishwashers, washing machines, clothes dryers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, central heating, etc. Imagine having to chop wood to heat your house, or do laundry for a whole household by hand, etc. I certainly do not know how I would do without our modern time- and effort-saving devices (esp. the washing machine and dryer) if I ALSO did not have servants to do them. I don't have servants but I have access to most of these "electronic servants" as well as modern public transport for a nominal charge. If I had no way of going anywhere beyond walking distance, I would feel deprived - just as the Dashwoods must, I am sure.
Mind you, I live on a graduate student's income, so I am definitely not rich! Just making a comparison to show how difficult it is to use a simple currency conversion rule to compare cost of living in different eras.
As others on this thread have commented, a more useful way of conceptualizing the Dashwoods' change in fortunes is to think of it as an 80% reduction in income. Whatever the starting income may have been, such a drastic reduction must necessitate a dramatic change in lifestyle. As you said, wealth is relative and the Dashwoods' point of comparison is not how the majority of people in England (whom they have never met) live but how they themselves used to live, and how that lifestyle was suddenly taken away from them for no fault of their own.
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