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Based on Paul Fussell’s class divisions, I believe that I am a member of the high proletarian class. I am content being in this particular class because of the way this class lives, and I do not aspire to become a member of a different class; I believe that it would be unrealistic for me to do so.
As Fussell mentions, when one thinks of class, he often thinks in terms of whether somebody is rich or poor. Fussell believes that class is more than net worth, and he talks about class in a variety of different ways; he considers how each class consumes goods, dresses, lives, and even the words that members of each class use in conversation. Based on what Fussell has said about each class, I would be most accurately categorized as a high proletarian. High proletarians, according to Fussell are “not consumed with worry about choosing the correct status emblems…they can do, say, wear, and look like pretty much anything they want without undue feelings of shame” (46). Anybody who sees me often knows that I have a very simple wardrobe; I wear a pair of jeans, running shoes, a jacket, and a random t-shirt underneath. I am not concerned with how I dress or how other people see me. I am much more concerned with how people view my accomplishments and my actions, which I put much more effort into. Fussell also talks about the actions and skills of the high proletarians, saying “the special anxiety of the high proles is fear about the loss or reduction of status: you’re proud to be a master carpenter, and you want the world to understand clearly the difference between you and a laborer” (45). I have worked at an ice cream shop for the past seven years, and I make sure everybody is aware of what I’m capable of and my status at the ice cream shop. I may wear the same thing to work all of the time, and every employee may wear the same work shirt in the ice cream shop, but I make it known to everybody that I have the experience and the skillset that I have worked hard to acquire.
I am content being a member of this class. Not only do I feel like describes me the most accurately, but, in my opinion, it also sounds like the most enjoyable class to be a member of. As mentioned before, high proletarians aren’t extremely concerned with status symbols or how other people perceive their tastes and desires. As a result, high proletarians are more focused on having things that they enjoy. A great example of this is the food eaten by each class. When talking about the meals that the upper-middle class eats, Fussell says that “sometimes it seems that anything will be consumed so as long as it’s not native…tacos and pizza are out, and so are common ‘Chinese’ dishes” (103). The upper-middle class seems to care less about how the food they’re eating tastes, but whether that food fits into their perceived standards. High proletarians, on the other hand, pay little attention to whether a certain food is exotic or not, instead focusing on the food itself. When I get home after a long day of work or twelve hours of classes, I do not care about whether the food that I’m eating is fancy or high-class. The high proletarian approach to food and dining is much simpler than that of the upper-middle class, and this simpler way of living is prevalent throughout all aspects of high proletarian living, whether it’s home décor, consumption of goods, or use of words and language in writing and while speaking.
As a high proletarian, I am right in the middle of the nine classes listed by Fussell, which means that it wouldn’t be difficult for me to drift into either a higher class or a lower class. As mentioned before, I am content with the class that I belong to, the high proletarian, and I have no desire to become a member of a higher or a lower class. Those on the higher end of the class spectrum, according to Fussell, often act like stereotypical rich people. For example, a common theme for those in the upper-middle class is “living in a house with more rooms than you need” (33). I would much rather live in a home or apartment with just enough space to live comfortably; wasting money on rooms that I won’t use isn’t a very appealing thought for me. The destitute (one of the lowest classes), on the other hand, “never have even seasonal work and live wholly on welfare” (50). I work hard for the things that I have, and it would be almost torturous for me to rely on welfare to live. Initially, I was under the impression that moving between the class above you and below you can be, for the most part, a choice, but after reading Fussell’s book, I have realized that being a member of a certain class is only partially choice. I don’t care about whether I wear the same jacket five days a week, and I also wouldn’t want to have to rely on someone else to buy that same jacker for me. I am a high proletarian because the traits and characteristics that I have make me a high proletarian, and I will always have those traits. Due to this, I don’t think that it would be realistic for me to change drastically enough to become a member of a new class. Of course, there is the possibility that I will adopt certain characteristics of a higher or lower class, but I will, overall, still be a member of the high proletarian class.
Paul Fussell’s Class: A Guide Through the American Status System has helped me to determine that I am a member of the high proletarian class. I am content being a member of this class because of its simplicity, and I do not aspire to be a member of a higher class because I don’t think it would be realistic for me to do so.
Fussell, Paul. Class: A Guide Through the American Class System. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. Print.