Social Class Inequality
Social class inequality is a situation whereby a society is divided into groups according to their economic, political and social status. In the text, the difference between the rich and the poor is very pronounced. While the Grand Duke, the Governor, the princes and their families are affluent, other members of society are poor and dying of hunger.
Georgi Abashwili, the governor, is as rich as Croesus, while he has many beggars in his doorsteps and petitioners in his courtyard (p.14). He has “a healthy…many horses…” (p.13-14) and yet, many of his people live in slums. When he and his family goes to church, the baby is brought in an expensive carriage accompanied by two doctors. The poor people, on the other hand, display their thin, emaciated babies while others hold up crutches and petitions.
The children of the poor are sent to war but when they get injured, they are not compensated. The children of the rich, on the other hand, are not sent to war. Some of the petitioners beg for mercy for their relatives who have been arrested unfairly, “My brother is innocent, Your Grace, misunderstanding…” (p. ). While one of the Governor’s servants collects the petitions, another distributes coins from a purse with the Governor paying little attention.
The poor people in the text are not supposed to intermingle with the rich. When the people move forward to air their grievances to the Governor, the soldiers lash them with whips. Even when they only want to see young Michael, they are forced back by the soldiers violently. (p.14)
Despite all the poverty around, the Governor has employed two doctors to look after Michael even though he is not sick. Poor people such as Grusha cannot get even time to go to church on Easter Sunday as she is forced to go and look for a goose for the family dinner. Despite her hard work, she will not even eat it herself, “I’ll eat the feathers.” (p.17)
The poor people in society have to put their lives at risk in order to protect the rich. Simon Shashava and the Adjutant, for example has to escort Natella to the Capital. Even though he wants to remain behind and marry Grusha, he has no choice but to follow orders. Natella risks the lives of her servants by delaying their exit from the palace that is under attack. She wastes a lot of time sorting out her dresses and jewelry until the Adjutant has to force her to leave (p.25).
The people in higher positions mistreat those below them. For example, the Corporal harasses and intimidates one of the young soldiers because the soldier was unable to beat up the husband of a fat girl they had met. He even tells him that he won’t get promoted (p.33). The Corporal sells the soldiers horses and forces them to walk without limping – even though they are tired. To add salt to injury, he forces them to sing louder and louder.
In the courtroom, Natella says, “At least there are no common people here, thank God, I can’t stand their smell. It always gives me migraines.” One of Natella’s lawyers also describes Azdak as, the lowest fellow ever seen in Judge’s gown.” (p.88) Natella also refers to Grusha as, “a creature” and when she sees Michael dressed in rags, she says that he must have been in a pigsty.
Even though Azdak makes an attempt to address inequality in this society, the return of the Grand Duke shows that class inequality in society cannot be fully eradicated. Poor people in society will always suffer injustices and prejudices in the hands of the rich.
Can you think of cases in your community where the rich have treated the poor unfairly?
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