Conformity to the French Class System in The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Oppression comes in many forms, from oppression of women to people simply feeling out of place due to society's expectations of them. While the latter is inferior as a political issue, it leading to the contemplation of suicide is a serious matter. The awareness of societies expectations, primarily in terms of social class, is prominent in the novel The Elegance Of The Hedgehog. Consciousness of social hierarchy makes the life of poor concierge Renee Michel detached as possible from the residence of 7, Rue de Grenelle, while also being disgusted by the ones who don’t live up to their raised social status.
Renee appears to be nothing but a concierge to the residents of the hotel, yet they are unaware of her well hidden intelligence. In the beginning of the novel, she expresses the absurdity in a young bourgeoisie’s ability while contrasting it to hers, all while being mindful of the difference in class. She gives reason to her lack of comment, “A concierge who reads Marx must be contemplating subversion … That she might be reading Marx to elevate her mind is so incongruous a conceit that no member of the bourgeoisie could ever entertain it” (Barbery 18). Her lack of expressed opinion when the young resident expresses his change in worldview due to reading Marx proves that though her knowledge exceeds his, it is not her place to provide opinion, only agreement. Next, Renee deceives her simple-minded concierge appearance when a new resident, Mr. Ozu, understands the brief Tolstoy reference she makes, this event panics her. She reflects post conversation,
“‘All happy families are alike, all unhappy families are unhappy in its own way’ is the first line of Anna Karenina and, like any self respecting concierge, I am not supposed to have read it … for although common people may be sensitive to great works though they do not read them, literature, in the presence, cannot aspire to the lofty...
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