dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #978

JOdel at aol.com JOdel at aol.com
Tue Feb 8 12:04:54 EST 2005

> Yet in other respects the Chrestomanci world seems to have retained (or, as 
> I would have it, to exhibit) the same social snobberies and class 
> hierarchies that we might recognize as Victorian/Edwardian. I'd love to know the 
> historical series of events that leads to this situation.

Servants. That's the one big factor that is different. 

In our world poor people who would otherwise have considered domestic service 
the best option for employment discovered that they could make an independent 
living in a factory once the conditions in factories improved over the course 
of the 19th century. Gradually over the course of the early 20th century 
people began to seek employment in shops and factories rather than going into 
domestic service, until the "servant problem" liagely boiled down to there not 
being any.

With the social fallout that the kind of heirarchy (i.e., class distinction 
that *mattered*) that had to be maintained between the Master and the Servants 
broke down and largely dissapated. There never was much "nobless oblige" 
extended toward factory workers. Whereas the rural poor could be regarded as the 
"dependents" of the local landlord, factory workers were interchangable units to 
whom nothing more was owed than their wages.

Right there you've got a pretty good "key" to the lock on Class Distinction 
that the Victorians and Edwardian society both kept in the forefront of their 

If you go back and read the early chapters of Charmed Life, the Coven Street 
sequence could be taking place at almost any period (except for the lack of 
automobiles). No real feeling of a Class heirarchy there. It was only when Cat 
and Gwendolen were moved to Chrestomancy Castle that we feel we've really fired 
up the wayback machine. 

Put servants into almost any story and you are going to get the feeling of 
being out of our own time. Despite the fact that there still *are* servants 
today. At least a few.

In Chrestomanci's world either factories are not so widespread or the 
conditions are not so good that people are seeking employment there rather than going 
into domestic service. OR; the situation at Chrestomanci Castle is 
misleading, since all of the members of that household are magic users and a part of the 
staff of a governmental office and the appearance of "castle with servants" 
is to some degree an illusion and not necessarily a representative picture of 
that world's society in action. 

The kids certainly don't have the background to be able to tell whether it is 
or isn't.
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