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Faulks on Fiction: The Snob

After The Hero and The Lover, Faulks went on to look at The Snob. When the novel was invented, life was straightforward - there were those who owned land and those who worked the land. It was clear where a person stood in the world, but mobilisation changed all this: "If language didn't give you away, taste would." In novels, snobs can be of good value as they offer insight into themes of who we are and where we fit in.

  • Jane Austen - Emma (1815): Austen made Emma, as a snob, a heroine, even though she's a spoilt young woman whose faulty understanding of the world can ruin lives. She's a confident, charming and elegant character but she's also brutal and dismissive and it's having her snobbishness pointed out that eventually redeems her. 

  • Charles Dickens - Great Expectations (1861): Pip is a seed who grows into a snob, he doesn't start off as one. It is Estella who exposes him to snobbery; her contempt fuels his snobbery. But, to become a snob, Pip has to lose touch with his origins and turn his back on the people who love him. Pip shows that there is a social purpose to snobbery, that without it there would be no social mobility. 

  • George and Weedon Grossmith - Diary of a Nobody (1892): Pooter is driven by notions of how things ought to be, but loses sight of how things are, though we don't sneer at him. Instead, we lament how life is. Taste is key for Pooter, but he's blind to his own good fortune. 

  •  P. G. Wodehouse - Jeeves (1915): Jeeves is an unlikely snob as the valet - it would make sense that it was the aristocratic Bertie who Jeeves serves. But, he is the servant who knows what the "done thing" is and he is the snob in this way. 

  •  Muriel Sparks - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961): Brodie is a teacher who picks select girls and causes snobbery in the classroom. She deals in absolutes and sees herself as an inspirational, using her cultural snobbery to distract herself from her own loneliness and giving her an identity. 

  • Ian Fleming - James Bond (1953): After World War II technology advancement gave people the chance to express status with what they bought and James Bond embodies this. Fleming used brands to make Bond more believable and made him a snob by choosing the elegant brands. He borrowed their "awareness".

  • Monica Ali - Brick Lane (2003): Chanu is pompous, arrogant and lazy, but still lovable. He thinks of himself as educated, quoting great writers, but is frequently ignorant. He is snobbish as he distances himself from the people we, as readers, would think closer to him.

 Who is your favourite snobbish character? Out of these, I'm a massive fan of James Bond! x

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