Overcoming Social Biases for Community Harmony

In every society, individuals have biases that can lead to individuals being segregated into different groups based on factors such as income, profession, and gender. In The Dress Lodger, Sheri Holman illustrates how societal inequalities pose challenges that must be overcome for communities to thrive. The novel demonstrates how suspicion and contempt arise from social hierarchies, as characters often fail to empathize with others and instead judge them negatively for being different. By setting aside these biases, people could coexist harmoniously.

Holman’s work suggests that social class disparities breed mistrust and animosity among characters, but once they acknowledge the falsehood of these prejudices, they can move past their differences and see each other as individuals.

The presence of uncertainty and detestation in Sunderland's society is attributed to the actions of many characters, leading to harsh consequences. Members of the lower class, mistrusting doctors out of fear of being killed and dissected, refrain from seeking medical help. Doctor Clanny observes this lack of trust, noting that they do not seek medical aid as a result.

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This lack of trust ultimately leads to deaths within the lower class community, creating a recurring cycle. The responsibility for this mistrust lies with individuals like Henry Chiver from the upper class, known for his involvement in unethical practices such as digging up cadavers and hiring murderers for dissection purposes. Doctor Clanny acknowledges their role in contributing to the spread of disease, emphasizing the detrimental effects of this behavior.

People's mistrust in others is not solely based on individual beliefs, but also on societal perceptions.

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If individuals avoid behaviors that breed mistrust, social issues would diminish. The deep-seated mistrust between the lower class and doctors has led to animosity. This is evident when Doctor Clanny faces hostility at a play, with spectators accusing him of malicious intent (100). Despite Clanny's resilience, the distrust surrounding him persists. The lesson here is that fostering trust and healthy relationships requires eliminating actions that sow doubt. Strong, trusting relationships have the power to bring about positive change within communities.

It is important for people to recognize that prejudices stem from false realities, preventing them from understanding different perspectives. The Eye is portrayed as a mysterious old woman whom Gustine believes has cursed her child, leading to prejudice towards her. Gustine accuses the Eye of wanting to harm her baby, creating a barrier between them. However, Gustine's perception changes when she accepts the Eye's peace offering, realizing that the old woman did not intend any harm and actually cared for the baby. In addition, Gustine's role as a dress lodger also exposes her to prejudice and judgment from others.

One individual, Henry Chivers, fails to consider Gustine's circumstances as he is attracted to her but disapproves of her job. Gustine struggles to earn money due to long hours, cholera, and quarantine, yet Henry judges her based on his stereotypes of women. By disregarding false perceptions about others and understanding their motives, individuals can uncover the truth about a person. When Audrey Place is introduced, Gustine prejudges her as a wealthy, unhelpful young woman, leading to jealousy and a tragic outcome. Society could benefit from avoiding preconceived notions about others, leading to less misjudgment and stronger communities.

Audrey's ability to look beyond social class differences enables her to see others for their true selves and potential. By offering Pink a job without discrimination based on their different backgrounds, Audrey shows her willingness to break down barriers between social classes. Audrey's actions demonstrate her support for equality and her desire to help those in need regardless of their status. If the other characters in The Dress Lodger followed Audrey's lead, they too could achieve unity in Sunderland by treating each other as equals and disregarding societal hierarchies.

Doctor Clanny is willing to help others regardless of the insults or prejudices they may have towards him. For example, when Jack Crawford, who had previously insulted him, falls ill, Clanny still goes to help him. His ability to overlook prejudices sets him apart from other characters in the novel. If more characters followed his example and ignored differences between them, prejudices could eventually be eliminated and the gap between rich and poor bridged. Gustine also demonstrates a different attitude when she does not judge Henry solely based on his profession. While others in Sunderland may criticize Clanny for his work, Gustine does not.

When Henry shares his story, Gustine empathizes with his struggles with his students and suggests a way to help him by offering to take him to see dead bodies. This shows that Gustine is able to see past Henry's unusual fixation on human cadavers and is not influenced by Sunderland's prejudices towards doctors. Characters like Gustine, Audrey, and Doctor Clanny demonstrate that there is potential for relationships between different social classes without the presence of inequality or bias.

By adopting a new perspective rooted in truth and reality, individuals can learn to overlook social differences within their community. The Dress Lodger resonates with today's society by highlighting the similarities between its characters and real people, emphasizing the importance of not judging others based on external factors like wealth or family background. Building understanding among individuals from diverse backgrounds is crucial for fostering a stronger community, although it requires time and effort to bridge these gaps. Despite the challenges, the novel reminds readers of the valuable lesson that hard work is essential for progress.

Updated: Feb 21, 2024
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Overcoming Social Biases for Community Harmony. (2017, Jan 08). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-dress-lodger-by-sheri-holman-literary-analysis-essay

Overcoming Social Biases for Community Harmony essay
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