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How To Classify People

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Because of its fastly-growing economics, Shanghai is a melting pot, attracting talented people to come, work, and settle here. The incoming people try to blend in this society; however, locals are reluctant to accept the outsiders as part of the community because they feel they are more superior, and insist using dialects to communicate but the outsiders can not understand. Automatically, the city is divided into two groups: Shanghainese and those “bumpkins”. Class does exist in our lives.

Eli Clare, in his novel, Exile and Pride, has encountered the similar plight of class. In Port Orford, Clare was restricted: he could not “have [any] money above and beyond the dollars spent on rent and food to buy books and music”; he needed to [marry and cashier at Sentry’s Market]; he needed to stuck in the working-class for rest of his life (Clare 37). Clare’s economic reality and class issue seem never altered. He is born with certain identity, moves on his lives with it, and finally carry it to his grave. However, carrying the goal of “upward scramble”, Clare and his family left their home, abandon their well-off social status, and enter into an urban community that they hardly knew of. Is that worthful? Eli Clare states that “[his] loss of home is about class” (Clare 37); however, at the mean time, he underscores he misses everything in Port Orford, his dad drives miles every day to see a long, flat horizon along the ocean to cherish his memory in North Dakota, and his sibling has returned or want to return back to the rural place. So is the upward scramble worth the loss? And does Eli feel more adaptive living in urban?

The word “class” from latin classe means “a class, a division” (Online Etymology Dictionary). Categorized as a rural yokel, Eli Clare truly perceived the social division at his time in the city. During a dinner with other white, lesbian writers from New York City, he felt “conspicuous and embarrassed” because all the others are dressed up accordingly, in “diamond earrings, three-pieced suits and gold cufflinks, hair carefully molded and shaved in all the right places” while he was “in his blue jeans and faded chamois shirt” (Clare 41). The complete urban bias of the evening offended Eli Clare. He wanted to laugh and ignore that, but he can’t. The class differences still existed, which is a threshold he could never step across.

Eli Clare defines himself sometimes as a mixed-class, and sometimes as “a bridge”. He thinks that “[his] one foot rooted in the working class, connected by way of familiarity and allegiance” because this is where he grew up, and he has a close-knit connection with his hometown in rural Oregon. On the other hand, his other foot “rest[s] in the middle class, understanding what [he] gained, as well as lost, in [his] parent’s’ upward scramble”(Clare 42). Eli has an ambitious dream—to be accepted as a dyke—which he only can accomplish in a more accepting and broader environment. However, the reality is that he could not be satisfied one hundred percent. He gain acceptance as the expense of home, familiarity and allegiance. All in all, it is hard to conclude Eli Clare an exact definition: either as working class or as middle class, as well as either a rural person or an urban person.


Works Cited:

Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation. Cambridge, MA: SouthEnd, 1999. Print.

"Online Etymology Dictionary." Online Etymology Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <>