24 February 2013
Can Change Occur
Aelflaed of Duckford once said, "In the Society we begin with an "everyone's equal" base and procede swiftly to rank people by their relative worth and contributions to the Society. Of course it's not always equitable, but if noblesse oblige is practiced scrupulously, those with rank will be so gracious to those without that no one will feel left out. It's an ideal. We won't reach it, but we can aim for it." How does ones upbringing affect the way ones’ life will unfold? Does one follow the path that has been laid out for them, or do they make their own? A lot of times, the choice is easier said than done, and people take the easy way out. Then there are those who find joy in helping others that are lower than they are. But why do these “high rank” people go out of their way for the “lower rank”? In the novel, “Scottsboro” by Ellen Feldman, these are some of the questions that are examined. This is a novel that is based on an ugly time in American history. It blends historical facts and brings in some fictional characters. One of these characters, Alice Whittier, is the main focus. She is a woman who was raised by affluent parents who helped guide her to the right path in life. She is a young journalist who is out to save the world. There are two other characters who are the direct opposite of Alice, whose names are Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. These are two teenage girls who have little education and live in poverty. When the lives of these women cross paths, they each try to understand the others’ lives. Even though Alice is sympathetic and caring, she is still distanced from the life these two young girls lead. She is trying to make them her own personal mission.
Throughout the novel we get to know about people who are givers, and people who are takers. One of the most giving people in the novel is Alice Whittier. Alice was born with “noblesse oblige”, which means she has to act in a manner that conforms to her families’ position and uphold the reputation that it had earned. Alice comes from a family that has wealth and power. Her father is a doctor, and her mother is a champion for women’s rights. Along with this wealth and power, come responsibility, and the understood obligation that the fortunate should help the less fortunate, and not spend time in idle pursuits. Alice’s decision to become a journalist gives her he opportunity to help the underprivileged. “Not if you’re Alice Whittier, defender of down trodden, champion of the dispossessed, advocate of the disenfranchised” (Feldman 40). In this conversation she has with her boss he knows that covering the Scottsboro trial is just the right fit for her. Here are these unfortunate, uneducated kids that need a savior. Even though she is born into privilege, she has skeletons in her closet. She may feel that by helping these boys and Ruby Bates, it could take away some of the pain from her past. Alice is very hurt by her father’s affair, and his illegitimate daughter. She loves her father; he was always good to her. She has fond memories from her childhood. “Perhaps I would have been less angry at him if he had been a lesser father, but that is another story” (pg. 85). Even though Alice did have a good childhood, something is still missing in her life, there is a void. By helping Ruby she thinks this void can be filled. As Alice begins to develop a relationship with Ruby, she sees Ruby is in awe of her nice clothes, the way she handles herself, and her position in life. Alice begins to use her “noblesse oblige” to get to Ruby, even though it is true that they come from such different backgrounds. Alice is an intelligent, liberal journalist who does not know the first thing about growing up and living in the south, while Ruby is an uneducated scared girl who would say anything if it meant escaping her life of poverty. She tries to understand Ruby at her level. Alice thinks this will make Ruby trust her and...