48 pages 1 hour read

Marie Benedict

Carnegie's Maid

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Themes

The Class System

The world of Carnegie’s Maid is dominated by social hierarchies. People are supposed to know their place, and they are actively discouraged from seeking to rise above it. This is particularly true in the Old-World Ireland from which Clara emigrates. Her ancestors were tenant farmers on the Martyn estate for generations, and no one in Galway seems interested in defying the status quo. Those who do are punished. Clara’s father is active in both the Chartist and Fenian movements that seek rights for commoners. As a result, he and his family are punished with the loss of their tenancy. Part of the reason that Clara is sent to America is to offset this retaliation.

Contrary to expectations, America is not always the land of opportunity for those who seek to rise above their station in life. The Carnegies are rare exceptions. Although Mrs. Carnegie has personally experienced the horrors of poverty and the oppressiveness of the class system, she becomes an oppressor herself once her family achieves wealth. She is intent on ensuring that Clara knows her subordinate place in the grand scheme of things. Clara also learns the distinction between superior and servant in the way that she and the rest of the household staff are treated.

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