In the last two or three days, I have watched the seven episode first season of Downton Abbey - a PBS Masterpiece Theater production that I have heard about for some time now. I can't say I really enjoyed it to much, but I imagine I'll watch Season 2 when it shows up on Netflix as well.
As I was watching the earlier episodes, I was very grateful to live in the time that I live and in the country I live in. I can't imagine the classism, with the serving staff just as oppositional to anyone trying to strive for something more in life, than the upper class for whom they serve. "I could never live that way!" I thought to myself.
What struck me, as I watched the 7th episode last night, however, was how trapped everyone was in their roles. The serving staff wishing to move ahead had no more power to do so than the folks in the upper class - to be different or strike out for change meant being cut off from whatever support system one had. It reminded me of when I read The Help, which really struck home with me what a terrifying world it was, when one white person's complaint could lead not only to the arrest or death of the black person involved, but that black person's entire family could be turned out and shunned to the point of starving to death. Same in this 1920s or 1930s England, I think. If you became separated from your class of people, you could and would be shunned - even the separation was through no fault of your own.
For all the times in my life I've said "this is not working for me" and took a different path, I am very grateful for the freedom I have had to do that. I can't say I've ever felt entirely trapped - at least not by society or social norms. I am only as trapped as I imagine myself to be.