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Downwardly MobileThe Changing Fortunes of American Realism$
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Andrew Lawson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199828050

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199828050.001.0001

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Coda: White-Collar Blues

Coda: White-Collar Blues

(p.128) 7 Coda: White-Collar Blues
Downwardly Mobile

Andrew Lawson

Oxford University Press

This chapter concludes the book’s discussion of the class politics of realism by focusing on a poem by the San Francisco writer Edwin Markham, “The Man with the Hoe” (1899), which was hailed in the year of its publication as speaking directly to the “average man.” Locating the poem within the context of divisions between San Francisco’s business elite and the city’s working and lower-middle classes, the chapter shows how the suffering of the rural poor became a trope for specifically urban experiences of competition and inequality. It describes Markham’s poem as a summation of the nineteenth century preference for the real – the low, the concrete, and the particular -- and identifies the conflict between individual aspiration and collective solidarities as an enduring characteristic of the lower middle class.

Keywords:   realism, lower middle class, white collar, san francisco

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