Class consciousness and the military in the novels of George Meredith



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George Meredith's novels outwardly satirize many of the major intellectual and social problems of the nineteenth century. At another level, however, and in a way not directly acknowledged by the author, the plots of Meredith's novels reflect a class consciousness. Consistently the novels portray conflicts between members of the aristocracy and members of the middle class-conflicts in which the representatives of the middle class always have the final advantage. The earlier novels show a more ambivalent attitude toward the classes and a partiality and protectiveness toward the aristocracy which is in accord with Meredith's social ambition and his personal relationships to members of the aristocracy. The later novels demonstrate an increasingly critical attitude toward the aristocracy and a greater tendency to favor the middle class. Meredith's lifelong interest in military affairs caused him to objectify this social and psychological conflict in military terms. [...]