Study Guide

Code Name Verity Society and Class

By Elizabeth Wein

Society and Class

The bike shop whose customers were in question happened to be Maddie's granddad's bike shop that he'd had for the last thirty years. He'd done quite well out of it, well enough to keep Maddie's stylish gran in the manner to which she is accustomed, and they live in a large old house in Grove Green on the edge of the city and have a gardener and a daily girl to do the housekeeping. (1.8.XI.43.78)

In contrast with Julie's, it's sometimes hard to remember that Maddie's family is quite solidly middle-class. Maybe there's no butler thrown in, but a gardener and a maid sound like a pretty sweet deal to us.

She spoke in a cultured accent of money and privilege. Rather like mine, without the Scottish burr. Probably not as privileged as mine, but more moneyed. Anyway, it made Maddie instantly feel like a serving girl. (1.8.XI.43.93)

Dympna Wythenshawe is the first female pilot Maddie meets. Does Dympna's social class give her more freedom than most other women? Does it cause people to respect her more as a legitimate pilot? Remember: these are pretty sexist times.

"Take a pew," Dympna drawled (just imagine she's me, raised in a castle and educated at a Swiss boarding school, only a lot taller and not sniveling all the time). (1.8.XI.43.99)

Aside from being from similar social backgrounds, do Dympna and Julie have much, or anything, in common? Why might this be?

Maddie snorted. Queenie was devoted to careless namedropping, scattering the details of her privileged upbringing without the faintest hint of modesty or embarrassment (though, after a while Maddie began to realize she only did it with people she liked or people she detested—those who didn't mind and those she didn't care about—anyone in between, or who might have been offended, she was more cautious with). (1.11.XI.43.79)

People do sometimes give you funny looks when you tell them you live in a castle. Don't ask us how we know. Julie scatters a ton of information about her privileged status throughout her confession, so according to Maddie here, she must either love them or loathe them.

"Ah've nae wish tae disturb ye, Missus—" her well-bred, educated accent suddenly developed an irresistible Scottish burr. "We've come frae RAF Maidsend and Ah've had this wee spot o' bother wi' me bike. Ah wondered—" (1.11.XI.43.148)

Here we see Julie pretending, as she loves to do, hiding her privileged background to get in good with someone who wouldn't be able to relate to it at all.

"Och aye," Queenie agreed. It could not be a problem she ever encountered, with her educated upper-crust vowels, but being a Scot, she sympathized with any distrust of the soft Southern English. "You've only one more fear to go—make it good." (1.11.XI.43.160)

Maddie is afraid people will make fun of her Manchester accent. Do we ever see Maddie change the way she talks for any reason, or is this talent limited to Julie?

Here I think I should remind you that my family is long-established in rather the upper echelons of the British aristocracy. Maddie, you will recall, is the granddaughter of an immigrant tradesman. She and I would not ever have met in peacetime. Not ever, unless perhaps I'd decided to buy a motorbike in Stockport—perhaps Maddie might have served me. But if she hadn't been such a cracking radio operator and been promoted so quickly, it's not likely we'd have become friends even in wartime, because British officers don't mingle with the Lower Ranks. (1.18.XI.43.47)

So something good came out of the war, at any rate: Maddie and Julie got to be BFFs. Given their different backgrounds, this never would have happened otherwise.

At any rate, Maddie's growing misgivings on this particular ill-conceived railway journey were mostly based on her certainty that she simply could not go knock on the door of a Laird's Castle and ask for accommodation, or even a cup of tea while she waited for the return train. She was only Maddie Brodatt and not a descendent of Mary, Queen of Scots, or Macbeth.

But she had not taken the War into account. I have heard a good many people say that it is leveling the British class system. Leveling is perhaps too strong a word, but it is certainly mixing us up a bit. (1.18.XI.43.49-50)

Julie is writing this, and it seems possible that her privileged upbringing has blinded her a bit to how, though this is wartime, more doors still open for her than they do for Maddie.

My name is a bit of a defiance against the Führer all on its own, a much more heroic name than I deserve, and I still enjoy writing it out, so I will write it again, the way I write it on my dance cards:

Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart

But I don't ever think of myself as Lady Julia. I think of myself as Julie. (1.28.XI.43.8-10)

This passage is interesting because Julie makes a point of telling us her full, titled name, but then she insists that's not how she thinks of herself. Looks like someone has some complicated feelings about her identity…

Sometimes Julie used to make me jealous—her cleverness, her ease with men, how posh she is—the grouse-shooting and the Swiss school and speaking three languages and being presented to the king in a blue silk ball gown—even her MBE after she caught those spies, like being knighted, and especially her term at Oxford—and I hate myself for ever having thought any of it was worth envying. (2.11.30)

Many of the things Maddie has envied in Julie are things that contributed to Julie being chosen for the work that led to her capture by the Gestapo. How does her life of privilege betray or aid Julie in the end?

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