Study Guide

Ella Enchanted Society and Class

By Gail Carson Levine

Society and Class

"A fine affair. All of Frell came, everyone who counts anyway," he said, as though Mother's funeral had been a tournament or a ball. (2.46)

Talking about your wife's funeral in terms of the social cred of its attendees? Definitely the classy thing to do. Good work, Sir Peter.

"Ella is not outfitted in accordance with her station, Sir Peter. My girls have eight trunks between them." (7.44)

Materialistic much, Dame Olga? Fortunately, Ella doesn't seem to agree with the equation of high social standing and having a pimpin' wardrobe.

"No, you are almost noble. It would be an insult to make a servant of you. You will be my lady-in-waiting, and I shall share you with my sister sometimes." (8.33)

Gee, thanks, Hattie. So Ella's social status prevents her from being forced into total servitude, but… you can still make her do whatever you want? This social class thing seems a bit more confusing than it's made out to be.

"You shouldn't associate with the lower orders, like that wench from Ayortha," she said the next evening. (11.74)

Okay, Hattie is prejudiced—but she's also cruel. Even if Areida weren't of a lower social class, Hattie would still probably find a reason to order Ella not to be her friend anymore. Luckily, the class thing provides an easy excuse.

While Char and I addressed the ogres, the knights were busy setting out lunch for all of us. When we were seated, we delayed our first bite until Char began to eat. It was so natural to him I doubted he noticed. (15.78)

Char's not bad for royalty, but it's obvious that he's been doing this whole highest-rank-in-the-kingdom thing his whole life.

"Do you like serving under the prince?" "Some might not fancy answering to a youngster," he said, "but I'm a toiling knight." "What's that?" "Not so noble I can't curry my own horse, nor so greedy I have no time to serve my king." (16.9-12)

Sir Stephan is a good example of someone unburdened by silly notions of class: as a knight, he's got decent social status, but he doesn't mind serving his king. And he's not too good to take care of his own horse. Sounds like a neigh-borly fellow. Har har.

I trimmed the pen, then found I didn't know how to begin. I could call him "Char" quite easily, but writing it was another matter. "Dear Char" looked disrespectful on the page. "Dear Prince Charmont" or "Dear Highness" seemed too formal. (22.54)

Yeah, how do you address a prince you might've been flirting with, and definitely have been sliding down stair rails with? That's the kind of thing finishing school should teach.

I stayed out of my stepfamily's way as much as possible, and the longer I worked as a scullery maid, and the filthier I got, the less Hattie and Mum Olga tormented me. I think they gloried in my squalor as proof of my baseness. (24.7)

To some high-class folks in the book, dirt = poverty. So keeping Ella dirty is a way of lowering her status, at least temporarily. It's not entirely sound logic, but what do you expect from people as shallow as Dame Olga and Hattie?

"Today I am too old to marry, a hundred at least. I have spent the last eighty years and more listening to a lady detail the pedigree of every dinner guest tonight." (24.40)

In this letter to Char, Ella refers to Hattie's penchant for obsessing over the social status of, gee, everyone. Maybe that's how the rich entertain themselves in the absence of scandals to gossip about?

Father and Mum Olga continued to love at a distance. After my marriage, he became successful again, trading on the respect commanded by the royal family. (Epilogue.10)

Maybe social status is less about the money and the power than about the connections. (although they all seem to go together.) As in, you can't be all that bad if you've got connections to the royal family. Anyone who gets to know Sir Peter is in for an unpleasant surprise.