Study Guide

The Luminaries Wealth/Class

By Eleanor Catton

Wealth/Class

According to Moody, class isn't really as important in a place like Hokitika as it might be, say, back in the British Isles. The fact is that even a person with extremely "low" birth like Crosbie Wells can raise his status in an instant with a gold strike (and yeah, that happened—before Lydia Wells stole all his cash, that is).

Of course, not everyone in The Luminaries is happy about this particular aspect of the gold frenzy. In a letter to his highborn brother Alistair Lauderback, Crosbie Wells commented that certain people objected to gold as a "scourge," probably because they felt threatened by the class mobility that these chances for insta-wealth were creating.

Questions About Wealth/Class

  1. For reals, how important is class in Hokitika? How do we know?
  2. Does the narrator/narration take a stance on wealth? On class divisions? Are they presented as good or bad, or neither?
  3. What do you think of Te Rau's assertion that greenstone is totally different from gold? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Pounamu and gold are entirely different to Te Rau because one represents the traditions of a pre-gold rush New Zealand that was undisturbed by western prospecting and capitalism, and the other represents global capitalism, which has now overtaken his native land.

The novel implies that class and other social divisions are still alive and well, regardless of how much money people have; those things are just too deep-seated in the European consciousness to disappear entirely.

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