Study Guide

A Season in Hell Society and Class

By Arthur Rimbaud

Society and Class

Rimbaud and company had many fans in the literary world, but maybe the biggest of them all were the Beats. Beat poets, like Allen Ginsberg, shared his fondness for free verse, surreal imagery, and emotional intensity. Moreover, they shared Rimbaud's affinity for the downtrodden, the overlooked, those who clung to the lower rung of the social ladder. They were, like Rimbaud before them, champions of the lower class and enemies of the conventional, comfortable middle- and upper-class segment of society. And, boy, does the speaker of "A Season in Hell" hate him some middle-class conventions.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. What is the speaker's attitude toward work and the working class?
  2. What does the speaker have against wealth? What parts of the poem support your ideas?
  3. What clues about the speaker's own social class do we get in the poem?
  4. Sometimes the speaker identifies with workers; at others he says he'll never work. Why do you think he contradicts himself?

Chew on This

The speaker champions the working class because it's just one more way he can describe himself as an underdog and social outcast.

Work, for the speaker, is a slippery slope. He avoids it because he doesn't want to get on the treadmill that will take him to middle-class convention.

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