Thursday, October 27, 2011

Society's Excess: Time and Money

The story of Jack the Ripper truly reflects the excess that is found in society during the Gilded Age. The Gilded Age can be characterized by the mechanization of society. The mechanization of society gave birth a cultural based around consumerism. People during the Gilded Age became more and more concerned with materialistic things. The mechanization of society gave way to this because people had more leisure time, which allowed for them to consume more. The consumption of more goods was also made possible by mechanization because goods were affordable to the middle class. Middle class society during the Gilded Age was flourishing.

One of the main problems with the mechanization of society was not the actual idea of society furthering itself technologically, but the rate at which society was mechanizing. During the Gilded Age it was almost as if mechanization occurred over night. Society was not prepared to mechanize at the rate at which it did because mechanization caused major economic stratification of classes. Not only was economic stratification a problem, but also in general there was a lot of tension between classes in general.

The class tension that was created by the mechanization of society was further aided by the results of mechanization, which was a consumer culture and general idea of looking down upon those of who had less material things. The class tension during the Gilded Age was most obviously present in the story of Jack the Ripper. The murders all took place in white chapel, which was a neighborhood commonly associated with lower class society. The people living in that neighborhood were looked down and did not have the means to spend any money on materialistic items, even if they wanted to. In From Hell it is especially telling that one of the ways Jack the Ripper lured in the girls that he killed was by giving them elegant goods, like a new hat. The women clearly were interested in the goods, further supporting the idea that the Gilded Age is associated with excess within society.

The women that were murdered were also all prostitutes, which is one of the main reasons many people from the areas surrounding white chapel did not take an interest in their murders as being important. The lack of interest in their murders further shows the social tension that was evident between classes during the Gilded Age. Their lower class was easily distinguishable during the Gilded Age more than in the past because of the lack of material items that they had. I find it also interesting that all of the women that were murdered were prostitutes and how many prostitutes were written about in From Hell. It appears that their were extremely high numbers of prostitutes in the Gilded Age, which also shows evidence for the Gilded Age’s society obsession of living in excess.

The Gilded Age can be characterized by people living in excess. The reason people were able to live in excess was because they had the money and time to do so, which was in part a result of mechanization. The mechanization of society was a direct cause of social tensions.

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