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Discussing the Dursleys

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by S2G4, Mar 22, 2021.

  1. S2G4

    S2G4 Muggle

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    Do we know how wealthy Lily's family was?


    SORROWS: Shifted across to its own thread since I can't remember a time this has been really discussed.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2021
  2. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    Not specifically. All we know is they lived in Cokesworth, a run down milltown in the Midlands. From that, I'd assume JK was playing towards a stereotypical idea of them not being particularly well off. They weren't in the same neighbourhood as Snape's family, so maybe not quite as poor as them. But I'd guess Lower Middle Class or Upper Working Class.
     
  3. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    Petunia's whole personality and priorities certainly fits the stereotype of a certain type of person who has made their way out of the working class into the 'respectable' middle class.

    Aunt Marge draws from stereotypes of the hunting/shooting landed country folk set. Particularly with her tweed, dog breeding and way of talking. Vernon not quite so much, but Smeltings as the generational private school with a stupid traditional uniform would certainly fit.

    I can certainly imagine that Petunia 'married up' when it came to Vernon, possibly that veneer of upper/middle class respectability was what drew her to him. In actual fact, considering his privileged upbringing, he is an underachieving lout with an unpleasant sense of superiority and the family have no real land or money, though maybe enough connections to land him a job. They never really approved of him marrying a northern working class girl and she has tried to prove herself by becoming the biggest snob of the lot.

    Petunia's dad could have had a solid working class job in a factory up north and her mum was something Petunia would find embarrassing, like a cleaner. They were lovely people,who provided a stable home but she would rather die than admit her background to anyone. Her obsession with respectability and appearance is rooted in a deep class based insecurity. Her carefully cultivated accent occasionally slips, letting her real voice out.

    She thought she had beaten Lily by at least finding a posh boyfriend in London, far away from their dying industrial town. Then Lily came back with a boy that was clearly upper class and rich and good-looking and charmed her parents. Where as Vernon had been greeted with scepticism by her father who could smell snobbish bullshit a mile off and was well aware that Vernon looked down on them all...

    Story idea:

    Petunia's parents aren't actually dead. She just likes to pretend they are. Something happens which forces her to take a young Harry and Dudley and move back up north to her parents house. Her father is a solid, chain-smoking, no nonsense, retired mechanic/foreman/dockworker. He has no time for class pretence or spoiled grandsons. Petunia is gonna have to face where she came from and Dudley is going to have to learn the word no. He does have a lot of time for Harry, who worships the ground he walks on.

    Brummie!Harry headed to Hogwarts. He can build just about anything and now he has magic and all the money he'll ever need... Oh and he's about to run into the Weasley twins.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2021
  4. Erotic Adventures of S

    Erotic Adventures of S Denarii Host

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    That makes Petunia sound like Mrs Bucket from “Keeping up with appearances”.
     
  5. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    There is a reason that show was so popular. Mrs Bucket was a caricature, but she definitely exists.

    There is nothing funnier to British people than someone attempting to act a different class. Not only because we are all snobs at heart, but because your perceived class respective to the class of the person you are interacting with is a not insignificant factor in how you are perceived (at least initially). Its not just an accent, it's a thousand subtle signifiers, that for some goddamn reason we are all attuned to. It is very difficult to fake convincingly in either direction, at least unless you have seriously integrated. Even then, if you slip people will notice.

    Class is basically family + upbringing. For the most part you are born into it and it has little to do with money. You can be poor as shit and upper class, you can be rich as hell and definitely not. Trying to deny/hide your class is culturally considered inherently rediculous and pathetic as it is basically considered a intrinsic part of you.

    Now is that a problematic part of our culture? Hell yes, but it is an undeniable facet of it.


    Anyway for Petunia I mainly inspired great aunt of mine. Nice lady, married into oldish money, purest BBC accent you ever heard and, house as neat as a pin, invented the concept of respectability. Which is odd when you hear her mum who has the most steotypical cockney accent ever and could match you shot for shot in her late 90s. Great aunt was alway horribly embarrassed by her which was a shame cos her mum was an absolute riot and did not give a shit about where anyone came from.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2021
  6. darklordmike

    darklordmike Headmaster

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    That's probably the best analysis of Petunia I've ever seen. Americans tend to overlook the class divisions in British society. They exist here, but not to the same extent. It's strange to me that a lot of British people hate upper class snobs, but also hate people of their own class who want to move up. It seems like the class divisions are enforced from below as much as they are from above.

    Edit: There's the key difference. In America, your social class is determined almost entirely by money, and everybody's trying to get rich. It might be because we're a nation of hillbillies who never had an aristocracy.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2021
  7. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    Personally I think Vernon fits pretty well with the idea of having come from a landed country family, likely not actually particularly well off any more. All the available money went on getting him into Smeltings, and he's got a solid, reasonably cushy job as a Director either because of a connection from Smeltings, a connection from whatever good university Smeltings got him into, or a connection of his father's. Vernon is not exactly the world's most competent person, but his job pays well enough for a 4 bedroom house not too far from London, and to send his own son to Smeltings. Potentially also providing some financial assistance back to Marge on whatever is left of the family land.

    If Marge is a Bulldog Breeder by trade, she won't have made huge money from that even using the most heartless of breeding techniques. Bulldogs tend to have much smaller litters than other species, frequently only birthing 1 or 2 puppies. And they often have very difficult pregnancies, resulting in them only carried a small number of litters before they can't breed any longer. And whilst they're not an unpopular dog, they weren't hugely popular in the 70s and 80s either. If she's living out in the countryside on the last remnants of a mostly sold off estate, perhaps in a big old farm house with just a couple of fields left, or a small old manorhouse, then she may well need financial help from Vernon pretty regularly to keep up the maintenance of the house.

    Love this idea. Harry goes to Hogwart's believing strongly doing the right thing, working together to make a difference, the value of hard work, and having a strong distrust for people in positions of authority.

    My perception has been that your social class is definitely not just entirely about money - look at how Trump was excluded from the circles of society that he wanted to move in, despite his family having more money than most of the folk in those circles. Its down to who you know, and knowing how to act, as much as it is how much money you've got.

    On top of that, those who move themselves upwards often hate those who refuse to. And people who've moved downwards, for whatever reason, often find themselves negatively viewed by both the class they've left and the class they've moved into.
     
  8. Arthellion

    Arthellion Lord of the Banned ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Class in America is a combination of Education + Wealth + Connections + Race. The different part of the country you're in will give differing weight to each of the above.
     
  9. Aekiel

    Aekiel Angle of Mispeling ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    [​IMG]
     
  10. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    Money does eventually change a families perceived class in the UK. It just takes a few generations. If you, a working class person, start a successful building business, you are going going to still be considered new rich/working class made good even as a millionaire. You can be a patreon of the arts, hobnob in the highest circles, the brand's you buy, the way you hold a wine glass, your sense of humour will tell everyone where you come from. Owning it will always go down better than trying to hide it by aping mannerisms you don't have naturally.

    If you use that cash to send your kid to the right old money private schools and good universities they will learn the mannerisms and hobbies of the upper classes but will probably still be considered new money and either a bit tacky or trying to hard by their peers depending on if they try and hide it. Now if they inherit the business/invest the money, and importantly marry into the upper/middle, send their kid to the same private schools and good universities... Now your grandkids are probably far enough away from your council estate beginnings that their mannerisms and class tastes are considered authentic.

    That's not to say the real old money, the gentry and aristocracy, wouldn't still consider them new as hell because they absolutely will. But having a grandparent who made the money and came up themselves is a bit of family flavour. Plus its banner to wave when conversations of privilege get uncomfortable for them.

    If you want a real life example of this take a look at the articles written about Kate Middleton's family after it came out she was dating Prince William. Didn't matter her parents were millionaires who sent her to a very expensive boarding school. Their class was judged by the fact they had made the money selling party supplies and her mum had been an air hostess once photographed wearing trakkies with 'juicey' across the butt.

    Now she got the ring and then performed the part of an upper class wife flawlessly for a decade so that kind of judgment has largely died down but that was absolutely part of how they treated her in the beginning.
     
  11. James

    James Auror

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    @Sorrows @Mordecai - how would something like this apply to Harry Potter - if we imagine Potters as either old money, or "old money and fanon noble", but raised by the worst kind of class-sensitive class climbers? Or even, in theory, working class grandfather?
     
  12. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    Its quite an interesting question.

    Looking at what JK has written about the Potter family can give some more clues.

    Thats about the founder of the family line.

    That Henry Potter is Harry's great-grandfather.

    Thats Harry's grandfather.


    So from all of this we can take the image of an old family, respected and well known but not politically significant or powerful (2 Wizengamot members in 800 years isn't exactly a political dynasty). Rich, but not fabulously wealthy (possibly until Fleamont made his contribution to things, after which fabulously wealthy may be more accurate). Rural, somewhat disconnected from the centres of society.

    From this I'd make a comparison to exactly the sort of country gentry that we were comparing the Dursley's to before. Except that the Potter's continued to maintain and even build their wealth over the generations, where the Dursley's seem to have squandered it. The sort of family that everyone in the circles that care about these things knows about, marrying one would always be seen as an alright match without being seen as anything particularly spectacular. Definitely old money and land, but no title or anything like that.

    How that would play for Harry is a question that could go in different directions. If, on researching his family, he saw the parallels with the Dursley's maybe he would find it funny/ironic, or maybe he'd hate it and try to seriously change the image of his family. If he absorbed some of Petunia's class consciousness as he grew up, you could probably parlay that isn't an interesting sort of political!Harry fic, but in quite an amusing childish way as he tries to navigate Hogwarts/wizarding society with a muggle class climber's understanding of class and status.
     
  13. aAlouda

    aAlouda Groundskeeper

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    The Parallel with the Dursleys is even more amusing, if you consider that Stinchcombe(where the Potters are from) is right next to Dursley.
     
  14. Glimmervoid

    Glimmervoid Professor

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    The movies played that aspect up a bit more than the books. Vernon went to a public boarding school (and remember in England that means a fee paying private school) and sent his son their too. He was also a company director. They aren't Joe average.
     
  15. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    Not only that, but Petunia was probably between 23 and 26 in the prologue. Vernon was already a director in his 20s (presumably.)

    Although they do live in Surrey which is pretty damn expensive and gets more so the closer to London you get. At least it is now, not sure of the prices in 1981.
     
  16. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    A quick google suggests that in 1986 the average London house was £55k. As a tangentially relevant point of comparison to that, in 1978 my parents house in west of Scotland was £9k.

    Regarding Vernon...it wouldn't shock me if he was a couple of years older than Petunia. If she was looking to get a leg up the social ladder, finding herself an established businessman in London was probably her plan, it just went better than she actually intended when he turned out to be from the public school/country life background.

    If he was something like 26 or 27 when they met, and she was 21 or so, then by the time of the prologue he's be in his early 30s. That works for him having nominally served his time as a salesman (likely mostly on the golf course with the senior management), and been rapidly jumped up to Director at his Dad's mate's company around the time he hit 30.

    And its worth remembering that, even if he wasn't actually a phenomenally talented salesman, in the 70s and 80s there was absolutely a type of customer who'd choose who to buy from because they were "the right sort" - right background, right schooling, knows the right people, comfortable in the right sort of places, etc. He'd probably have been pretty decent at those sorts of sales.
     
  17. Glimmervoid

    Glimmervoid Professor

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    I was about to suggest Petunia moved to London in her early twenties, maybe even worked as a secretary at Grunnings where she met Vernon, when I thought to check. And, yep, that's canonically exactly what happened.

    https://www.wizardingworld.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/vernon-and-petunia-dursley
     
  18. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    A tale as old as time...
     
  19. raobuntu

    raobuntu Fifth Year

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    This is a very late response to earlier when American society was briefly mentioned. I grew up in the Silicon Valley as a middle/upper middle class son of immigrants, spent 2 years at a boarding school in the NE, and then went to a private liberal arts college, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about class in the US. It’s not nearly as straight up as it is in England, probably because we never had a stratified society (outside of race, which will play a part later).

    Someone earlier mentioned money, and they were bang on. It’s all about the dolla dolla bills in the US. If you’re old money, but you no longer have that money, you aren’t shit.

    I think you can classify American upper class into roughly three parts, born rich, earned rich, and struck gold.

    Let’s start with born rich. This is probably as close to the UK as you can get. I met a bunch of born rich kids in hs, and a couple of noble adjacent rich kids from the uk, and they’re not dissimilar. At some point in the past, an ancestor got rich, but for all purposes today, they’ve always been rich. The Trumps fit into this. I think that Mordecai said something about the Trumps not being accepted, and that’s only true after he became president and started acting like a complete psychopath. Before that Trump, and then especially Jared and Ivanka very much moved through New York high society (as you expect, they’re having trouble re-integrating). They value family wealth/reputation, political/economic, etc. You’ll find them mostly on the East Coast, through parts of the South, and occasionally the Midwest. Every now and then you’ll get someone who’s earned rich filter in, or create their own flavor of born rich.

    Earned rich is really first generation rich through a job. Think financiers, athletes, movie stars, etc. I honestly can’t speak with expertise on nuance on this, so I’m just going to leave it as it’s own bit of upper class.

    The last is struck gold. This I know quite a bit about, bc the tech revolution upended everything. You had twenty somethings building unicorns and then basically getting rich overnight. It’s a whole world, a far more utilitarian world. My dad spent years at a VC firm, and the main takeaway is that the only thing that matters is intelligence. It’s about can you help them be more efficient and make more money. That’s it. Then it’s not about being gaudy with that money. Wear simple clothes, drive a Prius (or maybe a Tesla). This group generally looks down on born rich, seeing them as morons who really didn’t do anything for their wealth, unlike them who used their “ingenuity, blood, sweat and tears for their money”.

    Basically, there’s no one definition of upper class because of how different certain groups are, not to mention how race played a factor.

    P.S. All of this is basically from my own experience rather than any level of rigorous academic study, so if you think I’m crazy off, would def be interested in hearing about it.
     
  20. Alistair

    Alistair Fourth Year

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    UK classes are different and not explicitly defined, except by each individual.

    To try and explain it though, I once heard a good explanation relating to the rise and fall of family owned businesses. I think it applies well to class moves.

    The first generation are grafters. They build something from nothing doing a job and begin to accumulate money. They're working class, or maybe middle class depending on how they're generating their income. Footballers, movie stars, tech savants, investment bankers, successful business people, all can earn significant sums, but it doesn't change the fact that they still fit here.

    The second generation have money, but know what was required to get it, and so value it. They might do the private school, expensive holidays, new social group thing, but they also remember times without money, and dear old mum and dad having worked 100 hour weeks to grow the company providing their lifestyle. They often grow the business into greater things. But, they still care about money and status and possessions. They still think about money, they're still in that mercenary mindset of it mattering and the possibility of them not having it. Slightly uncouth and therefore still middle class.

    The third generation, now they're different. They don't have money, they're wealthy. What's more, they've always had wealth, know nothing else and didn't experience first hand what was required to accumulate it. This, on the one hand often means they squander the family fortune, but it also means that if they don't, they can truly become upper class. Their fathers mingled in the right circles, they had the right friends from birth, they don't need to work, never wanted for money and so don't even think about it. They've only ever known that life, and so can seamlessly live it.

    This also works the other way. An individual can fall on hard times, but having to get a job doesn't change their status. Experience, education, friendship group, mannerisms, accent. All more important than the fact that they have a day job and live in a rented flat. Their children too won't truly fit into the working or middle class. Too much exposure to what once was, still family friends, maybe some of the schooling, the accent, the relatives. This is where Vernon Dursley fits. Starting strong, leveraging the vestiges of some family connections for his own gain, but ultimately downwardly mobile.

    I'd also note from my own experiences with that class of people, that Vernon or his family don't seem to quite fit the mould. All a bit aspirational, all a little paper thin. He seems the type to want to tell you how expensive his car was, how big his TV is, or about his holiday home in Majorca. It's just desperately middle class (not to mention gauche).

    That being the case, I can see Vernon's father making some cash from relatively humble beginnings; his own business in construction perhaps, or manufacturing, a taxi firm, an import export business, something of that nature. He'd accumulate some money, so Vernon would get the education, but is Gen 2 and therefore never truly part of the in-group. The stereotype of the 18th century Lancashire textile magnate trying to hobnob with the gentry. They're never absolutely rolling in it either. Millions, maybe tens of millions, but not 'serious' money.

    Anyway, time goes by, and whilst Vernon is fininshing his education, his father passes and the business declines, maybe aided by some financial mismanagment or misguided investments into 'fashionable' asset classes by his business partner. Two years later that brings Vernon to Grunning's, looking for a job at the firm owned by his buddy Jonty from Smeltings.
     
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