The Changes of Social Structure in Society

Society’s obsession with the rankings of social class has been a problem for many years, and it will likely continue to be obsessed over. However, the classification of the people within each class has changed over time. The official definition of social class is: a broad group in society having common economic, cultural, or political status. One popular story that was written during a time when the top social class was the mercantile class was The Canterbury Tales. The story written by Geoffrey Chaucer was written and published at a time when new social classes were shaking up the rule of traditional social classes.

As time progressed the top social classes have been changing, and those changes are not based so much on job types but they focused more on the “popularity” of the person. This was especially true in the setting of a high school, or any place with teens. A current movie that shows a theme of social classes playing a prominent role is High School Musical. Much like The Canterbury Tales, the students in High School Musical relied heavily on which class they were grouped in to decide their friends (Bryson). The way a person is perceived is not always accurate with how they actually are.

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Sometimes it is in a good way and sometimes it is in a not so good way. Over time the way the world classifies each social class has changed, but the overall idea of social classes ruling the way people are perceived by their peers is still the same. The Canterbury Tales details the stories of many different pilgrims who come from many different types of social classes (Chaucer 878). The stereotypes of each pilgrim were based on what jobs they held and what social class people classified them in (Chaucer 878).

There were three main classes, or estates, prominent during Chaucer’s time. The three types were: Clergy, Aristocracy, Servants/Workers. Those who made up the clergy class were thought of as people who prayed. This class was supposedly the one that showed spiritual prowess or prayers. However, some people in this social class were just as guilty of the sins that they were leading others away from. The second class, the aristocracy, was made up of those in a governing position. This class included knights, physicians, and many others.

Just like the first class the people in the second were not what they seemed to be either. They were secretly greedy, and they would also take advantage of the positions they upheld. Those that made up the class of aristocrats were thought of as the most noble, because they held the highest titles, or important jobs within the community. Therefore, the knight was the first to tell his tale in the story. Many of the other pilgrims did not think that the knight was any better than them, and therefore they should all be treated equally and not be confined to a certain social class.

The third class, servants and workers, were made up of people who made the food and they worked for those who made up the first and second classes. This class much like the second was greedy and dishonest. The perceptions of people within certain social classes are not always the truth. Just like in every society taking the time to get to know a person within a certain class can show that not every person within a certain social structure is the same. High School Musical is much like The Canterbury Tales.

Throughout both story lines the barrier set up by each social class is broken by the characters; and they also defy the previously set “ideas” about who they are as a person. The story line in High School Musical is about high school students who try to interact with each other, but the social class barriers bring discouragement and force them to stick to their own social class (Bryson). Within a modern high school there were many classes that differed than the three in The Canterbury Tales. The main character, Troy, is a part of the jocks and cheerleader class.

However, he falls for a girl that is not jock at all; in fact she is considered a “math geek”. The relationship between the two characters is not accepted because they do not come from the same social class. They movie also focuses on social classes for musical kids, drama club kids, “skater dudes”, and kids who like to dance (Bryson). Many times in the movie there are conflicts between each social group because of the stereotype, that they are all very different. Therefore, they think that they cannot interact with other groups.

However, in the climax of the movie many leaders from each class step out and break the mold of the traditional guidelines for their class. The characters all learn that they are all not so different after all, and they actually share many similar interests. This shows that the stereotype of those confined to a particular social class are not always accurate. In this case it is not a bad thing. Since the beginning of human civilization people have been grouped together with others who share the same likes, have the same jobs, or political views.

However, their importance has changed as time has progressed. Social classes are not as limiting in the modern society as they were in Chaucer’s time. Over time the confinement of staying in one social class has become more and more lenient, and it is becoming easier and easier to break the normal structure of classes. In The Canterbury Tales it was looked down upon for people to break out of the mold of their social classes. The culture of this time period was that you could tell what a person really was like by just looking at them; a term commonly known as “judging a book by its cover”.

As the story went on it was revealed that people were not what they were originally thought to be. In High School Musical the characters were also commonly misinterpreted because of their social class. However, there were different reactions when people tried to break out of their social classes. When the students broke free of their social class mold it encouraged many other students to do the same; the reaction was much different than the reaction that was seen in The Canterbury Tales.

The way women are viewed in today’s society is a major change in the social structure. In the time of Chaucer women were not seen as important, or seen as people who could hold a title of power. In a way they were classified in their own social class all together. Women were generally portrayed as corrupt and lustful; and often it was thought that women were needy and not self-sufficient. However, since that time women have shown that that is not the case. They have shown that women can be independent and in control of their own life.

The view of women will continue to change over time, just as the social structures will also continue to develop. Social structures have always been a part of the human culture, and they will always be. The way they evolve and are classified will also continue to change and develop as the cultures do. Time has changed from the social structure being all about social rank to it being more about the “popularity” of a person. What direction social structures will go in the future is a mystery to humans, but people do know that it is an ever evolving part of the culture.

Women have come a long way from being looked at as the lowest class of people, to being able to hold their own. Social classes will always be around and changing as long as people continue to base their standards on what the culture says.

Works Cited

Bryson, Carey. High School Musical: Movie Review for Parents. About. com. About. com, n. d. Web. 13 November 2012. Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Canterbury Tales. ” The Bedford Anthology of World Literature the Middle Period, 100 C. E. -1450. Ed. Alanya Harter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s 2004. 689-848. Print.

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