I'm back. So I guess I owe Barbara (and anyone else who's reading) a clarification on the simililarity of theme I saw between parts of Under the Canopy and Barnard's Skeleton in the Grass. I'll just preface this by warning that I'll have to deal with SPOILERS in case anybody plans to read Barnard (in UTC it's right up front), and that I hope we all understand that I'm not remotely talking about one author imitating another? -- just justifiably similar insights? Good, I thought so.
In both cases we shown the downside of people trying to pretend that everybody's socially equal when in fact they're really not and everyone would be better off if there was no pretense. In both books this applies to "how to deal with servants," but I've run up against the same thing in interacting with students -- we can all be on friendly terms, but in the end we're not all on the same basis; I decide on their grades (and thus, sometimes, their future).
Anyway: Stephanie (Barbara's character) is trying not to treat her servants as servants, so she does what she wants (throwing her used clothing anywhere, having meals when she feels like it, going into the kitchen for a snack and leaving everything out) and thus in fact causes great inconvenience and resentment.
In Barnard's book, a middle-class academic/liberal sort of family have unexpectedly inherited a manor house and estate. They're embarrassed about becoming "that sort of person" (the squire who has a staff of servants) so they make do with one fulltime cook/maid and otherwise hire daily help from nearby for what work has to be done. What they don't realize is that this is actually very inconvenient for those who live in the area and could formerly count on fulltime jobs but now can't. Plus, it insulates the family from the surrounding community and means that they never really become part of it. In their own way (though they don't see it), they're just as snobbish as what they're trying to avoid ("our kind of people" being intellectual cosmopolitan folk).
The protgonist of the story is a young woman who goes to work for them as a nanny/tutor for the youngest child. She lives in, and they welcome her as part of the family, first names immediately and so on. She's delighted with their warmth and charm. Only later does she see that their casualness about the terms of her employment makes things rather hard for her: rather than settling on definite hours they just say "oh please ask for time off whenever you like -- you can always have some"; so she's reluctant to ask too often and in fact works very long hours.
Does this seem a fair comparison?
[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 08-17-99).]