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Class is what every person in this country strives for. People spend their entire lives trying to improve their own social stature, and many times end up completely miserable. A person can work their way up a corporate ladder to find in the end that they are completely alone at the top. The only gratification they seek is the payout. Money is not class. Money is something that people confuse with social standing. True, the upper class typically is very well off, but money is not the only thing that makes them upper class. This point is illustrated both, in the novel Black Gangster, by Donald Goines, as well as the hit (no pun intended) HBO show The Sopranos. Two of the main characters, Prince and Tony, are both men of wealth and power, but unfortunately, they both lack class.
There are two words that can describe Tony Soprano, scum and bag. He is a horrible person and his upper-class lifestyle will be but a moment in his life. His source of income is murder, extortion, and robbery. Obviously, Tony is not really considered by anyone, but himself, as upper class. There is no way the actual upper class will ever accept him. He is their novelty. We see this in an episode where Tony goes golfing with his neighbor and his two friends. His neighbor, who is a doctor, makes his living off of people whom he helps. This, in my mind, can actually be considered class. The doctors friends, whom also are real upper class members, persist on asking Tony mob-type questions, as if he were Al Capones sidekick. They dont see Tony as one of them. He is a complete outsider and will never, no matter what, be accepted as someone of high social standing. In a way, Tony and the Doctors crew are like skinny girls having fat friends; it makes them feel better about themselves. I personally think that if Tony made a decent living that resulted from a good education, he would have much more class. Anyone can tell by hearing Tony or any one of his family members speak that they are clearly uneducated. Its not just the heavy Jersey accent either. He is seriously a stupid man when it comes to anything not having to do with business. Its really a shame that he doesnt vividly describe how he runs his business. If he did, maybe some people would think hes smarter than he looks and acts. That is possibly the only place that Tony has class, his business managerial skills.
Tony, as the head of his business, is one place in his miserable life where he gets respect for what he does. Even though many problems arise in his business, he tends to find appropriate measures to deal with them relatively fast. Dont get me wrong here. Im not saying that if a business merger goes wrong whacking someone is a classy thing to do. I just see Tony in this place in his life as more solid in his self-identification than the rest of his pseudo-lifestyle.
When hes at work, he doesnt try to be something hes not. At work, Tony is a gangster, he knows hes a gangster, and he doesnt try to be otherwise. This could possibly be due to the whole two family aspect of his life. When Tonys working, he has no need to act classy; hes supposed to be a scumbag. Not many people will stand around in a park while watching a lunatic drive through in a Lexus, chasing after someone who owes them money and think, Wow, now thats what I call class. Tony knows that it isnt a respectable job living to make, this is seen multiple times in the first season while he talks to his psychiatrist. He has regrets and he admits this to her.
When at home, Tony doesnt act like himself. He almost puts on a show for his family every day of their lives. He pretends to be this great family man, with strong family values and a legit job. Honestly, he pulls it off most of the time. There are times in the show that you forget that he just strangled a man with an extension cord and think, Awwwwwww, hes such a great dad/husband. Like I said before, this is his pseudo-lifestyle. I cant really believe that a serial killer can be a great father figure or husband. He plays it up for his family, and they soak it up as fast as he can dish it out. They are sponges for his false sense of class. Carmella, his wife, gets showered with gifts so maybe she will forget that her husband lies, cheats, steals, and kills to get those gifts. The family is put up in a very large house and there are expensive cars and SUVs parked in the driveway. I guess its entirely possible that Tony thinks this is what class is about. Having things and the money to buy more things. He obviously isnt the only person in the world like this. There are many, thats why social identities go missing now a days.
Someone quite close to Tonys predicament is Prince. He is a classic example of the bad guy that thought the only way out of their ghetto existence was through crime. There is the old saying that crime doesnt pay. In all actuality, crime does pay, it pays a lot, but then in the, end you do too.
Prince had unlimited respect from all of the members of his gang. He also had respect from most of the gangs around the city as well, and if he was show a lack of respect, he showed them that he was to be respected by killing someone. I think Princes confusion with class was the fact that he had everything he could want. Cars, money, drugs, power, you name it, and he probably had it. When they first arrived at the gangs new hideout is Goines said,
there were three black sedans and two Cadillacs parked in the private driveway. The house was one of the old mansions on Chicago Boulevard, kept at one time by a millionaire of the auto industry. The place still held a magnetic glory (Goines, 127).
This kind of living could easily go to your head as a sense of new social standing. But, once again, it is just stuff that money bought. The fact that the money that paid for this place was all drug and prostitution money puts the idea of class in the dumpster. Prince and his entire crew were under this false sense of class. They all thought they made it big and wouldnt have to worry about anything after all the threats were gone. Had they went to school and became doctors and made it big that way, this might be true. Unfortunately they chose prostitution and drug sales. This was a bad choice on their part considering they all end up dead because of it. They paid for the crime that paid for their artificial class. Even thought Prince had a closet full of silk suits and drove a Cadillac, someone that was truly from the upper class wouldnt even look in his direction. One nice thing about Prince though, he didnt confuse his work with his home life. His work was his home life and his home life was his work. He didnt have to pretend to be a happy family man, maybe due to the fact he didnt have a family, but still. Even when he visited his grandparents, they knew about him and his business.
This is where Prince differs from Tony. Prince never had to put on a show and pretend to be upper class. Everyone around him thought that they were moving up the social ladder as well. He was delusional and believed that this was real. He believed that he was rich and classy. He thought he was forever out of the ghetto that he had spent his entire life in. Tony on the other hand knew that he wasnt high class. His neighbors friends made it quite clear. I think Tony knew it before that too. He just always put on a show when he was home. Both Tony and Prince saw this forged class as a security blanket. This class kept them warm and comfortable as it would anyone else in this country. If this class was taken away from them though, they wouldnt have problems adapting to lower class as much as someone who actually is upper class would.
The majority of Americans want to be in the upper class bracket. It is the American Dream. It is what so many people work hard for their entire lives. And for what? A comfy house with every possession you have ever desired. That is not class. Throughout this analysis I have stressed that had the characters gotten an good education, they may very well be upper class. That is what I consider class. When a person is very well educated and is happy, that is my upper class. Education can gain you increased salaries, but that is not what one should strive for. Money can only do so much and go so far. When money corrupts the mind of an individual, their perceptions get twisted. Tony and Prince are in a downward spiral. They are both caught in a world of crime, which can only result in one definite outcome: death. They where both miserable in how their lives were. The reason for that was the money. Money clouds the mind. Its truly sad that we see this everyday, and will see it for the rest of our lives.
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