Essay on Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer

There are many class barriers in Sleuth that make it difficult for people from poor backgrounds to be successful. Detective Sergeant Trotter, who is wealthy, makes it difficult for the poor detective, Inspector Japp, to do his job. The wealthy people also give the poor people a hard time, even though they do not do anything. For example, when the Inspector was looking for a place to stay close to the wealthy part of town, he could not find a place in his price range. The play is a murder mystery play that explores how people react to various social classes. It exhibits the idea of how people are treated according to their social class, and how these distinctions affect the characters and their decisions. People’s social class influences interactions with others. A social class is a categorization system that compares the relative power and status of different groups in society. In this play, the social classes range from upper to lower and are defined by occupation, education, income, and lifestyles. Social classes also influence how people are regarded and addressed. In the play Sleuth, the class differences are clear through how people behave, the physical characteristics of the characters, and through servants-workers relationship.

Sleuth is a play that explores the idea of how people react to various social classes. The play portrays the idea of how people are treated based on their social class, and how these distinctions affect the characters and their decisions. As the story progresses, it is apparent that there are clear class differences between Milo, the protagonist, and Laura, his love interest. Laura refrains from talking about her children’s true identities with Milo, because she does not want to give him the pleasure (Shaffer). It is not just about her not wanting to talk about them at all to Milo; but the idea that he deserves to be left out of their lives. It is clear that Laura has been affected by a strong sense of class. She cannot come to terms with Milo’s low class and cannot expect him to live up to her expectations. Laura is adamant about Milo’s class and wishes to keep it a secret from him. Her refusal to talk about her family, despite Milo’s pleas about his family, is telling. Milo asks “So she’s used to luxury. Whose fault is that.” Andrew responds, “It’s not a fault if you can afford it. But can you?” (Shaffer). This becomes especially clear when Milo suggests their families could go on a trip together.

Another important way in which Shaffer portrays class difference in Sleuth is through the physical characteristics of the characters in the story. Those meant to believe as being of higher social rank, such as General Macleane and Bernard Waring, are described as physically attractive. Macleane, for instance, is described as wearing a tweed suit, with a cream polo-necked sweater. This detail suggests that the detective is in a higher class than Macleane, who wears a blazer and a turtleneck sweater. The contrast between such a garment and that of a gaudy suit worn by Milo, a man of lesser standing, is evident in the text. Such evidence of the differences in social status is also apparent in the costumes of Milo and Rhonda, who dress themselves up in a garish display for the party and then wear more subdued, middle-class outfits for other events. Another example is that the gardener is clothed badly, wearing a weather-beaten army greatcoat and woolen balaclava. The difference in clothing and outerwear of these two characters, both of whom are working class, creates a stark contrast between the two. The gardener in the story has a remarkable physique of a muscular man, but dresses shabbily. Shaffer has the upper class characters being considerably more well-dressed than the lower class characters.
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In Sleuth, the servants are all working for the rich people; they do not work together but are more like people who have to work for other people. However, even the servants have a class barrier in their company. One of the servants says to another servant that he is classified, which means that he is not allowed to do anything more than just take orders from a classified employee. It seems that this hierarchy goes on many levels and it is not a good deed because it separates the people who are working together just like a pie. The servant named Lucy tells about how the hierarchy works at great length. There are the people who are at the top and on the bottom. The people who are at the top still have opportunities to act like they care about the servants, but it is really a facade. The workers are the lower class and the people who own the business world are the higher class. The employers do not have any physical work, but they always demand more from the servants. The servants have to work hard, with the least pay, and when they try to reach for other jobs, they are often treated poorly. The hierarchy in Sleuth can be seen as unfair because it does not create a healthy environment for the servant and the employers.

Anthony’s Shaffer portrays class differences in many ways in his novel. Frequently, these class barriers lead to conflict and tension. As the story progresses, the plot thickens and tensions escalate as the reader becomes aware of the class barriers that exist in the story. The upper class individuals such as Milo represent themselves as cultured, well-to-do, and intelligent. They want to establish themselves as being higher on the social hierarchy than those in the lower classes. It is clear that this is the fault of the way they live with very little opportunity for education. Jobs are scarce for them and they are forced into taking professions that use their strong skills such as being a perfect soldier or being a detective. The wealthy people are full of themselves, and are only interested in seeing how the other guests react to them. The less wealthy people are doormat-type people, one of them is a detective, and the other is an architect who is also a gossip reporter. The sleuth portrays a society in which there is a hierarchy with rigid social classes to which the characters all conform. The way in which the upper class behave is different from the way the lower class behave. Each social class has its own manners and rules, behaviors and rituals, and moral values. The servants are of lower status than the masters. Stereotypical upper class people often have a posh accent, are very well-dressed, and have extensive knowledge of many subjects.