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Literature and the Working Class

Literature and the Working Class Free Essay


The most pertinent aspect of literature is its use of various literary devices, which draw the audience’s attention to a diverse range of issues. Thematic concerns must be presented in a manner that the audience can easily decipher the meaning and context of the message without undermining both the audience and the speaker. In other words, literary devices presume that society is inept at accepting reality and certain aspects of an issue must be presented in a way that is acceptable, respectable, understandable, and effective in galvanizing the audience’s attention. Therefore, euphemism refers to the use of a milder synonym of a word deemed to be less offensive. More often writers choose euphemistic statements to create ironic or comedic connotations. Profoundly, Clifford Odets’ “Waiting for Lefty”, “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell, and Sophie Cohen’s “Paterson Had a Prison-Like Feeling” generally employ euphemisms to highlight injustice and the general plight of workers. In essence, the three literary texts use this literary device to help readers understand the injustice experienced by the workers in pursuit of economic inclusion and equality given their low wage rates. Euphemistic statements underline workers’ growing concern about the politicization of their economic struggles, which puts their families at the center of injustice leveled against them by the existing political system.

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How Euphemism Works

Euphemism underscores the writer’s concern for their readers so that the message is delivered with a lesser harsh tone. More often readers feel detached from the story because of the writer’s use of language to communicate the message. Therefore, the replacement of a rude message is easily embraced by the readers. Substantially, euphemism involves employing an accommodative tone in a literary text with the sole purpose of intriguing the readers into establishing a strong connection with the entire text. The ultimate purpose of all literary texts is to gather a dedicated audience because that is the most effective way to communicate the writer’s intended message to a target audience. Therefore, using euphemism implies taking the audience’s greater concern. Such concern could traverse societal differences. For instance, certain terms do not befit certain groups of people. Therefore, their understanding is founded on using a more-friendly language.

Literature often faces an issue of social censorship due to inappropriate language and overall communication. Given that social settings determine the influence on a particular message, writers consider it effortless to overcome this problem by ensuring that the message suits different social settings. In other words, euphemism achieves literal inclusiveness. People from different walks of life can connect with the writer or rather with one another because they can similarly conceptualize the story based on the author’s intentions. Sometimes, certain messages can be embarrassing to communicate if the writer uses the exact phrases. As a result, it becomes vital to replace them while attempting to communicate the same message. Partaking in this implies removing or hiding unpleasantness, which could distance a section of the audience who may feel disrespected. Essentially, euphemism aims to ensure that the message is accurate, effective, and skillful; thus, it cannot be socially censored.

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Euphemism in the Three Literary Texts

Euphemism offers an in-depth understanding of the core issues in the three poems, such as employee economic rights, struggles and frustrations, the dominance of the ruling class, and love in the apparent dissatisfactory working conditions. In “Trifles”, euphemism portrays the lack of female voice in society, thus, outlining male chauvinism. For instance, the word “knotted” strategically illustrates killing or committing murder (Glaspell, 1916). It implies Mrs. Wright’s aspect of killing her husband John Wright and the cover-up operation by the woman given the demeaning behavior of the male authority.

Mrs. Wright’s knotting highlights heartless behavior by humans, which still outlines the workers’ frustrations of being given meager pay and exploitation by capitalistic employees. During the investigations of the murder of John Wright, County Attorney and the Sherriff dismiss any evidence of the murder in the kitchen when in actual sense, the kitchen carried the entire evidence for the murder of Mr. Wright (Glaspell, 1916). However, the Sheriff’s statement that there is only “nothing here but kitchen things” establishes the dismissive treatment of women by their male counterparts (Glaspell, 1916). While Mrs. Wright is guilty of killing her husband, the dismissive tendencies of the investigators lead to the declaration of her innocence. Essentially, workers are expected to fulfill their jobs despite the meager pay, which only amplifies their frustrations and the employers’ dislike.

Euphemism portrays a sharp division among workers regarding the competing political ideologies, namely capitalism, and communism. This is particularly established in “Waiting for Lefty” by Odets (1985), in which “red” is used to imply a communist ideologist. Clayton, later known as Clancy accuses people of pursuing communist manifestoes by supporting a strike. The sharp division, which ensues between pro-strike and those against it indicates the overall betrayal of the worker’s rights. Perhaps, Edna, Joe Mitchell’s wife broadly captures the division because according to her, the capitalists “are benefitting off the worker’s backs” (Odets, 1935). This expression is frequently echoed in the meetings. Such treatment underlines workers’ treatment by the affluent society. The sharp division acts as a vital concept in exploiting and denying workers the right to strike and demand better pay.

The exploitation of workers is rife because a huge profit is made by the companies to bribe politicians. The status quo is equally maintained regarding those in power amassing more wealth. Euphemism is used to capture the “silent theft,” which implies exploitation and corruption at the behest of the dedicated workers. Edna’s frustrations and her husband’s inability to marshal forces behind him with the intent of ruining this profiting underscore the quest to establish parity in the system. Furthermore, euphemism highlights the importance of “coming out in the light” because the system is “rotten”, therefore, only a few people can survive (Odets, 1935). Perhaps, the survivors must have political connections with the top echelons of power. Essentially, bribing politicians is a vital strategy to prevent popularizing the worker’s demands and rot in the system.

Euphemism documents the plight of the workers particularly those living in a multicultural society. “Paterson had a Prison-Like Feeling” explores euphemisms to highlight the problems faced by the workers and their subsequent plea to be included in the economic system (Cohen, 1985). Living in a highly multicultural and capitalist system drains an individual’s energy to confront their challenges. Scores of people who “live on the street” indicate being homeless remains the ultimate challenge for people to struggle for a solution (Cohen, 1985). With meager earnings working at textile industries as well as shirt opening companies, it is impossible to live comfortably. “Downsizing” can easily be against any individual irrespective of the hard work and dedication that they put in every single day (Cohen, 1985). In other words, employees are not shielded by the kind of work that they do for the company; firing is assured irrespective of such disciplined and professional working relations. Euphemism is used to anchor and examine the narrator’s frustrations because of being “economically disadvantaged”, which implies the aspect of being poor or living in abject poverty (Cohen, 1985). Essentially, workers must revolt against the exploitative system, thus, climaxing the economic struggles.

Euphemism Addressing Injustice among Working Class

Euphemism deeply explores the problem of injustice across the three texts. Firstly, it highlights the gross violation of the worker’s rights and the lack of appropriate input from the administration to implement appropriate solution-based mechanisms. By stating that people are undergoing “a slow death,” euphemism indicates the workers’ fates regarding the intolerance of the masses to continuous exploitation by the owners of the booming industries (Odets, 1935). In other words, euphemism attempts to soften the plight of the workers although they are subjected to intense suffering and exploitation. Purposely, “Waiting for Lefty” adopts a euphemistic perspective of the existing political turmoil, which only promotes the capitalists’ agenda of exploitation. Therefore, euphemism plays a critical role in exposing the political division between the workers. For instance, by calling some people “red” as opposed to communists, euphemism is presented as a tool for dividing and ruling people (Odets, 1935). Essentially, euphemism explores the intolerance of the masses, their exploitation by the affluent, and division, thus, indicating injustice.

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Euphemism portrays the unfair employee selection process, which reflects injustice against the workers. For instance, when Philip seeks an employment opportunity as an actor, Grady tells him that they want his “face, not his soul”, which is a clear situation of rejecting his application (Odets, 1935). In this case, euphemism depicts the struggle that employees undergo while searching for a job. However, it is even worse because such a selection is not merit-based. Furthermore, euphemism outlines the power wielded by the affluent, particularly given their decisions to fire and hire workers of the will. For instance, workers are not permitted to voice their concerns, lest they become victims of “downsizing” as the industrialist Mr. Fayette states (Cohen, 1985). In “Paterson had a Prison-Like Feeling”, a worker is dismissed after falling sick because he was no longer productive to the company and had to “rest” for some time before resuming, which is similar to a sacking (Cohen, 1985). The affluent wield the power, and workers are not even sure whether the strike will be successful.

Euphemism highlights the aspect of denying workers’ freedom to express their opinion on the state of their working conditions. In other words, they do matter because as long as the capitalists make profits, everything should be okay. Still, it reflects a higher level of injustice leveled against the working class. Since companies are detached from their employees, it is impossible to understand what most of them undergo. Euphemism is further used to highlight injustice in marriages as observed in “Trifles”(Glaspell, 1916). However, it is marred by male dominance and gender inequality as investigators dismiss any contribution from the ladies because the latter should understand “kitchen things”, which is a major understatement that later undermines their ultimate findings (Glaspell, 1916). Injustice is borne in on workers and non-workers due to the rich controlling the economy.


In essence, the three literary texts outline the theme of injustice, which the workers are subjected to by affluent members of society. Euphemism forms the ultimate literary device to reduce the unpleasantness of the workers’ frustrations as well as low-class members’ disappointment. Most importantly, euphemism has been effectively employed to highlight the plight of the working class given that they are “economically challenged.” Therefore, workers are easily made victims of changes without necessarily having a voice to state their grievances. Furthermore, employers are only interested in categorizing them as “red” or not, thus, making them confront each other. Conclusively, the three texts explore injustice as a crucial issue in the relationship between workers and company owners or capitalists.


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