This paper offers an analysis of writer George Saunders’s satirical short story “The Semplica Girl Diaries.” I argue that by situating the story in the historic context of the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, Saunders’s story not only examines middle class status anxiety, but also acts as a reflective lens for the upper class readers of the story’s original publisher: The New Yorker. I first provide a brief discussion of the economic situation faced by middle class America between 2008 and 2013. I then provide an analysis of the fears of middle class American citizens by examining the story’s narrator’s preoccupation with social status and the subsequent lack of self worth and satisfaction he finds while seeking a facade of wealth. Throughout this section, I look to sociological and economic research to provide a basis for examining the effects of class anxiety and America’s focus on class. I then move to examine the story’s format–a first person narrative written as a diary–and its effect on how readers empathize with the story’s narrator and eventually judge his decision to use human beings as a signifier of the social status. Saunders’s use of a satirical turn in the story challenges readers’ complacency with the narrator’s actions and motives, and in turn asks them to examine their own perceptions of status. I conclude with the idea that Saunders pushes the economically safe reading base that was first exposed to this story in The New Yorker to consider their own notions of class, the lengths to which their fellow citizens might go in order to breach the upper class, and their sense of superiority.
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Gorman, Joseph M.
Living Lawn Ornaments: Middle Class Status Anxiety in George Saunders’s
“The Semplica Girl Diaries”.
The Graduate Review, 2, 49-57.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/grad_rev/vol2/iss1/15