Breaking the Social Stereotypes of the 19th Century French Poor

The Inheritors of Sin

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"L'Enfants et le Bain". Created by Noel Dorville

"Children are fundamental to every society and culture. How families and societies care for the young is one indication of the nature of the culture. The social fabric of a society is strained when there are large numbers of children who are unwanted and abandoned.

- Rachel Fuchs

Stereotypes of the Poor: The majority of the Bourgeoisie believed that the poor were inarticulate. This belief stemmed from the typical jobs held by the poor which included field hands, domestics, semiskilled day laborers, and factory workers (Fuchs xi).

Stereotypes of the Poor as Parents: Held by the Bourgeoisie there was a belief that the poor and the Parisian poor in general allowed their children to wander the streets, take care of one another, and to eat and sleep whatever and wherever they could. In general that the parents often ignored their children. This stereotype was even played out in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables through Gavroche and the Thérandiers.

Stereotypes of the Children: Most of the state officials and Bourgeoisie believed that the abandoned children would inherit the sinful and immoral nature of their mothers, and eventually become a threat for society. It was believed that the children would eventually become juvenile diligent, vagabonds, or criminals, and further corrupt France and Paris inparticular This was a huge scare for the upper-classes and the Bourgeoisie because French law had established the family as the basic social unit (Wright 168). If the family of the poor was corrupted, what did this mean for French and Parisian society as a whole

Truths: However, cases such as Gavroche and even Cosette were unusual, even though misbegotten and unwanted children were extremely numerous. This sites intends to break the social stereotypes placed on the poor and the abandoned children through stating the stereotypes held by the upper-classes during the 19th century, and then illustrating the truths behind the stereotypes.

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