As a transmitter of bourgeois ideology, literature is a form of oppression in society. But literature can transcend the mechanisms of oppression with which it is unknowingly complicit. In this respect, class-based readings are essential:
Performing readings of texts to which class is central (although not necessarily determinative)
can reveal to people how the cultural practices they learn in school (and long before)
help maintain the status quo of a society increasingly polarised by privilege and want.
Seeing class differences operate in the literary realm encourages people to develop and extend their reading strategies:
To have realised that using language a certain way takes education, that making books requires money,
and that achieving critical acclaim demands a particular set of circumstances involving all
of the above can provide people with a new critical perspective from which to see their culture at work.
Class-based readings assist people in thinking critically about the class system and, in particular, their position within it. For the first time, perhaps, middle-class people can consciously engage with class conflict, while working-class people may recognise their own lives reflected and affirmed in literary texts.
Victimised individuals and minority groups can and do appropriate literature as a means through which to articulate the suffering of their lives. In subversive rewritings, their stories reveal realities often overlooked in society. Economically disadvantaged people are often isolated individuals at the mercy of the brutal workings of the capitalist system. Also, ideologies diagnose their incapacity and pathologise them for their unfortunate circumstances.
In this respect, working-class literature and class-based readings act as consciousness-raising vehicles. They can offer a source of strength, self-affirmation and political affinity for the members of minority groups. They can also lend some understanding and insight into their lives to the members of broader society (who are usually their oppressors).