adventure became slumming

kahroba

Senior Member
Persian
Hi everybody!

There's a phrase in "Poor Little Rich Boy", in "Big Money", written by Dos Passos (USA), the location of which has puzzled me: "adventure became slumming." in the following context:
(It should be noted that the poor little rich boy is William Randolph Hearst)

Quote
Whenever they went royally the Hearsts could buy their way,
up and down the California coast, through ranches and miningtowns
in Nevada and in Mexico,
in the palace of Porfirio Diaz;
the old man had lived in the world, had rubbed shoulders with rich and poor, had knocked around in miners' hells, pushed his way through unblazed trails with a packmule. All his life Mrs. Hearst's boy was to hanker after that world hidden from him by a mist of millions;
the boy had a brain, appetites, an imperious will,
but he could never break away from the gilded apron-strings;
adventure became slumming.
He was sent to boardingschool at St. Poul's, in Concord, New Hampshire. His pranks kept the school in an uproar. He was fired.
He tutored and went to Harvard
...
He was rusticated and finally fired from Harvard.
Unquote

Now, Hearst was not old enough to go slumming for adventure. What does it means then.

Thank you guys.
 
  • idialegre

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hearst's father had had a life full of adventure. (Rubbing shoulders with ruch and poor, etc.) Hearst wanted to do the same, but every time he tried to find adventure, he ended up falling back on his money and the privileges which money brings with it. So he could never experience true adventure; he always experienced it as a rich kid, an outsider. What was meant to be an adventure turned into slumming.
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Dear Idialegre
    Does "slumming" means intellctuals going around poor districts just to show they are intrested in poor people's life or what?
    Here's another paragraph about slummers:

    Quote
    ... he had a knack for using his own prurient hanker after the lusts and evies of plain unmonied lowlife men and women (the slummer sees only the streetwalkers, the dopeparlors, the strip acts and goes back uptown saying he knows the workingclass districts); the lowest common denominator:
    manure to grow a career in,
    the rot of democracy. Out of it grew rankly an empire of print.
    Unquote

    by the way, does "the lowest common denominator" mean what it means in mathmatics?
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Dear Idialegre
    One more question:
    Do you think "the gilded apron-strings" means his mother's apron or just the comfor money would bring?
     

    idialegre

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Centuries ago, rich people used to amuse themselves by walking through the neighborhoods (slums) where the poor people lived. It was not done to show any human interest in the poor people, but rather to laugh at them, or at best, observe them as we might look at animals in a zoo. Happily, slumming has lost much of its popularity, at least I think so. (I don't believe it's recognized as an Olympic sport, at any rate.) But you still hear the word used sarcastically when someone appears in a setting which would normally be "beneath" their dignity. For example, if an opera singer is seen at a heavy metal concert, someone might well say to him or her, "What on earth are you doing here? Slumming?"
     

    idialegre

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Dear Idialegre
    One more question:
    Do you think "the gilded apron-strings" means his mother's apron or just the comfor money would bring?
    It refers to the comfort and privilege of a rich home and rich parents. The strings of the mother's apron are a symbol for the safety and shelter of the home and for the powerful hold that parents can exert over their children.
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Thanks your patiance and clarifying answers.

    By the way, what about "the lowest common denominator" in the text? Does it have the same meaning it has in mathmatics?
     

    idialegre

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "Lowest common denominator" here means the lowlife of society. (Presumably whores, pimps, gangsters, drug addicts et al.) The parallel to the mathemical definition is, in my opinion, that these people have nothing in common with members of the upper class except for the absolute minimum, namely the fact that they are human beings. The similarities end there; they live completely different lives in completely different worlds.
     

    TheAmzngTwinWndr

    Senior Member
    United States
    The way that "the lowest common denominator" is related to math is that it is the smallest multiple a group of numbers has in common. Thus, the rich/poor/etc. have something in common (they are humans) but that's all they have in common. Thus they are related only at the basest common ground.
     
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