Community in Downton Abbey

Submitted by Rachel Elizabeth on February 6, 2013 - 3:48pm
Reflections on the show everyone has been talking about


      Just a couple of weeks ago, Downton Abbey received the award for Best Drama at the National Television Awards. At Christmas time, I heard my high-school-aged cousin, nana (in her 70s) and university friends raving about this show! What is the great draw to this British drama? I needed to find out! A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I began working our way through this series. Some evenings, we can sit and watch up to 4 episodes in a row! (they're each about an hour in length) Yes, perhaps we can be a bit binge when it comes to television shows. But, the relationships and plot so draws us in...

     For those of you who have yet to start watching this show, it is set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey and depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era. It centers around the lives and dynamics between those living upstairs/downstairs in the estate. Much of the plot also centers around who might inherent the estate, as the Lord has only daughters and during this period, women could not inherent an estate. And so unfolds many romances for the first born, Mary, but also for her younger sisters... and those "downstairs" folks, as well.

     Downton represents a closed and concentrated community; there are many dynamics and interdependencies within the estate and minimal interaction with the outside world. Though Downton is certainly affected by events in their greater society, such as the Titanic or the first World War, the show concentrates mainly on the relationships between and within the Estate, itself.

    I started to see lots of neat community patterns and motifs in the second season- when the first World War is taking place. Downton Abbey is converted into a place of respite and recovery for wounded soldiers. The aristicratic daughters get their hands dirty: helping care for the men by giving them medication, chatting with them, and singing at a small concert to boost morale. The estate's cook joins with the cook of another home, preparing and serving meals to displaced men. When the Lord's wife finds that her cook has been taking food from their pantry to use to serve to these men, rather than scold her, she joins in with serving the hungry men.

     In chaotic times, though there are great attrocities- people dying, starving, losing their homes... there is great opportunity for others to rise up help create a better world! I feel like this season shows this shift- out of comfort and excess to compassion and service. There is much for us to learn in this.

Although, I do wonder...

Do we need chaotic times in order to "rise above"; to serve others?

In what ways can we live so we have built social capitol and know that if something awful were to happen, we would have a caring community to turn to?


Chris Mills has written a wonderful blog that has some connecting thoughts!