Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns to England after fighting in the American Revolution but his family and friends thought him dead, his betrothed is now engaged to his cousin, his father died and his inheritance has been allowed to decline. It is the late 18th century in Cornwall, England. This is a period drama that politically critiques the aristocratic class of the time using Ross Poldark as a POV* character. Furthermore it also depicts the challenges and conflicts between the rich and the poor. There’s a fine line between the two. There isn’t a middle class. It is a time where food is scarce and winter is coming. The tin and copper mines are closing down because prices are too low but the price of food and rents are high. Not only does Ross have the job of making his land profitable and productive but he also has to care for his tenants and learn to live without the woman he loved, or try to win her back.
Ross Poldark is the main protagonist of the Poldark historical series written by Winston Graham with twelve novels in total. Ross is of a prominent family but he is a man of the people and he actually cares about his tenants and not about their money. They’re his friends and they respect him. He is very anti-establishment because he sees the current system as a system that is designed to make the poor poorer and the rich richer. Is he wrong? The same system still stands now. He thinks enough is enough and something needs to be done. His methods are unorthodox but are necessary. He defies class rules and affiliates himself with his tenants where his own people would treat them like rats. He doesn’t give orders from behind. He leads from the front and he is respected throughout the community (working class) for that. His own people sneer at him for this. Even his uncle, Charles Poldark, (Warren Clarke) thinks Ross is as insult to the family. Charles is just one of those characters who everyone will hate with no redeeming qualities.
“Savages! They think because they’re done up in their finery. they’re almighty civilized people, but they’re savages and worse. They treat their animals better than they treat their laborers. One day the knives will be out, and then God help them. I despair of my own class sometimes.”
Ross Poldark On The Magistrates
Aidan Turner, who played the dwarvish pretty boy Kíli, in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, simply gushes with so much personality from his very first scene, in which he confidently chats back to his redcoat commanding officer instantly before a bloodbath. Unfortunately, this is the only snippet we receive of Poldark on the battlefield. Hopefully, in season two we’ll get a flashback episode of the war. Even in war, people make assumptions of how other people live despite having never experiencing other cultures like Ross did. The English love to quote the bible yet treat their own people like dogs. How very holy of them.
Alas, his betrothed, Elizabeth (Heida Reed), thought he was dead and is now engaged to his cousin, Francis (Kyle Soller). Poldark’s father’s only legacy is a mismanaged estate house and an abandoned tin and copper mine. This is hardly anything to live off but the strong-willed Poldark makes do through all his trials and tribulations. The politics and power plays of the drama don’t dissuade Ross from his goal. He is hellbent on making his community a better place amidst the corruption, greed and villainy. He does the best he can with the resources he has. He is fair, kind and is a great advocate of justice. Annoyingly (to the elite), Ross can’t be bought off like most. He does what he does for the good of all. He is a man of many talents. Poldark The Lawyer, Poldark The Socialist, Poldark The Pragmatist. He’s incorruptible as he’s not in it for material gain. The gain he wants is an abstract gain that can be felt but not touched. For example, justice.
Ross doesn’t care what his family think or what his class think. He married a commoner, Demelza Carne (Eleanor Tomlinson). She is a daughter of a miner. He married for love not for political power, social status or money. The majority of his class married for one of these three, all of which are for material gain. He seems to be the most human out of all them despite going to fight in the war. War changes people and it seems the ones left at home are worse people than he is.
In a nutshell, Poldark is a political critique of the British aristocratic class; revealing all the corruption, inhumanity and hypocrisy. It strips it naked simplifying the ideologies down so anybody could watch this series and understand how people lived and the challenges that the poor faced whilst the rich feasted like princes. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The rich are comfortable with zero accountability and don’t really care about the poor. As long as rich families are fed and have somewhere to sleep. When I say “somewhere”, I mean a stately home. The people with the money don’t care about those without it. The poor can barely feed their families. There is no compassion from the rich. No conscience. A lot of the time, their actions are inhuman and are enough to make one’s hair curl. This is why the rich hate Poldark. He’s an insult to his family and to his class for helping the poor. He goes against the status quo. It got me thinking. Society puts people down for doing this. The ones that go against social order. I really don’t think society has changed much at all.
* – Point Of View