Briony, the protagonist in Atonement, presumes to speak for the intent of the actions of another and allows people to back her up. I think initially her desire to write was a desire for attention that comes from being spoiled. Only later, after she has her hands in the lifeblood of those she is caring for does she test her desire against what the industry will say. And only later does she come into her true maturity and pursuit of her desire to write when she has the time. I think Atonement is a quest into how truth is reached which paints class as a filter through which people look. I don’t think it is a critique of class differences so much as an acknowledgement that they exist.
In Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel, the poor boy that couldn’t eat a sandwich without criticizing the bacon, is an example of a class stereotype, he's so poor he needs to beg for food but then doesn't appreciate it when he gets it. The neighbors that want to pry are also class stereotypes, because they make assumptions that don’t quite fit reality and never back away from them. The protagonist and her roommate also are class stereotypes since they are from the middle class with not enough education to wonder what the business of being a psychic involves.
With Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguoro, the clones versus non-clones is a class distinction based upon whether or not a person originated naturally or came from the cells of another. That Hailsham differed from the other schools was based primarily upon the additional privileges the students received including education about themselves and their self-worth.
Contemporary fiction as well as politics has divided the world into three classes, the First World, Third World, and those transitioning from one to the other. The assumption is that people of third world countries have no voice, at least in the sense that the First World has, since the printing presses publish much more prolifically in English.
There’s long been the sense that if a person must assimilate to the culture of the conqueror or those that hold power, that you have lost some of who you really are.
Cultural anthropologists have lead the way of questioning what culture is, what is of value, what makes identity, what defines sexuality, etc. and much of this has been captured by contemporary fiction. In some sense, they deny the lack of voice issue, instead they say if you assimilate another culture it adds on to who you are, just by means of the process in which they use, although even there, anthropologist are tending to look for someone inside a society to document the society rather than someone learning from outside.
I think value comes either way.
Sometimes the lens used differs based on knowledge, experience, values, etc. Outsiders can teach insiders about where they make assumptions and also about things their culture has not learned because of their own knowledge base doesn’t contain the same experiences., i.e. its hard for a non-metal working society to know about forming gold objects especially if they have no gold.
Is it inevitable that we divide into classes—yes, I think so—it used to be two opponents winner vs. loser or slaves versus slave owners or blue collar versus white collar. I think the sense of class has begun to transform to more of a gradation in terms of privileges, knowledge, experience and a revived looked at alternative views of what society values including explorations of religion, race, political systems, even language. The internet has increased the number of classes one can belong to based more on interest than on the lottery prize of birth and I think we’re beginning to see a better representation of the population in the news, writing, etc. No one likes change, but one thing that has proven throughout history is the society that refuses to embrace other societies and learn from them, as well as the individual that fails to learn new knowledge and skills, become the ones that eventually fail.
I think Kathy, the protagonist in Never Let Me Go is shaped by society as well as her own inclinations. She wants a baby—she knows this won’t happen. She ends up caring for others and being very satisfied in that role. Society shapes her though because she learns there is no use fighting for what she wants. She often steps down from things that others would pursue i.e. she accepts that she will be a donor and no way tries to run away or hide yet there is an entire society that believes that others should give up their organs to prolong their own life. She doesn’t intend to prolong her own life. I think the novel makes the statement that humanity is a social construct, anthropology, too in that the students make up their own mythology about the three year break from donation if you are a true lover.