What does prisoner of birth mean?

I was reading a Jeffrey Archer novel of the same name, but couldn't figure out what this phrase really means.

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, JJJ, J. Taylor, Bread, jimm101 Apr 11 '18 at 1:22

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In the novel Danny is born into a poor family and is a garage mechanic by profession, whereas the plot's antagonists are from well to do backgrounds(a barrister, a popular actor, an aristocrat, and the youngest partner in an established firm). Eventually, Danny is framed for a murder he did not commit and is sentenced to prison. It was ultimately his word against four first-class citizens(who happen to be well educated and respected).

Thus, the title "Prisoner of Birth" signifies that Danny's background was instrumental in him going to prison. He was not a prisoner due to a crime, rather due to his birth into a non-affluent and uninfluential family.

  • Is the term common? Are there supporting references if it is an idiom? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 10 '18 at 9:55

I haven't read the novel. So I do not know the context in which this is being used in it.

But, for your information, this is a bit common in India. If a person is born a Harijan (one of the Indian castes), and wants to overcome the caste label, it's sort of impossible in villages. He would hence be a prisoner of birth.

  • 1
    +1, and I would say this would apply even in societies with less rigid castes. You are often directed in your choices in life by social forces that depend on who your family is. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Mar 15 '13 at 10:17

A person is often a victim of bigotry and prejudices for factors that were determined at birth (what you were born into) - class, race, caste, and what have you.

  • 1
    It's clearly not self-explanatory to the OP. – AndyT Apr 10 '18 at 8:32

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