The first chapter of Arthur memoir is called, ‘Small Beginnings’, which I think is a perfect representation of Arthur’s early home and family life, being simple and happy.
Arthur’s memoir is filled with happy memories of his childhood, and presents this in an interesting way through personal pictures, giving readers an insight into his upbringing. The first picture he presents to us is in the living room of his family’s flat in Hampstead Heath. This immediately tells the reader of his family’s wealth, being an affluent part of London. Hampstead Heath was a bustling place to live in war time, containing a safe haven of parks and ponds for children to run free. They are also explained as having the, ‘best domestic architects of the day’. He explains his mother, looking at him with a ‘happy expression’, while his father sits back at the table, with a more ‘confused’ look on his face at his sons antics. This was typical of family life in the 1900’s, and symbolises the nurturing role of a mother, compared to a more layed back and masculine role of the father.
Arthur’s father seems to be the authoritative presence in the household, with Arthur remembering vividly when he was told off for playing with a brick in his back garden, and continuing to call it ‘dadda’, which was followed by his father saying if he continued he would, ‘throw it in the fire’. However his father does have a softer side, with Arthur remembering when he got to pick out his favourite toy, a ‘red steam roller’ from the toy shop, and father telling him to, ‘bring it to the nice lady, being the shop keeper. These two snapshots represent the typical make role in a household. Arthur’s father is obviously authoritative, and also controls the money in the household, shown as he is able to buy Arthur his toys.
Meanwhile, Arthur remembers his mother mostly in the kitchen. Although these days, readers would look upon this is typically sexist, this was in fact typical in a wartime household. Even though their food was rationed, Arthur still remembers ‘revelling’ while eating her home-made ‘lentil soup’ and ‘strawberry jam’. Despite the activities of the Suffragettes in the 1900’s, women still had very few rights, with many having a ‘very stereotypical role in British society’. This can be seen with Arthur always relating cooking back to his mother. The most popular sector of work for women was a domestic servant, and even then there were only 1,740,800 employed in the whole population, showing how many women were merly stay at home wives like Arthur’s mother.
Arthur, without I think even realising, brilliantly presents gender roles in 1900’s British society. However despite this he and his family seem to have a very happy home life. This was obviously partially because of the family’s wealth, leaving them comfortable in their day to day errands, but gender roles in this period of history were so normal one would not bat an eyelid. I think it will be interesting to carry on reading Arthur’s memoir to see what sector of work he goes into, and how being a man will aid him in achieving his education and dreams
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-role-of-british-women-in-the-twentieth-century/women-in-1900/. Last accessed 1/10/2015.
/. (2015). History of Hampstead Heath . Available: http://www.hampsteadheath.net/history.html. Last accessed 10/10/2015.