“[We] use[d] to have a good time dressing up making all our own amusement and Believe me we use[d] to thour[ough]ly enjoy it.”Lord, p: 1
The working-class are often viewed as a large percentage of the population, whom face difficult, yet similar struggles. However, Carolyn Steedman, a British historian and author of, The Landscape of a Good Woman, highlights throughout her work that this societal view is problematic, “…the point is not to say that all working-class childhoods are the same… but so the inhabitants of the long streets may start to use the autobiographical ‘I’, and tell the story of their life.” (Steedman, p: 16). Thus, she encourages readers to see the working-class for what they are, individuals. Annie is an unusual person, who had a chaotic and often, traumatic life. When analysing her childhood specifically, it is evident that this shaped the unique woman she became in her later, more mature years.
Coming from a large; “family of 15” (Lord, p: 1) Annie struggled and suffered as a result of being, “Born deaf in one ear.” (Lord, p: 1). Even though she never truly highlights the link between coming from a large family and being disabled, it can be assumed Annie struggled with being and feeling different, in comparison to her other siblings, who were not deaf. However, despite her insecurities, Annie adored her family and chooses to portray the strong and loving relationship she shared with her family. For example, her family struggled to make ends meet, so much so that in order to afford Christmas dinner, they had to go carol singing. Instead of using such an instance to highlight her struggles, Annie remembers this memory fondly, as it was a time spent with her loved ones: “I can Remember the time we have Been out carol singing and earn’t all our [Christ]xmas dinner…” (Lord, p: 1).
Despite never actually divulging any specific or personal details about her family, such as her siblings’ names, Annie’s representation of a strong family unit does not falter: “But we were very happy those days we had lots of friends and all use[d] to help another every way we could…” (Lord, p: 1). Thus, although Annie does not mention the people she was close to by name, her use of the pronoun ‘we’ and her colloquial tone emphasises the close relationship she shares with her family, as she is referring to them all as one.
Throughout the memoir, Annie’s tone is only truly positive when she reflects upon her family, particularly as a child: “… that[‘]s when oranges were 25 shilling and go home eating a fish and chip supper ½ – ½… But we were very contented…” (Lord, p: 1). Although her writing is often fragmented and hard to understand, her anecdotal stories are essential in highlighting her happy home life as a young girl. Julie-Marie Strange argues that this is typical of working-class life-writing “where apparently random memories stack up in a stream of consciousness.” (Strange, p: 19). Furthermore, Annie’s anecdotes often appear confusing and hard to follow, as they rarely relate to any previous points she has discussed. Thus, as Strange summarises, as soon as a thought enters Annie’s mind, it appears she feels as though she must voice it. This is something that would happen naturally during an actual conversation. Therefore, Annie’s thought process suggests that she is excited and willing to talk about subjects she enjoys, like reflecting upon her childhood. So much so, she is unable to stop herself from straying away from the original subject matter. This colloquial aspect of Annie’s writing only further highlights, the strong and loving relationship she shared with her immediate family.
Additionally, Annie highlights that her father also contributed to her enjoyable childhood: “Our dad was a Bit trying those days they use[d] to drink a lot But he use[d] to get his concert[in]a out at times and help out…” (Lord, p: 2). Throughout many working-class memoirs, the father is normally presented as a distant, authoritative figure and thus, is not particularly present throughout the individual’s childhood. This was due to the idea that it was the mother’s role to care and entertain the children, especially when their husband had returned home from a long day at work. Annie states that; “… they use[d] to drink…” (Lord, p: 2). However, she does not specifically state if she is referring to the idea that ‘all’ fathers enjoyed an alcoholic drink, through her use of the pronoun, ‘they’, or if she is referring to both her father and her mother. In spite of this, her father still played a key role throughout her childhood.
In conclusion, it is clear that Annie’s working-class background meant that both her family and herself were underprivileged and struggled to cope financially. However, this does not affect Annie’s happiness. Instead she only takes positives from numerous bad situations, which ultimately, brought her family closer together as they were encouraged to support and be there for one another. Overall, throughout the entirety of the memoir, family is the most important aspect to Annie and despite the fact that her home dynamic changed considerably into her adulthood, she still frequently refers back to the importance of family.
Lord, Annie. ‘My Life,’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, 2:486.
Steedman Carolyn (1986).Landscape for a Good Woman. London: Virago. 1-176.
A large working-class, Victorian family. From, Victorian Houses and Where Victorians Lived: https://victorianchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Poor-Victorian-Houses-Family.jpg
A Standard house/accommodation for members of the working-class during the nineteenth and twentieth century. From: The British Library: https://www.bl.uk/britishlibrary/~/media/bl/global/dl%20romantics%20and%20victorians/collection-items-manual/slum-119569.jpg