‘We were not unfeeling, but youth is mercifully resilient’
Grief is an extremely personal thing and there is not one singular way to experience it. After Marion recalls laughing for the first time, she immediately reassures the reader that she was not ‘unfeeling’ (Owen, p. 48). Although death feels like the end of everything, ‘the rest of the world’ (Owen, p. 48) is still moving and eventually those grieving begin to move with it. The death of her father was a significant moment in Marion’s life, and this is why she chooses to end her memoir here as it was ‘the end of one era, but the beginning of another’ (Owen, p. 48). Julie-Marie Strange argues that it was acceptable for women to ‘sob and wail in accordance with notions of feminine emotional vulnerability’ (Strange, 2002, p. 148) but men could not do this due to ‘masculine’ (Strange, 2002, p. 148) stereotypes. Marion shows this as it was her uncle who ‘took charge of all the arrangements’ (Owen, p. 48) and women were not even supposed to ‘attend the funeral’ (Owen, p. 48). However, Marion’s mother ‘never lost her self-control’ (Owen, p. 48) and remained strong despite expectations of how she should grieve.
Religion plays an important role in the acceptance of death as those grieving are given a sense of hope and comfort that their loved one is in a better place. Marion’s ‘father did not believe in thrusting religion down our throats’ (Owen, p. 41) and therefore she did not have the comfort of believing in God or an afterlife. Marion felt a deep sadness after his death as ‘there was a finality about it’ (Owen, p. 41) which is almost impossible to comprehend.
Strange also argues that ‘loss is bound with material concern’ (Strange, 2002, p. 150) especially in a circumstance when the person who died was the main financial provider. Marion’s father had managed to get the family to a solid financial position entirely through ‘his own efforts’ (Owen, p. 41). Marion not only had to deal with the loss of her father but also ‘the flat’ (Owen, p. 48) where they had moved after selling the house in Brixton. Marion, her mother and her sister now had to ‘sink or swim by [their] own efforts’ (Owen, p. 48) which must have made the grieving process all the more stressful.
‘One of the saddest parts of growing older is the fact that fear of the future, takes the place of anticipation’
Marion recalls one of the greatest things about being young is that ‘one has no qualms about the future’ (Owen, p. 41) as there is no doubt that it will be good but as you grow older you lose this. Her fears of the future may have encouraged her to write this memoir as she is able to reminisce on a time where she felt no worries. As Marion’s memoir ends in 1931 when she was 22 years of age, it has been difficult to keep track of where her life goes after this. Marion moved with her mother and sister to live in Ealing and this is where she married George J Owen in 1944. Due to the fact there is no digitised Census after 1911 there is no record of Marion Owen until her death in West Glamorgan at the age of 91 in March 2001. Although I do not know when exactly she wrote her memoir, I am extremely thankful that she did as Marion writes about her memories with such care and detail it is incredibly touching.
- Owen, Marion. ‘I follow my nose: a potted autobiography’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library
- Strange, Julie-Marie. ‘She Cried a Very Little: Death, Grief and Mourning in Working-Class Culture, c. 1880- 1914’ Social History (Vol. 27, No. 2, 2002, pp. 143-161)