Mary Bradbury (b Circa 1900): Language and Form

Mary Bradbury’s language is intriguing not only due to the content, but also from a literary perspective . She writes with elements of colloquialism, speaking to her reader as if her words were intended for an old friend. An example of this is in the very first line, which reads “I was, I fancy, much too young”. This line shows that there is an informal approach to the memoir, as she appears to be relaxed and writing in a way which is spoken, or in the way her mind is working. This relaxed style is a theme throughout the memoir, hinting at a happy and nostalgic view of her childhood.

It is unclear as to what education Mary received. It was common in the early 1900’s for young girls in rural areas, such as Mary, to be removed from school as early as twelve to help with domestic work. Mary does not mention if this was the case with her, as she mentions very little about school, however, her writing style is fluent and fully encapsulates the reader’s engagement. It is this quality of writing which leads to such an interesting memoir, describing her fondest, and most dangerous memories in an exciting manner, almost as if the reader is experiencing works of fiction.

Mary writes in a way which encapsulates her audience.

An example of her natural flair for descriptive writing is when she begins a memory with the sentence: “I was barely five when I had my second watery adventure in the flooded heber”. The syntax used by Mary opens up her memory in a way which fully excites and engages. The manner in which she does this is intrigues the reader forcing her audience to continue reading in anticipation. It is this innate ability for Mary to display these writing techniques which is so interesting and leads to further speculation on the future she lead. She repeats a similar trick later in the memoir when opening her next enthralling and dangerous adventure. This time she lead with the sentence “I was ten, when, by an act of crass stupidity, I almost flung my life away in the Cottar”. The use of the world ‘flung’, along with the admission of the action being ‘crass stupidity’, forces the reader to have an impulse to know more about the situation. ‘Flung’ brings connotations of a dramatic and forceful incident, showcasing once more Mary’s natural ability to draw the attention. Mary writes in a way which is fit for cinema, as she draws the readers attention, whilst building tension towards the climax of her memory.

“My hands became sore and a rusty nail tore a deep gash in my left palm”

Throughout Mary’s adventures, she uses the semantic field of nature to bring extra drama to her memoir. As shown in previous blogs, Mary has a love for nature, particularly animals, and she uses this in her writing to implicate the struggle in certain situations. She states that she “climbed on the wall, straddled the trunk” before she began the “perilous crossing” before the water “seized and carried” her off. It is the depiction of a young girl struggling, using all the power she possesses in an animalistic fashion which brings power and force to the situation. Her graphic descriptions continue further in the same paragraph where she states that a “rusty nail tore a deep gash” in her hand. The guttural consonants, along with the sharp A used in the word gash are coupled with the repetition of the dental consonant T in the words “rusty” and “tore” present a vivid and gory image in the mind of the reader. This language is shown throughout the memoir, leading to an encapsulating read of a young girls adventurous life.

The way in which Mary does not mention adulthood is another intriguing technique she uses. Her writing style and ability does not match the quality of a girl who simply seemed adventure and worked long laborious hours on a farm, like she suggests her childhood was made up of. This raises the question about which path her life lead after the childhood she so fondly reminisces on. It seems implausible to think someone with the writing flair she possesses had a career or some form of hobby which did not allow for her articulate her writing ability. Mary does not allow the reader to know her present or her recent past, leading to the mystery on why the particular memories she recollects on are significant in her life. David Vincent states that “The moment (the autobiographers) focus shifts from (their personal experiences) to a general history of the period, their autobiography suffers”. This could be deemed true with Mary’s blog, as she focusses solely on her own experiences in order to expose the realities of the period, rather than focussing on wider subjects. Mary’s memoir is intriguing and compelling due to the focus upon her own adventures, and with the help of her own language, exposes her own life as interesting throughout.

Bradbury, M. My End is My Beginning, Burnett Archive 2:871 1973

David Vincent, ed., Testaments of Radicalism (London: Europa, 1977, P.22

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