“… so I had to carry on the Best I could th[r]ou[gh] life…”Lord, p:1
Regenia Gagnier, author of Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity and Gender, wrote, “In conditions of long work hours, crowded housing, and inadequate light, it was difficult enough for them to contemplate themselves, but they had also to justify themselves as writers worthy of the attention of others.”Gagnier highlights that for a working-class individual to consider themselves a writer, one of which whom produces works of such high quality, that they would be deemed fit to be read and appreciated on a vast scale, is not only stressful, but also slightly bizarre. Not only did the working-class have personal struggles of their own, in relation to work and home life, but they now had the added pressure of proving themselves to be good writers. Thus, in Annie’s case, not only did she share the worries that the majority of working-class autobiographers felt, but she also had to consider as to whether she wanted to talk about her disability and if she did, would it be well received and would people care.
Throughout Annie’s memoir, it is clear that her sole purpose in writing, is to document her life. Through her memoir, she is able to consider all that she has accomplished, along with everything that she has survived. Even though Annie focuses on numerous topics throughout, such as, her family (during her childhood), her marriage and husband, even her children. Ultimately, this memoir gives Annie a voice to tell her story. However, it is clear that Annie, like many other working-class writers, struggles to speak solely about herself. Nan Hackett speaks of this in her article, ‘A Different Form of “Self.”: Narrative Style in British Nineteenth-Century Working-class Autobiography. She writes that “even in this very personal, subjective and supposedly egocentric genre, the ‘I’ is minimized and even depersonalized.” (Hackett, p: 210) Thus, Hackett highlights many working-class people, like Annie, had never experienced what it felt like for somebody to want to hear their story and so to suddenly have to talk about yourself and your experiences so frequently can be rather daunting. Annie frequently uses the term, ‘we’ rather than ‘I.’ This is most likely due to not being used to having to talk about herself so frequently.
Additionally, Gagnier states, “Most working-class autobiographies begin not with a family lineage or a birthdate but rather with an apology for their authors’ ordinariness…” (Gagnier, p: 338) Although Annie does nostalgically reflect upon her positive and happy childhood, she does not go into great detail about her lineage. She does not divulge any family members names, nor does she give any exact details relating to where she lived and grew up. However, despite not specifically saying it, Annie’s tone does appear to be apologetic and almost dismissive when talking about herself, particularly when detailing aspects of her life that could be viewed as traumatic. For example, when Annie writes of how her abusive husband would act and treat her, she says such things as, “Well anyway…” and, “But, there it was…” (Lord, p: 3) Thus, it appears as though Annie is aware of the significance these instances had on her life and so they must be documented throughout her personal memoir. However, she is also aware that speaking of how her husband used to abuse her can make readers uncomfortable. Furthermore, without actually stating it, Annie apologises for mentioning these distressing topics by attempting to dismiss and move swiftly past it, by using the turns of phrase stated above.
It appears as though the primary topic of Annie’s memoir is her disability. She begins by stating, “I was Born deaf in one ear…” (Lord, p: 1) and ends by stating; “… there are plenty worse off than me under the circumstances it goes Back to the deafness…” (Lord, p: 8) Therefore, her memoir does not appear to be hopeful in raising awareness for deaf people specifically, nor does it attempt to glorify or praise Annie for what she did or what she went through. However, her memoir does address the topic of disability, in broad terms and how both mental and physical disabilities can drastically change your life.
Furthermore, despite her often sad and resigned tone, the overall message is positive and uplifting. Without intentionally doing so, Annie highlights that, regardless of the many hardships she faced throughout her life, she still found reasons to be grateful, such as, her three children and the amazing memories she made as a child, that she can keep forever.
Gagnier, Regenia. (1987) ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies30.3: 335-363.
Hackett, Nan(1989). ‘A Different Form of “Self”: Narrative Style in British Nineteenth-Century Working-class Autobiography’. 12.3: 208-22
Lord, Annie. ‘My Life,’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, 2:486.
‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies. From, JSTOR: https://www.jstor.org/journal/victorianstudies