Doris Hunt (1900) : Purpose and Audience

Doris Hunt starts her memoirs off in a very normal fashion, telling us her date and place of birth, ‘I was born in 1900, in Manchester’ (p1).  This appears to be a very average first line of an autobiography, suggesting that she doesn’t feel the need to draw her audience in. The first page of Doris’s autobiography begins with Doris reminiscing about the street entertainment that was on the street she grew up on, this informs us of the culture she grew up around and sets contexts for the readers.

Oxford Road in the Early 20th Century | by Greater Manchester Police
Oxford Road in the Early 20th Century | by Greater Manchester Police

Throughout the memoir it doesn’t seem that Doris uses any particular technique to interact with the readers, although the sharing of her family life, upbringing and personal stories do allow the reader to feel closer to Doris as she connects with them on a personal level. There are no clear cut points about controversial matters or events. She simply just tells us the story of her childhood upbringing, and events within her family home. Sharing both times of happiness, sorrow and hardship, autobiographies have ‘the potential to tell us not merely what happened but the impact of an event of situation upon an actor in the past’ (Vincent, 1980, 226)

Throughout her writing, there is no mention of anyone other than her family. Doris does not tell us of any friends, colleagues or neighbours suggesting that this autobiography is purely focused upon her childhood and family. Perhaps she didn’t want anything to distract away from the story of her childhood and family.

During the past, working class women’s autobiography’s often placed emphasis on ‘childhood, girlhood, schooling rather than adulthood’ (Swindells, 1994, 137). This links in with Doris’s writing as we see the Hunts’ home life from solely Doris’s perspective. This is interesting for us as readers as it allows for us to see working class home life and upbringings from a child’s point of view. Within Doris’s writing she does not speak on behalf of her family or parents; she solely speaks for herself. This is illustrated clearly when Doris expresses her emotions in regards to her little sister’s funeral when the coffin was placed under the cab driver’s seat. She tells us that ‘for some reason it filled me with indignation’, feeling that it was ‘cruel’ (p3). This shows how Doris spoke her mind and didn’t explain things from her parent’s point of view, for example, she could have easily justified this by putting it down to class or lack of money for a hearse.

It is evident throughout the autobiography that Doris is academically talented, as her writing is structured and correct. This is confirmed whilst we read the events of Doris’s childhood, as she attended school from an early age, often being the top of her class. Even when she had to take time off school to work half a day at the mills she makes a point of telling us that she would not fall behind as she ‘had already had 12 months in the top class’ (p9). It is evident that Doris was very proud of her academic talents and thoroughly enjoyed her education. To some extent is seems that Doris almost makes a point of her intelligence, informing us that she read Dickens at an early age and also not letting us forget that she learnt at a high level of education throughout her childhood. This seems to be confirmed by the comment ‘For I was ashamed of the fact that I was a mill-girl – had my father lived I was going to be a teacher’. It suggests that she felt cheated out of a better future by her father’s death (p10), telling us that she knew she could have achieved more than just being a mill girl if circumstances within her life did not hold her back.

Doris doesn’t elaborate much further than her childhood during her writing. She ends ‘But that, I think, must be another story- this one is just about my own early life’ (p14). She grabs our attention on the last line claiming that her next writing ‘would have to cover a wider field and involve a larger cast of actors’ (p14). This could be interpreted to mean people who she met and connected with in Canada, her fiance and also maybe children of her own.   Here she allows us to see a glimpse of the life she made for herself, however, seems cautious of showing us too much. It seems as if she does not want to detract from the story of her childhood and upbringing. I think this line is a very clever tactic from Doris as she cunningly raises her reader’s curiosity and interest in the next chapter of her life. Perhaps she did write a second memoir!

Picture of Doris's note to leave her writing to her son and her current address and the time of publishing
Picture of Doris’s note to leave her writing to her son and her current address and the time of publishing

*At the end of Doris’s autobiography she notes her address and also a message to say that she wished to keep a copy of her writing for her son. At the time her writing was published she was living in Suffolk and we believe that Hunt was her married name- if anybody thinks that this may possibly be a relative of theirs please get in touch!

References

428 HUNT, Doris, Untitled, TS, pp.14 (c.5,000 words). Brunel University Library.

Swindells Julia. Victorian Writing and Working Women. Routledge London and New York, 1994.

Vincent, David. ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class.’ Social History, 5.2 (1980): 223-247.

Images

Oxford Road in the Early 20th Century | by Greater Manchester Police:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/gmpolice1/8455551833

Picture of Doris’s note to leave her writing to her son and her current address and the time of publishing :428 HUNT, Doris, Untitled, TS, pp.14 (c.5,000 words). Brunel University Library.

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