Mary Norreen Hart (b.1928): Purpose and Audience

‘for all my family especially my dear husband Ron, our lovely daughters Lindsey and Rosslyn, our supportive sons-in-law Ted and Paul and our five special grandsons

In the front cover of Mary Hart’s memoir, she identifies that it is ‘dedicated to Mama and Dada’ (cover page), as well as the above quote, which mentions the family she has created as an adult. This puts across the strong assertion of family influence in her life. It’s clear that she uses the memoir as a way to honour her family. This is also telling when she uses the pronouns ‘we’, to suggest that this is not just her story and her experience, but her family’s as well. She writes mostly about her childhood during the 20th century, though she uses aspects of her life in the 21st century (such as her family now) in comparison.

Purpose

Another purpose for Mary’s blog is to show her experience as a child growing up in 20th century Wales (through the good and the bad). This is telling in the title of the memoir but also in strong statements such as; ‘this is the story of my Welsh childhood – shot through with the richness of our community and the jagged edge of poverty and despair’ (5). The juxtaposition informs us that despite the poverty she endured as a child, the closeness of her community enabled them to pull through the troubling times. Mike Savage’s Social Class in the 21st Century, notes that ‘class is now a very powerful force once again’ (Savage, 2015, 11) in modern Britain. The rise in class concerns is perhaps why Mary decides to write on the difficulties of her working-class childhood in 2011.

Narrative and form

Narrative and form are key when discussing memoirs. A memoir itself is unique in form as ‘working-class autobiographies differ from classic spiritual autobiographies’ (Regenia, 1987, 343). It gives a sort of story-telling feeling to it, which Mary uses well. At one point, she pauses on her current narrative and states ‘here I am at 82 writing my story in the 21st century’ (7). The shift between past and present shows that she reflects on her childhood, while also noting that she writes as an adult after some reflection.

Content & Visuals

Screenshot of the layout of Mary’s memoir.

It’s important to point out the visual appearance of Mary’s memoir, as it’s unique from other I have read. The memoir looks like it has been laminated and bound, but photocopied for online use. There is no evidence that she has self-published her memoir, which suggests that she had printed it to show those close to her, as a sense of pride. If you’d like to see a memoir with different stylistic qualities, have a look at Zoe’s blog on Edna Bold, who uses a typewriter to write hers.

The sophistication of the memoir is clear through its structure. At the end of it, after detailing her experience as a child, she repeats important information that may be complicated (such as family trees) in appendices; ‘appendix 1: Mama and Dada’s story […] Appendix 2: Danny and Katie’s descendents’ [sic] (47). It shows that it is important for Mary that the reader understands the family connection, to understand the memoir itself.

The appendix page.
The Welsh hymn ‘Bread of Heaven’. Often sang at the Welsh rugby!

Mary also includes a vast amount of images, maps of Merthyr Tydfil and a Welsh hymn and poem. They show the deep sense of rootedness towards home (Aberfan) and puts into perspective her love for her family, both alive and dead. These visuals make the memoir more of a realistic piece, by giving evidence to go with her stories. This diminishes any idea that her memoir is fictional.

Bibliography

Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies. 30.3 (1987): 335-363.

HART, Mary Norreen, ‘A Welsh Childhood: Memories of Aberfan 1928-1945 through the eyes of Mary Norreen Hart (nee Jones).’ (privately printed, 2011), pp.63. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel University Library. Special Collections, Vol.4.

Savage, Mike. Social Class in the 21st Century (London: Pelican, 2015).

Proof read by Shauna and Zoe

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