As we know from the previous blog on Ingram’s home and family life, his memoir shows the strain the First World War put on his family dynamics. Ingram and his father had a particularly rocky relationship due to Ingram’s inability to do any of the things his father had done as a child and even though Ingram ‘did it all, went twice overland to the Polar sea, and southward twice to the Sahara.’ (20), it did not change his fathers views of Ingram.
Most of Ingram’s life focused on trying to accomplish something his father would be proud of and give him recognition for. It can be said that the negative relationship he had with his father brought a positive result. Ingram accomplished everything he did and became the person he was due to his father’s disapproval, it gave Ingram something to prove and worked in his favour as he became a very successful individual. Ingram grew up to be a headmaster of a school for blind children, wrote several books about his adventures, attended university and went on to have a family of his own. These accomplishments show us that some good did come out of the war after all.
However, Ingram explains ‘Nothing I did seemed to make much impression on him, except perhaps once when I was married, with a wife and baby daughter and a home of my own’ (21). It is mentioned that out of the long list of academic accomplishments, Ingram only pleased his father when he proved himself to be just like any other physically abled man in society. This highlights the pressures of society on people to conform to the norm of settling down through marriage and having a family. It takes the importance and respect away from being an educated young man and instead puts pressure on a man to have a family or face the consequences of never being fully accepted by society. According to the Economic History Society only 9% of men did not marry in 1930’s, this highlights the importance placed on being married during the twentieth century.
Ingram and his mother had a complicated relationship also, at some points in the memoir he talks about the overbearing protective nature mothers tend to have towards their children ‘Sometimes a frantic yell from the direction of the cottage indicated that my Mother had become aware of my absence’ (2). On the other hand, there are points in the memoir where he talks of her neglect when she has to work and her constant complaining to him about his father ‘Mother became increasingly bitter’ (9).
The complex relationship he had with both his mother and his father reflect the strain the war put on their family i.e. absence of a father due to the war caused the distant relationship between son and father and caused a strain on his mother and father’s marriage. The effects of the war clearly go much deeper than physical loss of family members. Ingram allows us to see this in his memoir through his damaged family relationships.
The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography, ed. by John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1897, 1989) 3 volumes, 2:430.
Ingram, Jim. A Wartime Childhood. Brunel University. 1987.
Image Reference: Marriage in 20th Century
Image Reference: Higher Education