There is no denying that Pat found pleasure in his writing. Before the publication of The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy, he had published other works detailing his life. His first publication in 1932 was titled Taxi Heaven where O’Mara described his life as a taxi driver. It is clear Pat enjoyed writing about his life from the many publications of his books. Therefore, I had wondered, what makes The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy so different from the rest of his books? As I delved deeper into the life of Pat, I came to the conclusion that he was a man who was once unsure of his identity as a young Irish boy living in Liverpool. However, he becomes a voice for the experience of minorities living in his Liverpool community and tells the tale of his own life, and also the ‘Negroes, Chinese, Mulattoes, Filipinos, almost every nationality under the sun…each laying claim to a certain street.’ (O’Mara p8)
One quotation that speaks volumes in Pat’s autobiography asks: ‘Why write when so many books had already been written?’ (O’Mara p221) This quote he places carefully on the last page of his autobiography which led me to question, why had Pat written his story when there are many autobiographies written already? I think the answer lies in the details hidden throughout the pages in this story. Pat tells a brutally honest account of his life, and the difficulties he faced growing up, from his abusive father to his experience moving around regularly, and it’s clear that Pat had no sense of belonging in his life. He is so honest in his autobiography that this story not only interested me as a reader but taught me about the conditions of working-class people in Liverpool. This is a story that can inform and educate everyone who reads it.
The beginning of Pat’s story gives the reader an insight into his background. Both his parents and grandparents were Irish which becomes a significant part of Pat’s story as it has an impact on his own identity but also on how others perceive him. He was an Irish boy living in Liverpool and therefore questions his identity from an early age. From a reader’s perspective, it becomes easier to understand the confusion and the lack of belonging for young Pat because as Liam Harte put it ‘what we find articulated in the text, therefore, is a hybridised version of belonging in which Irishness is mutually constituted with Britishness’. Pat desires acceptance from the people around him as he tries to find a way to fit in with the rest of his community. However, by the end of the story, Pat, now an adult, achieves the ‘American Dream.’ (O’Mara p9) He is successful and no longer living in poverty. Although, it is without question, Pat doesn’t forget where he came from as he takes pride in speaking about his background of an Irish settler, now living in New York.
In his memoir, Pat frequently observes those around him — especially those in a similar situation as himself as he describes the workers he was around as ‘hopeless and helpless’ before they encounter a ‘swift and mysterious death.’ (O’Mara p4) It seems as though Pat wanted to provide a voice for those hopeless and helpless workers, the minorities in his community, and not only tells his story but tells the difficult life of poverty for those around him.
Although Pat doesn’t explicitly say who he is writing for, the descriptions of his surroundings and inclusivity of the people around him make it clear that he is writing for those who haven’t been able to tell their story perhaps because of their living conditions or educational background. Pat becomes a writer who fulfils the American Dream not only for him, but for the lives of many other families to give a story of hope and happiness. He is speaking for his community as he uses others’ experiences as a way to inform the reader. This makes Pat’s writing a piece of work that exposes the truth and allows the reader to acknowledge that this isn’t just his story, but a documentation of the lives of the working-class living in poverty during the twentieth century. His writing becomes history.
Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies, 30. 3 (1987), P343-344
Harte, Liam. The Literature of the Irish in Britain Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
O’Mara, Pat. An Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy. The Bluecoat Press. Liverpool. 1994.
O’Mara, Pat. Taxi Heaven. The Vanguard Press. Liverpool. 1932.
Young, Phil & Bellew, Jim. Whitbread Book of Scouseology. Volume Two. Merseyside life 1900-1987. London Road Shops. p22
O’Mara, Pat. An Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy. Pat O’Mara. The Bluecoat Press. Liverpool. 1994. p1