Start your trial for FREE today! Access thousands of brilliant resources to help your child be the best they can be. What was World War II? World War II lasted from to The UK declared war on Germany on 3 September It was announced by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. While many countries were involved in the war, they each took sides — either with the Allies, or the Axis. The main Axis countries were Germany, Italy and Japan. It was made up of lots of air battles that lasted from 10 July to 31 October Germany invaded Poland.
The evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk, France. June German troops occupied the Channel Islands. Italy declared war on Britain and France, and allies with Germany. The Battle of Britain. The Blitz begins in London. The Siege of Leningrad. The United States declared war on Japan, and joined with the Allies.
The Battle of the Bulge. Japan formally surrendered, and officially ended World War II. Even though World War II involved countries all over the globe, there were two sides fighting against each other — the Axis powers and the Allied powers. The UK was part of the Allies. Two types of aeroplane were used in the Battle of Britain — bombers that dropped bombs on towns and cities and fighters that attacked other aeroplanes.
They tried to destroy German bombers before they could attack British towns and cities. They used the bombers to attack towns and cities, and the fighters to stop the RAF fighters from destroying German bombers. Did you see that one up Walton Street? Smashed to bits it was. For example, one civilian describes her bombed Stepney neighborhood as follows: Unexploded bomb. Building fell on a group of men and women. Screams, groans, sudden rush back of the people followed immediately by a rush forward. Women fainted, mass hysteria, men threw a fit. Men, women and children crying and sobbing.
Frantic parents searching for their young. Pub near by [sic] full of casualties. Dead and dying on the pavements. Legs and arms of little children — all burned and scarred they are. You can see them through the bricks. Little children, no more. The Simons. These changes shaped the construction of blitz narratives both during and after the war. For example, Mrs P. It was night mare, earth quake [sic], firework show all rolled into one. It was hell let loose, men fighting fires, fear, 4 British Literature of the Blitz fatigue.
Fighting for their lives and others. Carrying the mutalated [sic] bodies almost flat out on their feet, but still fighting. As a result, many civilians not only had remarkable war stories to tell but also recorded them — a phenomenon that demands more literary critical attention than it has yet received. At no other moment in history have so many British citizens felt compelled to write so extensively about their daily lives and ideas.
The compulsion indicates a widespread need to represent individual blitz experiences in a meaningful way, and one purpose of this book is to give these representations of the Blitz the literary critical attention that they deserve. When soldiers in foxholes received letters from home, the letters all too often described exactly that relentless, unpredictable violence from which soldiers had tried to protect civilians in the past.
I spilt my tea all over myself, Sally [a friend], and the tablecloth; but no harm was done. I suppose it was an unexploded bomb going off. The increasing danger to women and children on the home front became part of wartime propaganda. Much of the documentary footage shot for the MOI both before and after this decision therefore includes images of falling bombs, anti-aircraft fire, and the recovery of survivors from the wreckage of the Blitz.
In the past, soldiers had fought and died on the battlefield, while civilians had watched and waited at home. The Blitz transformed the relationship between home front and front line by forcing civilians to fight like soldiers and soldiers to watch and wait like civilians: now everyone was fighting, and everyone knew the danger that threatened loved ones. The increasing availability of information shaped wartime political rhetoric and literature in crucial ways.
Even in early , before thousands of civilians had experienced the bombing firsthand, Mass-Observation 6 British Literature of the Blitz reported that the public would not tolerate rigid, controlling propaganda: There is great public dissatisfaction with present heavily censored newsreels. Its audience response, in terms of laughter, nearly equals an indifferent Disney. MacKenzie asserts: The heroic imagery, the rolling prose, the absolute refusal to admit defeat, had made the Prime Minister almost the living embodiment of all that Britons felt was greatest in themselves.
In an opinion poll taken in July an astonishing 88 per cent of respondents expressed confidence in his leadership — and in the face of almost unrelieved military disaster. The speech praises and unites British civilians as soldiers fighting for their country: The sublime but also terrible and somber experiences and emotions of the battlefield which for centuries had been reserved for the soldiers and sailors, are now shared, for good or ill, by the entire population.
All are proud to be under the fire of the enemy. Old men, little children, the crippled veterans of former wars, aged women, the ordinary hard-pressed citizen or subject of the King, as he likes to call himself, the sturdy workmen who swing hammers or load ships; skilful craftsmen; the members of every kind of A. This is indeed the grand heroic period of our history, and the light of glory shines on all.
The implication here is that the common cause of national defense has not only reduced the distance between front line and home front but also broken down class boundaries and called into question the inequities of established gender roles. In appealing to those great abstractions of liberty, justice and democracy, Churchill offered no proposals for change; these ideas were for him already embedded in parliamentary government and the British constitution, if not in the national character itself. Least of all did he expect his rhetoric to radicalise a popular movement for social reform.
His horizons were limited by the strategic objectives of war. These objectives, however, depended upon the consent and co-operation of the ordinary people on every front. The Beveridge Report, however, anticipated and responded in practical terms to this changing tide by outlining a specific plan for postwar social change. The plan offered specific benefits to the British public: [It] provided that all wage earners would contribute equally in weekly installments and, in return, they would receive a uniform rate of benefit.
Their contributions would be supplemented by increased employer and state subsidies. National public assistance would be available for people who were not covered by the plan. Proposals for a national minimum wage with child benefits provided as a supplement for wage earners with children and the formation of a national health service were central to the plan.
Rose 65 The plan was exactly what many civilians wanted. Thus, scholars such as Arthur Marwick and Phyllis Lassner have argued that the war broke down or exposed conventional boundaries within gender relations and between social classes; others, including Gill Plain and Harold Smith, have concluded that little social change occurred in wartime Britain. Rawlinson argues that the literature translates the material reality of wartime death and destruction on the home front and front line into the abstract idealism of political discourse.
This book analyzes fiction, film, and personal testimony, moving from the literary fiction aimed at the middle and upper-middle classes to the pulp fiction and popular films consumed primarily by the middle and working classes conscripted into subordinate military and industrial ranks. Identifying in the literature a basic cultural need to imagine the paradox of a unified nation composed of individuals often at odds with one another, British Literature of the Blitz concludes that the imaginative representation of vastly different blitz experiences was an essential part of wartime life across social strata in British culture.
Hall, 4 Sept. Similarly, a suburban housewife asserts that the war has eliminated her class prejudice: The war has finally enabled me to get rid of early suburban inhibitions re[garding] meeting with supposed inferiors: I now work in a factory and like the people. I also go to public wash-houses, so I have more acquaintances among people of different social classes than ever before. Part of the reason for this discourse of difference may have been the way in which Mass-Observation framed its question to respondents: Has your attitude to any of the following things changed at all since the war began, and if so in what ways has it changed: Please answer this question in some detail, and where possible trace your attitude through the war: a money b clothes c security d people in different social classes from yourself e sex f politics g conscientious objectors.
Even the experience of the Blitz itself was not the same across classes, since people had very different routines and sheltering practices depending on social background. As a result, many working-class people sheltered in the underground Tube stations, which were dirty and over-crowded, as this Mass-Observation report confirms: When you get over the shock of seeing so many sprawling people, you are overcome with the smell of humanity and dirt.
Dirt abounds everywhere. The floors are never swept and are filthy. People are sleeping on piles of rubbish. The passages are loaded with dirt. There is no escaping it. The arches are dank and grim.
Battle of Britain’s history: How the myth of WWII shaped Brexit
They are lighted well, until black-out time, and then all the lights on one side are put out, because the black-out arrangements are inadequate. There they sit in darkness, head of one against feet of the next. There is no room to move, hardly any room to stretch The sirens went at about 8 p. Lots of people were asleep, but in general it was too early for this. But already, at 8, people were beginning to cough, and this coughing spread, and lasted throughout the evening.
I developed a cough and sore throat, in the early stages of the evening. Everyone there was working class. The hotels offered select people the chance to shelter in comfort: The best place to be in a raid — if one could afford it — was one of the large, steel-framed hotels. For the well-off, the Dorchester became the focal point of London after dark.
The Turkish baths had been converted into a luxurious air-raid shelter, while dancing and dining went on throughout the Blitz in the downstairs grill-room. The unequal choices available to people from different social classes in wartime exacerbated existing social tensions. Sonya Rose takes as one example the evacuation process, which should have bridged the social gap by resettling lower-class urban mothers and children with rural families in the English countryside.
The reality was that the privileged civilians who found the myth of the Blitz most compelling often had only passing knowledge of what life was like for their working-class comrades in arms, and their knowledge was frequently based on no more than a few intense moments during 16 British Literature of the Blitz the Blitz. The destruction made visible the impact not only of social class but also of gender upon wartime civilian experience. The British government began formally registering women for war work in April and announced female conscription on 2 December Women also worked in factories, manufacturing munitions by day after sheltering from enemy bombardment all night.
These changes in conventional gender roles were particularly exciting for the privileged women who had never considered entering the workforce before the war. Penelope Barlow, a university-educated young woman working in a winding factory during the war, describes for Mass-Observation her relationship with a lower-class co-worker, Eileen Braithwaite: I told Eileen that I was going on Saturday; that I only came for a month to get a practical background to a theoretical education and to see how another class of people lived and worked and thought.
So I followed the family into the mill.
- British Literature of the Blitz: Fighting the People's War by Kristine A. Miller - gyqacyxaja.cf;
- British Literature of the Blitz - Fighting the People's War | K. Miller | Palgrave Macmillan.
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These two women must work alongside one another for the sake of the war effort, but the shared experience cannot erase the social differences that remain between them. Yet even when women belonged to the same social class, they often disagreed about wartime gender issues much as they disagreed about changes in class relations. In the middle class, for example, some women perceived positive changes in gender roles during the war: I feel better pleased about the position of women in the country to day [sic] than I have ever felt before, because they are being allowed to bear their share of the burden.
I feel that they should continue to have more responsibility after the war. I disagree especially when they demand these rights and then want to be treated as women as well. I should like to see women return to their true position — that of wives and mothers. In these accounts, writers are often so emotionally fraught that they become trapped within inadequate and contradictory wartime discourses as they try to describe their blitz experiences. On duty one night early in the Blitz, Oakman is shocked to discover a warden who was a personal friend buried beneath the rubble of a bombed building: Thorpe was under the arch — I rolled him over and saw his face — God — he had none and what he had was a mess.
All the limbs were broken and lay at horrible angles. I recognised him by his hair, uniform and ring on his hand. London can take it! But at a cost — of lost lives, broken hearts and limbs and destroyed homes. The Lord help them — these victims of the air raids! My time has not yet come. The man in the street has been and is my first and last concern — and that mere thought has kept me in Chelsea A.
I just went down the Post and when I come back it was as flat as this here wharfside. There was just my house like — well, part of my house. My missus were making me a cup of tea for when I come home. She were in the passage between the kitchen and the wash-house where it blowed her. She were burnt right up to her waist. Her legs were just two cinders The only thing I could recognize her by was one of her boots. She used to read to me like. We had a paper every evening. Above all else, home-front British literature values the voicing of individual opinion, even — or especially — when individuals do not agree: a utopia that denies the freedom to critique utopianism is no utopia at all.
My approach to literature of the Blitz parallels the approach that Mass-Observation took to the submissions of its volunteer writers during the war. They advertised for volunteer writers in the New Statesmen and other newspapers and journals, initially recruiting about men and women to record their personal observations about life in a country soon to be at war.
The goal was to collect and analyze a wide range of individual opinions that expressed the freedom of thought for which the Allies would eventually have to fight. Hall Mere public opinion polls and market research organisations aimed at rapid results and sought information only on particular issues; Mass-Observation studied people from all angles all the time.
Rather than trying to quantify the views of the population at large based on a statistically representative sample, Mass-Observation aimed to qualify wartime ideas about popular thought based on an idiosyncratic group of narratives describing everyday life. Despite its qualitative approach, Mass-Observation frequently drew conclusions about the British population, and the MOI even employed the organization to report secretly on a variety of propaganda and morale issues during the war.
In all Mass Observation made more than reports for the Ministry of Information and a number for other Government Departments. It was once used by the Ministry of Information, but not now. It is a dirty affair. The problem was not only that Mass-Observation was so actively seeking new projects but also that it tended to mitigate even the most general of its conclusions about the British public. The sample of Mass-Observation volunteers may not have been statistically representative, but it did include male and female writers from different social backgrounds who described in detail their experiences during the Blitz.
In constructing this argument, the book places the literature of the Blitz not only at the center of British wartime experience but also at a crucial moment in British literary history. The modernist emphasis on psychological conflicts and aesthetic tensions has led critics to de-emphasize twentieth-century war writing, because its central problem is real material violence. Marina MacKay and Lyndsey Stonebridge have addressed this gap by situating writing that they define as modernist within the social and political realities of the Second World War. I take a different approach, arguing that since so many civilians endured home-front violence, representations of the Blitz occur not just among a modernist elite but at all levels of culture — from the literary novel to the hastily scrawled letter.
This vast body of blitz literature engages with realistic material detail, much like the nineteenth-century novels against which modern and postmodern literatures have typically defined themselves. Examining the writing of civilians profoundly affected by the bombing of the home front, I suggest that British literature of the Blitz demands its own place within dominant narratives of modern literary history. As civilians, these men not only failed to live up to the masculine ideal of the soldier hero but also found themselves living alongside women who were working and fighting like heroes in the Blitz.
Chapter 4 challenges the dominant critical view that bestsellers and genre fiction reproduce mainstream political rhetoric uncritically in order to ensure commercial success. Instead, the chapter suggests that Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and Graham Greene all manipulated the conventions of detective and spy fiction in order to attract a diverse reading public desperate not for escape from the Blitz but for understanding of it. Chapter 5 brings the book to a close by extending its argument to the genre of film, the most popular cultural medium during the war.
The chapter analyzes four of the biggest box-office smashes of — The Gentle Sex, Millions Like Us, In Which We Serve, and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp — films that were produced after some of the heaviest shelling on the home front in —41 and at the height of civilian mobilization. Most scholars contend that the popularity of these four box-office hits was the direct result of their success as motivational wartime propaganda. She acknowledges this anxiety in a review of V. It is by dislocations, by recurrent checks to his desire for meaning, that the writer is most thrown out.
The imagination cannot simply endure events; for it the passive role is impossible. Where it cannot dominate, it is put out of action. Having written six novels in the 11 years between and , Bowen spent the following 11 years working on one — The Heat of the Day — which she composed both during and after the Blitz and finally published in Not surprisingly, the time-consuming process of completing The Heat of the Day was unsettling for a writer who was usually so prolific.
Furthermore, Bowen found herself juggling the various professional obligations of writing The Heat of the Day, volunteering nightly as an ARP warden in Marylebone, and traveling frequently to neutral Ireland, beginning in , to investigate public opinion for the MOI. Seeking to restore the dominance of her imagination at a time of so much upheaval, Bowen tried to conceive of the Blitz, on another level, as a time to expand her identity by exploring new freedoms.
According to Victoria Glendinning, the Blitz revealed to Bowen how sheltered she had been before the war: Psychologically, one of the results of the war for Elizabeth was the breaking down of boundaries and barriers. Tellingly, 28 British Literature of the Blitz Bowen describes her explosive outburst of short-story writing during the Blitz with imagery of shrapnel: The stories had their own momentum, which I had to control.
The acts in them had an authority which I could not question. Odd enough in their way — and now some seem very odd — they were flying particles of something enormous and inchoate that had been going on. They give clearings in woods, reaches of mountain or sudden turns of a road a meaning and pre-inhabited air. Ivy grapples them; trees grow inside their doors; enduring ruins, where they emerge from ivy, are the limestone white-grey and look like rocks.
Soon after black-out we keep that date with fear. The howling ramping over the darkness, the lurch of the barrage opening, the obscure throb in the air. But when tonight the throb gathers over the roof we must not remember what we looked at this morning — these fuming utter glissades of ruin.
No, these nights in September nowhere is pleasant. I felt a hood of misery over me that threatened to choke me. I felt my efforts were feeble and doll-eyed, and that anything I could possibly do was so futile as to be utterly worthless. She dismisses her bout of depression as a rarity brought on by the heat and her busy schedule.
However, a closer reading reveals that the family history not only celebrates but also questions the safety that Bowen sought on the Irish estate. The outsize will is not necessarily evil: it is a phenomenon. It must have its outsize outlet, its big task. If the right task is not offered it, it must seize the wrong.
We should be able to harness this driving force. Not the will itself but its wastefulness is the dangerous thing. At the same time, the hastiness reveals an equally urgent desire to maintain the illusion of Irish social harmony by contrasting fascist power with the more harmonious social relations on the site of the Big House.
The rhetorical problem here, however, is that Bowen creates a parallel in order to establish a contrast. Bowen recognizes this problem, even as she struggles to sustain her hope of retreating into domestic harmony. Or, you might have called the country a magic mirror, reflecting something 32 British Literature of the Blitz that could not really exist.
That illusion — peace at its most ecstatic — I held to, to sustain me throughout the war. I suppose that everyone, fighting or just enduring, carried within him one private image, one peaceful scene. War made me that image out of a house built of anxious history. Furthermore, she concludes by asserting the legitimacy of her own response to the war: The war on Britain was undergone by all types. Not only the People were people, so were others. For the general run of us, existence during the war had a mythical intensity, heightened for dwellers in cities under attack.
The majority of us, living through those years, did not attempt to rationalize them, nor have most of us done so since. War is a prolonged passionate act, and we were involved in it. We at least knew that we only half knew what we were doing. Deborah L. Rather, the fiction examines critically the disparate experiences of women from various social classes even amidst wartime propaganda that promised universal social equality and gender equity. In those days England was very stratified. Here we were all doing the same thing, without distinction. From the perspective of working-class women, however, the prospect was not usually so exciting or liberating.
A young female pilot describes her very different perception of intensified class distinctions during the war: I was a working-class girl who learned to fly to make a living. They owned their own planes, had their own friends, and you were never invited to their homes or parties. Uneducated and conscripted, these women were typically assigned to perform manual labor, either in the lower ranks of auxiliary military units or in the factories.
Angus Calder and Dorothy Sheridan comment on a Mass-Observation report that describes the burden of factory work: The war may have offered adventure, travel and professional training to certain women, mainly those in the higher ranks of the Forces, but for many others, particularly women with family responsibilities, it imposed a double burden — that of combining an often strenuous job outside the home with the task of rearing children and managing housework.
In addition to being strenuous, factory work was also notoriously dull. Mass-Observers stationed in war factories noted the repetitive nature of the work: On almost all of [the machines] the work is very simple and monotonous, involving simply placing the part in position it is usually impossible to do this wrong and then the raising or lowering of a handle, or some such action. With a few exceptions, the work here involved neither mental nor physical effort of any kind. Constance Reaveley, a lecturer in political philosophy who worked in various factories during the war, describes the work as drudgery that would cripple even the most agile and active mind: I realised that if you have ten hours a day for thinking of things to do and only two or three very weary ones for doing them, you either become accustomed to unfulfilled purpose [ Like many other people I chose the second alternative.
Hartley, Hearts The repetition inevitably numbed the impulse to think creatively and independently, and as a result, women working in war factories often found it difficult to be politically engaged: For, paradoxical as it may seem, life in a twelve-hours-a-day war factory makes one feel further removed from the war than one could in any other type of life. By the nature of her work and its long hours, she is cut off from the daily life of her community; she is sheltered from its day to day difficulties and problems.
These women from different social classes had a history of vastly different kinds of work experience. The gap between these feminine gender roles remained wide until the ideal of the domestic angel came under direct fire in the manpower crisis of — Britain initially conscripted unmarried women who were between 20 and 30 years old — year-old women were added to the pool in early — giving them a choice between the auxiliary services and industrial labor.
Fighting the People's War
It was calculated that, among those between eighteen and forty, nine single women out of ten and eight married women out of ten were in the forces or in industry. Calder, PW No longer was war work only for women who needed the money; Britain required most of its women to join in the cause of national defense. The resulting changes of lifestyle during the Second World War were far more dramatic for upper- and middle-class than working-class women. However, a closer examination of the wartime stories reveals that they are concerned not only with the contrast between a nostalgized past and an intolerable present but also with the parallel between two very different kinds of fantasy about the past and present.
Rather than resolving the conflict between these equally untenable ideals, her wartime short fiction explores the problem of constructing upper-middle-class identity from the materials of fantasy. Constructing characters whose retreat saps rather than strengthens their upper-middle-class identities, Bowen critiques her own temptation to search for the self within a nostalgic fantasy of an idealized past.
Leaving the servant behind as caretaker of the London home, the privileged mistress protects herself at the expense of the more patriotic servant. The problem, however, is that the story portrays very little positive social change. Sometimes I hardly knew where I stopped and somebody else began. The violent dislocation of solid things, the explosion of the illusion that prestige, power and permanence attach to bulk and weight, left all of us, equally, heady and disembodied.
Walls went down; and we felt, if not knew, each other. We all lived in a state of lucid abnormality. Read together, the stories mark the difference between nostalgic retreat and utopian engagement in wartime as a choice between competing fantasies equally dependent upon social privilege. Rather than resolving the conflict, The Heat of the Day examines it in more comprehensive detail: the fictional Stella Rodney faces much the same dilemma as Bowen, but distance allows Bowen the novelist to be more critical of the class hierarchy than Bowen the memoirist.
Examining the experiences of upper-middle-class women like Bowen and Stella alongside the much more circumscribed lives of working-class women during the Blitz, The Heat of the Day calls into question social identities founded upon either the nostalgic fantasy of a remembered past or the utopian fantasy of a revolutionary present.
Stella also shares the social privilege and freedom described by upper- and upper-middle-class women like Mass-Observers Diana Barnato Walker and Penelope Barlow — and, of course, like Bowen herself. She had in her background relations, connexions, and at least former friends. In The Heat of the Day, Stella embodies this problem, but unlike Bowen herself, the fictional Stella is surrounded by minor characters who find it impossible either to retreat blithely into the safety of convention or to advance 44 British Literature of the Blitz heedlessly toward the excitement of social change.
Specifically, The Heat of the Day introduces two pairs of characters who are linked to each other by their names and to Stella by their emotional and symbolic functions. Robert Kelway and Robert Harrison embody the choice confronting privileged women like Stella in wartime: she must learn to negotiate between what appears to be an intensely private relationship with her lover, Kelway, and an exclusively political relationship with the government agent, Harrison.
On the other hand, Harrison is a British intelligence officer, a purely public figure whom Stella views not as an individual but as an agent of government action. However, Stella gradually comes to the realization that these two men are individuals rather than symbols and that the private and public spheres cannot be so clearly separated. Perversely, the only way he can think of to establish and foster intimacy is to blackmail Stella: he suggests that if she ends her relationship with Kelway and begins one with him, he will hide from the British government the fact that Kelway is passing national secrets to Nazi Germany.
He breaks the rules in both parts of his life, intimidating Stella rather than loving her and betraying his political knowledge for the prospect of personal gain. Like Harrison, Robert Kelway also radically distorts the relationship between private life and political action: while Harrison fabricates a private fantasy from his political knowledge, Kelway generates a political dream from his private experiences. When he was a boy, Kelway too felt watched and confined by his family and their home; as he grows older, he begins to associate the social order of the family with the political order of the nation.
What country have you and I outside this room? His mistake here is in equating his early home life with politics. Kelway lies to both his country and his lover because he believes that treason will free him from the oppression of both political ties and family life. Like Harrison and Kelway, Stella is tempted to shelter herself within a fantasy. Although she wants more than anything to continue ignoring Harrison and loving Kelway, regardless of the treasonous behavior corrupting both relationships, the novel repeatedly criticizes characters who indulge their fantasies in this way and thus fail to recognize the connection between their own actions and the world around them.
Wistaria Lodge tries to protect inmates like Nettie from the difficulties of an often troubled and currently war-torn world. However, even as Wistaria Lodge appears to shelter its inmates, the rest home limits their ability to be fully engaged citizens. Rather than taking an active interest in the world around them, the residents of Wistaria Lodge turn inward and away: This was a window at the back of a home at the edge of a town; Roderick recollected that Cousin Nettie had not for years now looked out of any other.
And years ago she must have ceased to look out of this, for today she sat with her back to it with finality. Ultimately trapped and helpless within the voluntary prison of Wistaria Lodge, Cousin Nettie becomes a metaphor for the madness of longing to retreat completely from the war and the world around her into a fantasy of imagined shelter. Stella learns to recognize the madness of her own fantasy of asylum with Kelway only once she begins to perceive the Blitz as a real, inescapable part of her life.
In confronting these fictions, Stella admits that the personal concerns of both men are intricately, if awkwardly, connected with their political choices. The grind and scream of battles, mechanized advances excoriating flesh and country, tearing through nerves and tearing up trees, were indoor-plotted; this was a war of dry cerebration inside windowless walls. She looks out her window at the ruins of the home front and recognizes that the destruction of London has resulted from the dry cerebration that leads people to create an idealized but untenable separation between private life and public duty.
This is indeed a birth of imagination, 50 British Literature of the Blitz for Stella must completely reconceive her relationships with the two men in order to question Kelway about his treasonous spying. However, Stella is so busy giving birth to her own understanding that she fails to notice these parallel struggles for Roderick and Louie.
She is a loving mother who welcomes Roderick home when he is on leave and corresponds with him regularly while he is in Army training camp. She can therefore reap the benefits provided by her family estate without paying their price. However, many of the middle- and upper-middle-class women who chose interesting war work for the duration also chose marriage after the war.
Although she is not overjoyed at the prospect of marriage, her reasons stay ambiguous, and the choice remains her own. Stella is compelled neither to manage the affairs of the Big House nor to live as a wife within its walls, but she can nevertheless use her privileged background to create postwar opportunities for herself and thus to continue shaping her identity to her own advantage. Stella remorselessly leaves Roderick to manage alone the Big House that bolsters her identity even as it threatens to crush his own.
Once again, the novel invokes the metaphor of childbirth to describe identity construction, but in this case, childbirth describes masculine identity and property ownership rather than feminine identity. The place had concentrated upon Roderick its being: this was the hour of the never-before — gone were virgin dreams with anything they had had of himself in them, anything they had had of the picaresque, sweet, easy, strident.
He was left possessed, oppressed and in awe. He heard the pulse in his temple beating into the pillow; he was followed by the sound of his own footsteps over his own land.
The consummation woke in him, for the first time, the concept and fearful idea of death, his. Ahead were his five days more here; ahead again was the possibility of his not coming back. He had not till tonight envisaged not coming back from war. These needs are much like those of his mother: Roderick is tempted to retreat from the world at war into a completely private fantasy. Stella knows that her own identity depends upon a refusal to retreat into nostalgic fantasy, but she does not share the insight with her son.
Instead, she enjoys both the security of her social background and the freedom of her life in the Blitz, leaving Roderick to pay the price of her freedom, as both a landowner in Ireland and a soldier for England. At the same time, however, Bowen acknowledges and represents the tensions within this myth of the Blitz.
However, these cross-class wartime relationships are never as enduring and liberating as they promise to be; instead, they are temporary and typically controlled by the party of higher social standing. In the stories as well as in The Heat of the Day, Bowen exhibits a self-conscious ambivalence about the fantasy of social mobility that often delighted her in wartime. The differences could be quite profound: choosing to work in a factory for the duration, upper-middle-class women like Constance Reaveley could also choose to return whenever they liked to the comfort of their peacetime lives.
Like Roderick Rodney, Louie Lewis is a troubled, almost-grown child who looks to the more experienced, self-confident Stella as a mother figure who can help her to articulate her identity. The danger in imitating Stella, however, is that Stella associates each of these young people with one of the class-specific fantasies that allow her to give birth to her own imaginative power.
The hapless Louie finds herself quite unable to defend an undefined self against the relentless power of this utopian fantasy. For Louie, however, the metaphor of childbirth goes a step further: not only is she entered and overpowered by a fantasy that benefits primarily privileged women like Stella, but she also becomes literally pregnant at the end of the novel.
Bored with her work and lonely without her soldier husband, Louie searches for excitement and companionship in adulterous relationships — but gets only an unwanted pregnancy. Remembering her childhood in this now-absent house and wandering around the adjacent fields, Louie holds the newborn up to the sky, where British bombers are flying back from war.
Like other women of her class, Stella tends to perceive the war as an equalizing force because she does not fully comprehend the complexity of female working-class experience. Louie is passive because she has little choice: a real, illegitimate baby would have made impossible for Louie the freedom that Stella experiences — even, or perhaps especially, the freedom to remarry a man of her choice. After the death of her soldier husband, a single mother like Louie would have had difficulty supporting herself and her child.
This idealized image of the wife and mother was also central to moral rhetoric during this period. Despite the increase in wartime sexuality, there was a strong popular and legal bias against women who committed adultery during the war. When Stella chooses to remarry, she is therefore making a moral, political choice unavailable to women like Louie. An account of a murder trial in the London Times illustrates the legal impact of this moral and political code: Cyril Patmore, 35, a private in The Royal Scots Fusiliers, father of four children, and home on compassionate leave from India, was charged at the Central Criminal Court yesterday with the murder of his wife, Kathleen Patmore, 39, by stabbing at Greenhill Road, Harlesdan, N.
It was alleged that his wife had been unfaithful while he was abroad on Army service.
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Like Roderick, who must manage the home that protects the fantasy of uninterrupted social power and freedom, Louie must tend the baby that represents the dream of a utopian future. In both cases, the fantasies shelter Stella 58 British Literature of the Blitz from the ideological confusion unleashed by the Blitz, allowing her imaginative freedom without personal cost.
Ironically, however, the choices facing both Stella and Bowen are not between retreat and engagement but between different forms of retreat, since even their involvement in the war was circumscribed by the privileges and opportunities of their upper-middle-class status. It is this profound sense of ambivalence that characterizes much of the literary fiction of the Blitz. There were times when Lehmann lived close enough to the Blitz to see its devastating impact for herself. Although she resided at her country home in Ipsden, Oxfordshire about 50 miles west of London during the first year of the war, often called the Phoney War because 59 60 British Literature of the Blitz there was no bombing, she did visit London regularly during the worst months of the Blitz between September and May In March , Henry Yorke whose work, written under the pseudonym of Henry Green, is the subject of Chapter 3 offered Lehmann a room in his Kensington flat for a few nights a week so that she could more easily collaborate with her brother, John, on Penguin New Writing.
There was some bombing in London during this time, most notably on the nights of 8 and 19 March. However, by the time Easter arrived on 13 April, Lehmann had left London for good, taking her children for a vacation to Llanstephan in western England until 1 May and then moving with them back to her family estate at Bourne End in Buckinghamshire closer to London but still 35 miles away in May The Buckinghamshire Records Office confirms that Bourne End itself was not targeted during this period, although on 5 May , a hotel in neighboring Taplow did suffer some bomb damage.
During her residence in Aldworth from until the end of the war, the only major bombing of the area occurred on 10 February , when Reading town center about 15 miles away was hit by four enemy bombs; there were approximately casualties, of which 41 were fatal. In addition to the limited time that Lehmann spent in danger areas during the Blitz, she also did a very limited amount of war work. It just makes my last faint hope of preserving a little leisure for writing recede altogether.
As a result, the two writers handled their anxieties differently: while Bowen sought inspiration amidst the London bombing, taking only occasional trips to Ireland, Lehmann sought privacy in the country, taking only occasional trips to London. Despite this difference in distance from the Blitz, Bowen and Lehmann shared very similar social backgrounds. By this time, both women had married men of their own class: Bowen wed Alan Cameron in , while Lehmann married first Leslie Runciman in and then Wogan Phillips in , when the union with Runciman dissolved.
The Heat of the Day describes in detail the exciting social scene in wartime London enjoyed by both its characters and women like Bowen and Lehmann: This was the new society of one kind of wealth, resilience, living how it liked — people whom the climate of danger suited, who began, even, all to look a little alike, as they might in the sun, snows, and altitude of the same sports station, or browning along the same beach in the south of France. There was plenty of everything in London — attention, drink, time, taxis, most of all space.
In love with an exclusive society made more exclusive by the Blitz, privileged women often shared with characters like Stella the thrill of the high life in bombed London. And unlike many of her contemporaries, she was fortunate in being able to continue in a stable and reasonably comfortable way of life. Lehmann lived life with the lid on both in and out of London, and she found her upper-middle-class security confirmed rather than threatened by the distant violence of the Blitz.
Her fiction allowed her the critical distance to analyze this state of privileged insularity. The possibility that many British citizens were living such sheltered lives disturbed some members of the British government. Gamman, an MP in the House of Commons, suggests concern that differences in civilian experience might cause morale problems: Capt. Elsewhere there is no evidence that people have been much moved about the subject [ Londoners feel that there is not enough realization by the rest of the country of what they have gone through. However, Mass-Observation materials suggest that callousness was not the issue.
Another series of observations submitted around the same time focuses more particularly on the country living that caused so much concern at the MOI. I know I am intellectual and academic. Furthermore, the metaphor of academic testing calls attention to her class status and magnifies the social gap between those women who could and could not choose where to live and work in wartime. Although Lehmann wrote and published the stories during the Blitz, they all describe the setting of her own life in wartime: a peaceful, rural England far removed from both the physical and the social upheaval of the bombing.
The protagonists of these stories exhibit an unselfconscious sense of social entitlement that distances them from the working and lower-middle classes, an attitude that seems archaic and outmoded by the time of the Second World War. One thought, of course, of sailors freezing in the unimaginable wastes of water, perhaps to be plunged beneath them between one violent moment and the next; of soldiers numb in the black-and-white nights on sentry duty, crammed, fireless, uncomforted on the floors of empty barns and disused warehouses.
In her soft bed, she thought of them with pity — masses of young men, betrayed, helpless, and so much colder, more uncomfortable than human beings should be. But they remained unreal, as objects of pity frequently remain. Somebody should tell them she could not stand it. Supplies are getting scarce for people like you. An end, soon, of getting more than their fair share for dwellers in country houses. Ripe gifts unearned out of traditional walls, no more.
All the while your roof was being sealed up patiently, cunningly, with spreading plasters and waxy shrouds. Along with their wealthy neighbors, the Carmichaels, the Ritchies take charge of this fundraiser for the Armed Forces, hoping both to entertain the community and to raise money for the troops. Really a remarkable effort for a small village. Nevertheless, rather than unifying the members of this rural community, the event causes contention: Nerves are getting frayed on the committee [ I hoped we could avoid class antagonism by having half gentry, half village, but it seems to be working out the opposite way.
What it comes to is, the village feel we ought to be running it all for them. Instead of uniting the village citizens in a common wartime cause, the fundraiser does little more than offer the privileged Ritchies and Carmichaels an excuse to throw themselves a private dinner party and ball celebrating the success of their play. Lehmann explores the extent of this social isolation more fully in The Ballad and the Source. The novel describes the domestic conflicts within the Jardine family as military campaigns rather than private quarrels, focusing in particular on the supremely egotistical Sibyl Jardine.
She had outwitted and outlasted. When the real war started and every one else was in a state of chaos, it seemed to me a mere rumble on the horizon. Everything had happened for me. More importantly, however, the military language reminds readers of the context in which Lehmann wrote the novel between and Ultimately unable to control either her family or her narrative, Sibyl loses substance, becoming an echo of a mythic past eradicated by trench warfare. For Lassner, The Ballad and the Source carefully balances the attractive and the nightmarish qualities of mythologizing: while myth may offer some comfort, it can also become totalizing.
However, The Ballad and the Source is more than just a symbolic echo of national crisis; it directly and specifically analyzes key issues of the Second World War. The novel employs echo imagery not to indicate absence but to demonstrate the continuing presence of an unchanging upper-middle class. This echoing across generations gives the impression of a family little changed by time and experience. Sibyl is critical of her daughter, Ianthe, who ensnares herself within a trap of self-love: She was afraid of the world.
They shut themselves up and look only at pictures of themselves, because these they can adapt and manipulate to their needs without interference, or wounding shocks. The world sets snares for their self-love. It betrays them. Like yeast. She throws out all she has — her beauty, her gifts, her power over people — and objects — and events; and it works. Each time she tries it out, it works like magic. Up come all these disturbing, magnetized self-images.
Lehmann extends her critique of upper-middle-class stasis and insularity in The Echoing Grove, her only depiction of the Blitz itself. Composed between and , the novel was finally published in , 13 years after the first major bombing of London and nine years after the V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks. Even when Dinah and Madeleine seem to sympathize with people from different classes, they actually do little more than project themselves into their own preconceived notions of other social roles.
Moving backward and forward in time, the narrative resurrects the past in order to reconcile the sisters in the present. However, unlike Rickie, who dies of the ulcer during the Second World War, DayLewis eventually tired of Lehmann and turned from her to yet another affair in — this time with Jill Balcon, the actress daughter of Ealing filmmaker Michael Balcon. The crusade has to be personal, individual. However, The Echoing Grove offers Lehmann critical distance from a subjective view so intensely personal that it became insular. By embedding the individual psyches of its characters within the larger political unconscious, the novel invests its narrative with significance beyond the psychological without falling prey to the cults or mass movements that Lehmann so deplored.
Critics of The Echoing Grove have generally represented the war as a universal experience, characterized either by radical social change or by a status quo resistant to change. While some civilians believed that the bombing allowed greater freedom and increased opportunity for women during the war, others observed that women seemed constricted and constrained by their wartime duties. Thus, when the sisters meet to reconcile their differences years after the end of the affair, they portray themselves as survivors: This present mood in which they sat relaxed was nothing more than the relief of two people coming back to a bombed building once familiar, shared as a dwelling, and finding all over the smashed foundations a rose-ash haze of willow herb.
No more, no less. It is a ruin; but suspense at least, at least the need for sterile resolution, have evaporated with the fact of the return.