British Literature of the Blitz: Fighting the People’s War by Kristine A. Miller (auth.)

By Kristine A. Miller (auth.)

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Sample text

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. The chapter extends the analysis of social inequity from Chapters 1 and 2 by suggesting that wartime gender relations were also more conflicted than they appeared to be within People’s War ideology. In Chapters 4 and 5, the book retraces the steps of the first three chapters in order to demonstrate how popular fiction and films of the Blitz – just as much as literary texts – represent and market the freedom to imagine the People’s War in different ways.

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.

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 ... and her face ... The only thing I could recognize her by was one of her boots. I’d have lost fifteen homes if I could have kept my missus. (Chrisp 23) The warden begins by charging Hitler with a reckless violence that Britain must combat, and the phrase “smashed up me home and me missus in the same night” describes the resulting damage in material rather than emotional terms.

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