Poverty And Social Class In Arthur Morrison’s A Child Of The Jago

1883 words - 8 pages

Arthur Morrison’s A Child of the Jago (1896) is intrinsically linked to the social class system and poverty. The novel is set and published during the late Victorian age, a period in which the working class experienced a relentless struggle against the harsh realities of social and working conditions. Moreover, in his paper The Working Class in Britain 1850-1939, John Benson highlights the disparities between the poor and the economy during the era as a result of the Industrial revolution and urbanisation(Benson, 2003,p.30). Although, Benson's argument is valid when focusing on a social novel such as A Child of the Jago; because through his childhood the protagonist Dickie Perrot commits heinous crimes and becomes incredibly defiant in the old Jago; On the other hand, Benson's argument does not explain how and why an individual would succumb to these acts. Morrison makes it clear in his preface to his readers and critics that he wrote the novel to expose the trails and tribulations of the poor and the grim realities of slum living through the characterization of Dicky Perrot ' It was my fate to encounter a place in Shoreditch, where children were born and reared in circumstances which gave them no reasonable chance of living decent lives: where children were born foredamned to a criminal or semi criminal career' (Morrison, 1897). Despite, the novel being set in the fictional genre, elements of Morrison's personal life is prevalent throughout the text. Morrison originates from a working class background and collaborated with Reverend Osborne to campaigned for a variety of social reforms and slum clearance in the Old Nichol (Matlz, 2003). Thus, the novel is based on the conception of reality rather than fiction for its audience. Although critics such as Keating has critically acclaimed Morrison's slum literature ( Rawlinson, 2006, p.159 ), the novel has sparked many debates amongst literary critics and historians in relation to the complexities of class in late Victorian Britain. With a particular focus on class as its primary theme, this content of this paper will discuss Morrison's representation of criminality in A Child of the Jago.

Morrison adopts a third person narrative, offering the reader to examine the whole spectrum of poverty and criminal behaviour . In addition, the novel utilises a range of literary techniques styles such as Gothic elements to convey the grotesque and morbid imagery of the slums. For example, Morrison's use of calamitous settings in the opening pages 'lurid sky.. mingled stink – the odour of the Jago' reinforces the filthy living conditions of slums in the Jago. Moreover, The Jago is where ' women and men had swarmed...and died, like wolves in their liars' (Morrison, 1896)
The animalistic and ominous tone in this passage emphasises the idea of East End London as a place of savagery, degeneration and danger. Furthermore, Morrison's authorial voice has led Stilltone to refute...

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