Eleanor Hutchinson (B 1915): Purpose & Audience – Writing Lives

Eleanor Hutchinson (B 1915): Purpose & Audience

“There would be no point in my writing this – all be it rough- account of my childhood unless I was prepared to tell the truth as I remember it” (Hutchinson 1)

For Hutchinson, her autobiography serves as an unapologetic account of the events of her dizzying childhood. The autobiography begins with a forward by Hutchinson herself. This maps out her intention of providing an unglamourised account into her working class life. This is confirmed through her assurance that the memoir will include both the good and bad memories as she remembers them: “There would be no point in my writing this – all be it rough- account of my childhood unless I was prepared to tell the truth as I remember it” (Hutchinson 1). Hutchinson is aware of the draw backs of the autobiography as a genre. She is not claiming “to some impossible historical exactitude but rather to the sincere effort to come to terms with and to understand his or her own life.” (Lejeune ix).

Working class family in the 1920s

Regenia Gagnier comments in ‘Working- Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender’ on the typical form of a working class memoir: ‘Most working-class autobiographies begin not with a family lineage or a birthdate but rather with an apology for their authors’ ordinariness’ (Gagnier 338). However Hutchinson does not comply with this expectation as her memoir begins with an extensive family history and account of the place where her ancestors grew up: “It was soon after the new church was built that Grannie’s grandfather, John Hannon, was born, if not in the village, then well within the sound of the bells” (Hutchinson 8). Hutchinson does not refer to herself as being any less of writer solely because she is working class. She is well educated about her heritage and family history thus allowing for a well-rounded and intellectual autobiography.

Eleanor Hutchinson's front cover
Eleanor Hutchinson’s front cover

The Autobiography is written in 1937 when Hutchinson is only twenty-two years old. Therefore the focus of the memoir is predominantly her earlier childhood. The reason for the memoir ending at such a young age is twofold; firstly, Hutchinson’s main intention for her autobiography was to portray her life before and after becoming an orphan. Secondly, Hutchinson obtains a job in the civil service in 1937: “And that’s where the curtain really comes down as I have twice signed a form saying that I would never write about my government job – unless I got permission” (Hutchinson 156). This also implies Hutchinson’s intention of a public audience for the memoir.

The intention of publication is made apparent both in the forward written by the author, but also in the introductory chapter: “I’ll make my way to the Green where my story begins. No tale of Glory this, but rather of love” (Hutchinson 7). Hutchinson addresses the reader directly which immediately suggests that it is written for an audience rather than purely for her own personal account.

Works Cited

‘Eleanor Hutchinson’, in John Burnett, David Mayall and David Vincent eds The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography Brighton: Harvester, 1984, vol. 2, no. 429

Gagnier, Regenia.  30.3 (1987): 335-363

Hutchinson, Eleanor, ‘The Bells of St Mary’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography. University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:429

Paul John Eakin, ‘Foreword,’ in Philippe Lejeune, On Autobiography (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), p. ix.

Images Cited – as they appear on the page

      – Accessed on 26/10/2015

   – Accessed on 26/10/2015

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