Working class autobiographies "illuminated how social position, or location in social hierarchies, [were] internalized as identity" (Maynes 3). Where otherwise the only source of information of the past would be statistics and those of historians, the autobiographies give the reader a feel of what the working classes were going through in a more personal way. The conditions in which they lived and the politics or beliefs they lived by can be examined for differences or qualities they might share. Unfortunately, there are many difficulties in autobiographies.
The working class rarely wrote autobiographies themselves. Often the autobiographers were, although they were classified as working-class, more then the average worker. They had a greater grasp of their reading and writing skills then the average laborer and usually thought themselves exemplary enough in some way to justify an autobiography. Maynes reveals, "The views they [the autobiographers] reveal come from a very particular location within working-class culture" (43).
On page four, Sebastian Commissaire is quoted as declaring in his autobiography, "workers don't write memoirs." Similarly, in order for a person to write an autobiography, he or she must have a particular reason begin writing in the first place. The numbers of autobiographies rise with the amount of influence of political and labor organizations (39). So there are difficulties in obtaining an autobiography by someone who has a full on working class perspective without the militancy, and even then, the perspective is distorted. Since the author is focused on the childhood of the writers, he or she must often depend on writing from memory, and then work usually contains false memories if not actual lies. In addition, many authors used a narrative form similar to works they grew up with, that of picaresque, fairy tales, and sermons. This gave the works an air of fairy tales though the realism is still very evident (34 - 37).
The only thing one could really get from these writings is an understanding of how people thought and made sense of their environment. These insights are used by Maynes to "trace the construction of class identities" (5) which is the basis of her book. The female perspective though is sorely lacking in numbers, an important half of the population. In most of the various genres of within autobiographies, such as success stories, conversions, etc. , there were few female contributions. Maynes therefore tries to be especially cautious in her discussion of them because there were not enough writings to make them a subgroup and because of this, the women often have more differences then commonalities with each other (8).
Yet, because Maynes is interested in the female perspective she gives the female writers equal footing in her studies. Autobiographies are not taken as historical fact but instead used as a way to study and people and their times. What they saw and how they understood it cannot be found in facts and graphs but from the accounts of their experiences in the world being studied. Maynes study is a wonderfully personal look at the lives of the working class. works citedMaynes. Taking the Hard Road...
forgot the rest.