Poor Classes

Posted on October 1, 2015 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 1 Comment

October 17th is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go, although conditions do have improved since the writing of the following 10 gems from our catalog.

Poverty pushes people to the fringes of society. D. H. Lawrence paints a sensitive picture of the ones that usually go unnoticed in urban life, in this case just before the beginning of WWI, in his poem Embankment at Night, Before the War: Outcasts.

A haunting description of the abject living conditions and rampant violence in the East End of London is A Child of the Jago. The novel by Arthur Morrison takes his cues from real life in the Old Nichol Street Rookery.

There is always somebody profiting from people’s misery, and Harry Trench is shocked when he finds out that his fiance’s father is one of them. However, he is not quite in the position to take the high road in George Bernard Shaw’s unpleasant play Widowers’ Houses.

Hunger is a terrible feeling, and the unnamed protagonist of Knut Hamsun’s novel is suffering greatly. His physical and mental breakdown and his resulting delusional existence are realistically detailed, after all, they are loosely based on the author’s own experience.

Openly autobiographic is John Barleycorn or Alcoholic Memoirs by Jack London. The famous author recounts his life as an addict, both the phases of white light alcoholic inspiration and lucidity, and the brutal negative effects brought on by his so called best friend.

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets has only one place to go when her alcoholic mother turns her out of the house. Find out whether her life improves when she seeks shelter with her boyfriend in the first novel by Stephen Crane.

A voluntary descent among the lower classes was undertaken by Robert Louis Stevenson on his 1879 trip from Glasgow to the US. Buying almost the cheapest ticket available, he documents his encounters with the poorest of passengers in The Amateur Emigrant.

Once off the boat, life does not miraculously improve though, especially when you are the target of racism. Mark Twain, in his famous satirical fashion, highlights the bad treatment of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco in Goldsmith’s Friend Abroad Again.

Frank Owen knows how to make things better, and he tries to convice his fellow workers that the root of their poverty lies in capitalism. Will he succeed to convert his friends to the socialist cause in the famous novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell?

Poverty is not the end though, often work and will are much more important. Sarah Knowles Bolton recounts 28 Lives of Poor Boys Who Became Famous, among them Samuel Johnson, Mozart, Oliver Goldsmith, and Abraham Lincoln.

Enjoy – and enough for everybody!

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1 comment

  1. Keith Phillips, MD FCFP says:

    John Barleycorn or Alcoholic Memoirs by Jack London is an amazing description of the experience of alcoholism. It clearly identifies the slow and steady increase in tolerance to the alcohol, describing putting off daily start times for his literary work by stages. First he starts to write in the afternoons, then earlier in the afternoon, then around lunch, then finally by mid morning. The patient is very much in denial at the loss of control, and the steady decline in function with regard to relationships and general health. His behaviors are easily identified by anyone who has lived with this potentially fatal illness.

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