British Literature of the Blitz: Fighting the People's War by K. Miller

By K. Miller

British Literature of the Blitz interrogates the patriotic, utopian perfect of the People's struggle by means of reading conflicted representations of sophistication and gender in literature and movie. Its subtitle – scuffling with the People's conflict – describes how British voters either united to struggle Nazi Germany and wondered the nationalist ideology binding them jointly.

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A comparison of the landlord’s domestic power with the Nazis’ political power emphasizes the landlord’s benevolence and thus appears to relocate the social inequities of Ireland to Germany. The rhetorical problem here, however, is that Bowen creates a parallel in order to establish a contrast. Rather than simply convincing readers of the difference between these two types of power, the parallel reminds readers that the landlords and Nazis had something in common: Bowen’s ancestors could retain social power only by continuing to exploit the Irish peasant class.

Mine was Bowen’s Court. War made me that image out of a house built of anxious history. (BC 457) Bowen calls the house a “magic mirror,” an “illusion,” and a “private image” in an effort to establish its distance from the nightly bombing of the Blitz, much as she labels those “little dear saving illusory worlds” into which the characters of her short fiction escape. Although she hopes from this distance to find meaning in the nightmare of the Blitz, she also recognizes that the illusion is built upon both the chaotic experience of war and the shaky foundations of strained class relations, the “anxious history” that has always underwritten the power of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy.

Odd enough in their way – and now some seem very odd – they were flying particles of something enormous and inchoate that had been going on. 1 Bowen tried to redirect and control her fear that she would never finish The Heat of the Day – that instead the war would force her novelistic imagination into a “passive role” – by turning not only to the more fragmentary genre of short fiction but also to the safety of Bowen’s Court, the Irish family estate that she inherited on her father’s death in 1930.

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