People of the Abyss

The story in People of the Abyss that stood out to me the most was that of the fireman in chapter four. His views about family, education, and life itself were indicative of the overall mindset of the poor people living in the East End. It seems to me that life would hardly be worth living if the only thing I had to live for were alcohol. It is sad to think that “booze” was the one thing that could truly make him happy. He didn’t even know how to read and thought it “a vain and useless accomplishment” (27). His job as a fireman probably did not require formal schooling, not that having a superior education would have helped him find a better or higher paying job. If possible, his beliefs about family were even worse than his “philosophy of life.” Today, people often consider family a gift or a blessing, but to him, family was an unnecessary burden. He says to London, “A missus! Wot for? T’ make you mis’rable? Kids? Jest take my counsel, matey, an’ don’t ‘ave ‘em” (29). However, considering the conditions in which he was living, I have to agree with London that “not only is it unwise, but it is criminal for the people of the Abyss to marry” (30). Despite his situation, he was surprisingly positive about everything, although he was only 22 and “doomed to rack and ruin in four or five short years” (30). London’s encounter with the fireman gives the reader a glimpse of what was happening in the East End around the time of Jack the Ripper, though he saw much worse during his stay in London. 

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