Thursday, 25 January 2018

Spotlight on Brief Encounter 3

Hell is Being a 20th Century Woman

The 1959 film ‘Hell is a City’ contains an interesting scene that has relevance to our Mrs Laura Jesson. In ‘Hell is a City’, the main character is an up-and-coming senior policeman, whose home life is suffering because of his long and unpredictable hours. His wife is bored and unfulfilled and this leads to arguments. In his opinion, she should prove her worth as a woman and have a child. This, it seems, is the only remedy that she needs. She wonders about getting a job but that move is out of the question. A man of his status could not be seen to be “sending his wife out to work”.  Her employment, no matter what it was, would bring shame onto him.

Fred Jesson is obviously a man of some status too – we don’t know what he does but their home is well furnished, they have a telephone, they take ‘The Times’ newspaper and they talk nicely. Very middle class. Definitely no milk bottle on the table. So we can deduce that Laura has no job because it would reflect badly on Fred.

Laura looks on jealously at someone with a life outside those walls
The highlight of Laura’s week is her weekly trip to Milford, where she changes her library book and goes to the cinema. It’s a bit dreary really, isn’t it? At times of frazzlement, I do admit that her lifestyle has appealed to me – but I would have to have my own money somehow. If I lived off another I would never dare treat myself and that would be the height of dreary. Instead, I just take days off work and don’t tell anyone and go off to Sheffield for a day of treats – this is what gets me through the grind. But it’s all the better because there’s no guilt. I’ve earned time off and I’ve earned my spending money.

I wouldn’t live in Laura’s world for anything. Sheer boredom must have been a major factor in pushing her into the doctor’s arms – a fling costs nothing and puts roses in one's cheeks. I wonder how many marriages went that way before society gave us our independence?

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