Tell A Tale in 500 Words

A writer's story of the East End By Georgia Prince

The story of a writer, can be summarised by his lust for responsibility and change. This writer lives on a street. This street is in the East End. There is no need to say in the East End of what. The East End is a vast city, as famous as the city it belongs to. But who knows the East End? It is down through Cornhill and out beyond Leadenhall Market and Aldgate Pump. One will say: a shocking place, a heinous network of slums that hide human creepers; where filthy men and women live on pennyworths of gin, where collars and clean shirts are mysteries unknown, where each citizen wears a black eye, and none ever combs his hair. The East End is a place, says another, which is accustomed to the unemployed. And the unemployed is a race whose enemy is soap. Still another knows the East End only as a place whence children are born and reared in circumstances which give them no reasonable chance of living decent lives: where they are born damned to a criminal career. It is the writer’s privilege to seek his material where he pleases, and it is no man’s privilege to prevent access. If the community has left horrible places and horrible lives before his eyes, then the fault is the community’s; and to write about these places and these lives becomes not merely his privilege, but his duty. If he is a rich man he might attempt to render responsibility in one way; if he is a statesman, he might try in another. Being neither of these things, but a mere writer, he seeks to do his duty by writing a tale whereby he can only hope to bring the conditions of this place within the grasp of others. Many and murky are people’s notions of the East End; and each is common but a distorted shade of a minor mark. Foul slums there are in the East End, of course, as there are in the West; want and woe there are, as wherever families gather together to fight for food. But they are not often spectacular in kind, in fact, the East End wherever he goes have all too similar features. As a writer of fiction he cannot glorify or sentimentalise the urban poor, but he can try to demonstrate that the low classes are not merely victims of idleness, impertinence or misfortune, but above all they are victims of poverty imposed on them by a hierarchy, and slums are the notorious places of social exclusion, degradation and vice. This writer's story cannot finish until the story is no longer fiction. One might say therefore, that this writer's story will never end.

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