I’m a bit of a fan of TV on a Sunday evening and I’ve been an ardent follower of “Home Fires” on BBC 1 at 9 pm.
If you follow it, you’ll know that one of the characters, Pat, is married to Bob Simms, and we noticed from the last series that Bob was a bit of a control freak to say the least. In fact, as the series progressed it was pretty clear that he regarded Pat as his personal slave more than a wife and he kept her in his thrall by continuously undermining her confidence and bullying and physically assaulting her should she dare to contradict him.
However, despite this, Pat has managed to remain a member of the WI and actually found the confidence within her to get up on stage and deliver a not insignificant speech to a pretty large audience. No mean feat for someone who was continually brow beaten.
Also, in those days children were brought up to be seen and not heard, and it was likely Pat was one of those children. This caused real issues for them as adults when it came to expressing their thoughts and opinions in front of others. It would have likely made the idea of standing on a stage and speaking to a hall full of people daunting to say the least. The fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears experienced by people nowadays.
Of course Bob found out and soon put an end to that, but one thing he wasn’t able to do was to stop her working at the local telephone exchange as this was part of the “war effort” and it wouldn’t have looked too good on him if he had.
Then, great news! Bob cleared off to the front to report on the War and Pat was left to her own devices. She blossomed now that she wasn’t chained to Bob and even started a friendship with a Czech soldier who showed her kindness and respect that she had never received from Bob.
Unfortunately, Bob was hit by a shell and returned with a leg in plaster and slowly and surely began his systematic undermining of Pat yet again.
So what should Pat do? Should she stay in the familiarity of an abusive relationship or should she leave and take that giant leap of faith into the big unknown?
Staying with Bob presents a bleak future. Nothing will change. It will be the same old bullying routine day in and day out. How long will Pat be able to put up with that, given she has now tasted the heady wine of being free from his abuse? How long will it be before the quiet rage inside her bubbles up and up until it overflows and she sticks a knife into him? How sad that would be, because in the 1940s, murder was still a hanging offence. In fact Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom some 15 years later in 1955 – after being convicted of the murder of her lover.
On the other hand, if Pat leaves Bob, the future doesn’t look too good either. She will need to find somewhere to live, and in fact may well have to move away from the area to avoid the pointed fingers and gossip, which also means she’ll lose her job at the exchange, so she’ll have to find work.
Although the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1937 made divorce easier to access, particularly for women, in the 1940s divorce was much less common that in the present day. Marital conflicts were dealt with privately in the home. The sense of “duty” that people had in those days together with the shame and stigma of being divorced kept many people together who should have parted. Also, there was no social security at that time and if a woman didn’t have her own money, she’d have to find work. The stigma of being a divorced woman was unlikely to help in any job search. Even in those desperate times, when it was “all hands on deck” including the women, social stigmas still prevailed.
But what if Pat could find the courage to say to herself “enough is enough”? What if she could dig deep down and find that spark within her that she found when she stood up and gave that speech, and what if she could fan that spark and make it bigger and brighter and bigger and brighter still so she that she was so fired up with it’s energy, energy that would help her smash that chain between her and Bob and to take that giant leap of faith and leave him and be free?
Being free will have it’s challenges, make no mistake, but it has to be better than staying in that death sentence of a relationship, doesn’t it? What do you think?