Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
~  Sarah  Warren ~

Toynbee Hall, Hull House, and the Nineteenth-Century Settlement House Movement

Elizabeth George: The Destructive Effects of Power in London Society

Elizabeth  George
Elizabeth George illustrates a corrupt London society influenced by the hunger for power and damaged by institutionalized racism. In her novels, With No One as Witness and What Came Before He Shot Her, George utilizes her characters to demonstrate the human desire for authority. The novels define human nature by testing it against the corrosive aspects of society and observing the outcomes. Sharp contrasts are explored between those who attain power, usually adults, and those who yearn for power, typically the youth of society. Fu, a serial killer from the novel With No One as Witness demonstrates the destructive effects of enduring an abusive upbringing when he murders the youth of London. His actions stem from his damaging past and his desire for power in life. Feelings of inferiority and fear, combined with the destruction of communities and loss of humanity, sparks the need for reformation in society and those affected by its immorality.

The nineteenth century in London was a time of extreme poverty and poor educational opportunities which called attention to the need for reformation.There was a large breach between the rich class and the poor class that sparked class tensions and conflict. Overpopulation caused homelessness among the lower classes. Jane Addams founder of Hull House, was inspired by Samuel Barnett, founder of Toynbee Hall in London. Both activists addressed the problems of the underprivileged by establishing settlement houses to benefit the poor. Ordinary people resided in the houses and lived among the poor, helping them search for job opportunities, shelter, and education. Ultimately, the advocates of the poor and their settlement houses proved to be a success as they narrowed the gap between the rich and poor classes, and built a more united society.

Major Works Consulted:

Besant, Walter. East London. New York: Century, 1901.
George, Elizabeth. What Came Before He Shot Her. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
---. With No One as Witness. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
Washburn, Henry Bradford. The Religious Motive in Philanthropy. New York: U of Pennsylvania P, 1931.
Photo Credit: George, Elizabeth. With No One as Witness. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.


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