Lecture Notes

Week 5 Lecture

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Anschluss and Appeasement

Jan Struther wrote indirectly about the Anschluss and the Munich Agreement in Mrs. Miniver.  The “Gas Masks” chapter is the most obvious nod to the coming war and Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement.

  • 1930s: Began writing for Punch magazine
  • Peter Fleming of The Times (London) asks Struther to write a series for the newspaper that reflects the life on an “ordinary” British woman.
  • Of note, The Times is a paper supportive of appeasement.
  • 1937-1939: Writes “Mrs. Miniver” column.
  • 1939: The pieces are collected as a book, which is very successful on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • 1942: Mrs. Miniver becomes a cinematic hit for MGM.
  • Mrs. Miniver was such a hit in the U.S. that Struther was invited to do a lecture tour across the States. Struther would also fundraise for the war in the U.S.
  • British critical response to the novel was less than enthusiastic: “What answer can the villagers make to a lady who is so amusing, clever, observant, broadminded, shrews, demure, Bohemian, happily-married, triply-childrened, public-spirited and at all times such a lady?” – E.M. Forster
  • American critics overwhelmingly saw the book as a symbol of British strength in wartime: “if England is full of Mrs. Minivers, then it is going to be mighty hard to soften Britain.”

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