By Colin Odell, Michelle Le Blanc
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Additional info for Akira (BFI Film Classics)
Shopkeeping was another relatively low-status profession filled mainly by the middle class. In Dickens’s time, the typical shop was small and carried just one or two types of items; the large department store, selling a variety of different goods, was still in the future. In early Victorian days, shops were open long hours, often from six o’clock in the morning till 54 nine o’clock at night; many shop owners slept in rooms above the store. Shopkeepers in the mid-1800s took on a more active role in their stores than they do today.
Too often they lived on the edge of disaster. Their stomachs never quite full, their possessions few, their homes decrepit, and the dreaded specter of the workhouse looming over them at all times, it would have been understandable if the poor of the mid-1800s had simply given up. A few, to be sure, did exactly that, turning to thievery and other crimes, sinking into a state of almost perpetual drunkenness, or committing suicide by throwing themselves into the nearest body of water. What is surprising, perhaps, is that so many did none of these things.
Whatever the weather, the cows still had to be milked and the crops tended. After hours and days of repetitive tasks, farmers’ fingers became stiff and their backs ached; many became chronically ill. And the hours were unbearably long. “[I worked] fourteen hours a day in the fields,” recalled a farm worker of the 1850s. ”34 To make matters worse, it was difficult to make a decent 44 living as a farmer. Farmers were at the mercy of the weather, insect pests that tried to eat their crops, and the price of grain.
Akira (BFI Film Classics) by Colin Odell, Michelle Le Blanc