Task 2B: Social conditions, identity, and life in the UK

Outline of “Clean Living London” by Ursula Dewey

Task 2B asks you to discuss what the story “Clean Living London” by Ursula Dewey in Appendix 2 reveals about social conditions, identity, and life in the UK today.

Hilda is an immigrant from Thailand whose real name is Phwata and who works as a cleaner in various homes and offices. She likes the domestic jobs more because they give her the chance to see the better parts of London. Experiencing the nicer parts of the city makes Hilda want more from her life.

Hilda remembers that she had other expectations about living in London, dreaming of better housing, better economic conditions, and about finding a partner. Actual life in the UK has made these dreams seem harder to achieve.

On a Wednesday, she decides to do the two houses she has to clean faster because she wants to meet a prospective client in the evening to earn some extra money.

First, she goes to the Long family, where the mistress of the house gives her precise instructions about how to clean the house. But her house is almost always clean, which makes Hilda suspect that Mrs. Long also cleans it and she only hires help because she feels her social status requires it. 

The Beauville family house is smaller and untidier, which Hilda suspects is because of the three children. Hilda also knows that there’s a lot of stress in the house because she saw smashed plates and picture frames once. After she finishes, she uses the bathroom to freshen up, using some of the owner’s cosmetic products. 

As she is about to leave, she hears voices arguing, and it turns out to be Mr. Beauville and Mrs. Long. Hilda notes that Mr. Beauville has some of Mrs. Long’s lipstick on his mouth.

The woman at the agency told her to avoid seeing her employers, because they do not like to be reminded that someone cleans their dirt and knows their secrets. Hilda rushes out of the house before her two employers go inside.

Discussion

The short story explores numerous aspects about social conditions, identity, and life in the UK today through characters and plot.

Social conditions

Hilda’s character explores issued related to the condition of working-class immigrants. She is an immigrant fr...

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