Following the First World War, the general British attitude toward the poor and their situations changed. It was then thought that it was people’s own fault for being poor. They were too lazy to work hard enough to afford better living quarters. In his writings “Road to Wigan Pier” and “Down and Out in Paris and London”, George Orwell, argues against this idea. Those who are poor, for the most part, are not well educated, and perform unskilled labor. They lack skill sets and the means to obtain a skill set that would allow them to acquire higher paying jobs.
In his short film, Housing Problems, John Grierson interviews people living in British slums. They’re not happy to be living there, but they don’t have a choice. They can’t afford to live anywhere else, and they feel some shame about their living situations. The film argues that if people are provided with well-built homes, that they can afford, they will take care of these homes. Living in the slums, people are not motivated to keep their homes clean because they’re falling apart and full of rodents.
Even in the slums, people attempted to keep up appearances, with a well-kept living room, like that of the first interviewee. This seems to conflict with the film’s assertion that only a well built home will be well kept by its inhabitants. Why did people maintain living rooms in a smilingly bourgeois style? Was it to preserve their dignity in their filthy homes? Was it to uphold personal or family identity in a row of identical homes?