While tenement life was a hard and unrelenting one, it did have a sense of community that is lacking in our modern society.
The way that the neighbours come in and look after Granny when Maggie is away at the hospital reveals a co-operative society where people help those in distress. They also come to have tea and to ask for
a wee tate this or that.
At times Maggie is tried by their presence. They are interfering and gossip about her -
Problems! she hasnae hauf got them, Puir Maggie. Maggie is afraid that they are continually passing judgement on Alec’s previous crimes -
Mrs Harris and Mrs Bone- and yon Wilson wumman – everytime her an Alec comes face tae face, I can see her rememberin.
The lack of privacy in the tenement setting is apparent here. Alec’s actions can never by covered up by the family. Folk know your business and you know theirs.
Due to the number of people living in such an overcrowded space, gossip spreads through the closes as does infection and infestations like head lice. Despite the restricted living conditions, the Morrisons’ lives are exposed to the vast neighbourhood.
John is quite bitter about the intrusive
wumman. He says sarcastically on their arrival in Act I -
Come in ladies, come in. It’s aye open hoose here. This is perhaps because to John they represent a cohesive female group that might be assessing his own behaviour.
Maggie admits the reason for such living -
It’s only rich folks can keep theirselves tae theirselves. Folks like us hev tae depend on their neighbours when their needed help.
Again poverty is defining their lives for them. Maggie can’t escape her neighbours, just as she can’t escape her hardships.