Issued by William Hogarth in 1751, “Gin Lane” and “Beer Street” were painted in support of the “Gin Act”. They show the difference between themisery of gin drinkers and the happiness and good wealth of those who drink beer. This may sound surprising, but at the time the beer was considered as a healthy drink.
The overall impression of theprints is their depiction of opposites. The inhabitants of “Gin Lane” are represented struggling in a world of despair and decay, while their neighbours live in peaceful prosperity. “Gin Lane” and“Beer Street” show two contrasting views of London.
At the center of the painting “Gin Lane”, there is a drunken mother who is carelessly taking a pinch while her baby is falling and saying that it’sshocking would be an understatement. It certainly means that those who drink gin have no concern for anything else. The corpse below on the steps appears to be a travelling ballad-singer and the balladhanging from his basket is called “The Downfall of Mrs. Gin”, it might be a reference to the Gin Act. On the left is a pawn shop, with its characteristic symbol hanging over the door. Pawn shops madegood business out of gin addiction because everyone was ready to sell anything to get some gin. The pawn-broker seems to be estimating the value of the saw (as it’s a tool of work so we can assume thatit symbolizes work) and the pots and pans (which, for me, symbolize home) that the man and woman wish to sell to be able to buy gin.
There are two gin shops in the picture, both represented by thejug hanging outside. The other figures in the picture illustrate the social consequences of gin drinking and are here to shock us. In the middle ground on the right side there is the mother forcing gindown her child’s throat. Behind her there are two young girls drinking gin. In the background, behind the drunken mother, we can see a child impaled on a stick and another one crying while his...