How will these resources help you?
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
by Alan Sillitoe, published by HarperCollins, (2008), 9780007205028
The story demonstrates the hedonistic rebellion of the first working-class generation to grow to adulthood after post-war rationing and austerity. Working at a lathe in Nottingham, Arthur Seaton is the ultimate renegade: he despises authority and rejects conformity. He spends most of his wages on clothing for the weekend: embodying ‘work hard, play hard’ – a mindset championed by his generation. Arthur’s behaviour is reckless and arrogant – his affair with a married woman results in him being badly beaten. This book includes the themes of heavy drinking and illegal abortion.
Single motherhood in the 1960s
by Nell Dunn, published by Virago Modern Classics, (2013), 9781405529105
When her partner Tom is sent to prison for theft, Joy is left alone to look after their baby. Forced to move in with her aunt, she survives on modest earnings as a bartender and occasional sex-worker. Her love letters with Tom are as close as she comes to living her dream life, as she is left to confront the harsh realities of gender roles and the inescapable confines of working-class London. The love letters feature prominently in the novel and are presented verbatim, with words either misspelled or written phonetically. These daydreams symbolise how a ‘better life’ once seemed so attainable but is ultimately impossible for most people in Joy’s situation. The book includes outdated attitudes (casual homophobia and racism) and some sexual references.
A working-class playwright
A Taste of Honey
by Shelagh Delaney, published by Methuen Drama Bloomsbury, (2008), 9781408106013
Working-class, 17-year-old Jo and her mother Helen begin the play by sneaking out of their previous accommodation and moving elsewhere in Salford; a common tactic for people who were unable to pay rent. The story highlights issues relating to class, race, gender, and sexual orientation, and was revolutionary at the time. This is another classic story from the ‘kitchen-sink realism’ genre which amplified working-class stories.
Jo begins a romantic relationship with a Black sailor called Jimmy. They agree to marry, but Jimmy goes to sea and leaves Jo pregnant. Jo is openly concerned that her mother will be angry when she discovers she has a mixed-race grandchild. Jo then forms a friendship with a gay man called Geoffrey, with whom Jo’s mother also has an issue. On top of that, her mother’s problematic relationship with her new husband Peter highlights further issues.
Novels That Shaped Our World - Contemporary working class authors
published by BBC, (2019)
Novels That Shaped Our World - Elizabeth Gaskell
published by BBC, (2019)
In Context - An Inspector Calls – Social and political context of 1945
published by BBC, (2008)
Text © Matt Abbott, 2020.