Alan Sillitoes: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

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When Alan Sillitoe’s ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ was first published in 1958, the novel shook the literary world with its groundbreaking portrayal of working class life in Nottingham. Arthur Seaton, the main character in the novel, was considered to be the archetypal ‘angry young man’. The novel was seen to belong firmly to the movement referred to by critics as the School of Angry Young Men. The writers of this movement were considered revolutionary in the way that they portrayed everyday people and their lives with gritty realism. Some of the writers of the time felt uncomfortable with the label but the commercial success it brought was welcome - most of the novels were immediate bestsellers. Although there is some disagreement, it is generally accepted that the beginning of this style of writing lies with the play Look Back in Anger (1956). The play, later made into a film, is about an intelligent but disaffected young man called Jimmy Porter, his upper-middle-class wife Alison, and her best friend. The play graphically shows their squalid way of life and shocked audiences of the time. It was, nevertheless, a success on the London stage, and spawned the term "angry young men" to describe Osborne and other writers of his generation who employed harshness and realism. Alan Sillitoe was certainly affected by Osbourne’s play, saying he "didn't contribute to British theatre, he set off a landmine and blew most of it up." Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is Sillitoe’s most famous work but he encountered difficulties when trying to get the work published. It was rejected five times, though some publishers expressed an interest on condition that Sillitoe re-wrote certain things. The work was too realistic for them. Sillitoe refused and eventually found a publisher who was prepared to take the work as it was. Interestingly, although Sillitoe wrote about
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