The major subjects of A Better Class of Person are working-class life in the London suburbs of the 1930’s and 1940’s and the perils of being an actor and would-be playwright with third-rate repertory companies touring the provinces of Great Britain in the decade following World War II. Osborne describes these facets of his life in both gruesome and loving detail, to reveal the main influences on his development as man and artist. In treating these subjects, he depicts what he considers the pettiness and meanness of the ordinary Briton.
The most controversial aspect of A Better Class of Person is Osborne’s portrayal of his relatives, especially the women in his family. The Osbornes and Groves are seen as pushy and intolerant, emotionally distant from one another. Anti-intellectual, unsophisticated, and self-satisfied, they armed themselves with a dozen or so banal expressions to explain all the complexities of human existence. Osborne considers their use of such bromides as “One door opens and another one always shuts” ironic since they never seemed to listen to one another. He presents these people not as victims of a class system but as willing slaves to boredom:Casual entertaining or informal hospitality were like tolerating a smell on the landing or a blocked-up sink. Conviviality seldom went beyond planned visits from relatives. Whim or sudden impulse was unthinkable and blasphemed against the very idea of the God Routine....
(The entire section is 1792 words.)
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