How can one characterize the post-war British literature in terms of literary techniques, style, subject matter, common themes, etc.?

Expert Answers

Want to remove ads?

Get ad-free questions with an eNotes 48-hour free trial.

Try It Free No Thanks
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Post-War British Literature Handbook edited by Katherine Cockin and Jago Forrison, literature published after World War II is described as "the negotiation of public trauma." That is, the effects of such a global war with its catastrophic damage both physical and moral became a shattering force both in the formal structure of literary works and in psychological representations in these literary efforts. 

British literature written after the World War, is characterized by a sense of disorder and alienation. No longer secure in their traditions and culture, British authors wrote of threatening forces, both internal and external to man, the decentralization of the human in modern life, and the fear of totalitarian governments. Here are some literary works which serve to exemplify these concepts:

  • Animal Farm and 1984, by George Orwell - In both these works, Orwell focuses on the tremendous threat to the individual that Communism and totalitarianism present. Specifically, Animal Farm is an allegory and satire of Stalinist Russia. In addition, in 1984 Orwell warns against technology and the threats that it poses to the freedom of the individual and individual thought.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding - This novel is also an allegory, examines the intrinsic nature of man as the cause of war and other shattering forces as a satire of Coral Island, a Victorian novel.
  • The earlier poetry of Ted Hughes - Hughes examines the animal world for insight on the survival of the fittest. His perspective of animals struggling for survival parallells that of humans who strive for ascendancy and success. Examples can be seen in the poems "The Hawk in the Rain" and "Hawk Roosting."
  • The poetry of Philip Larkin often dealt with death and fatalism. One of his poems, "I Remember, I Remember," written ten years after World War II expresses these themes. Here are a few lines:

 You look as if you wished the place in Hell,
'My friend said, 'judging from your face.'
'Oh well,I suppose it's not the place's fault,'
I said,Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.'

  • Casino Royale by Ian Fleming- While many of the fictional narratives were satiric in nature, this James Bond tale is somewhat of a "spoof" of historic events as it contains champagne-drinking and bomb-throwing and a battle of wits in scenes reminiscent of ones from Hitler's history.