Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Characters

Alan Sillitoe

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Although the protagonist Arthur Seaton is the impelling force in this novel, Alan Sillitoe makes it quite clear that Arthur’s character is grown out of his working-class environment: All of his moral and social standards are the products of his milieu. With the exception of a two-year stint in the army, Arthur at twenty-one has worked in the bicycle factory five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, since he was fifteen. His broken down, alcoholic father works in the same “monster” factory, which swallows them because their work consists of “actions without thought.” While Arthur’s Saturday nights might seem to be evenings of escape from the “monotonous graft in the factory,” even these “holidays” are spent “within breathing distance of [the factory’s] monstrous being,” and Arthur proves himself to be an extension of this monster as he frequently drinks alcohol until he is set “into motion like a machine” and bursts into fights “as if he were a robot....” Indeed, the bicycle factory circumscribes Arthur’s entire existence, and he believes that his life is comparable to that of an animal’s in a jungle: “a good, comfortable life if you didn’t weaken....” Yet, despite the fact that he is controlled by his anger toward his generally mechanical existence, Arthur thinks of himself as essentially free of the world wherein men and machines are indistinguishable, and he implicitly believes that his affairs with Brenda and Winnie, two married women, serve as proof of his exceptional freedom, for such affairs are his exercised “right.”

Brenda’s husband Jack, like Winnie’s husband Bill, is “daft” for being married, according to Arthur, and even though he views Jack as a “good bloke,” in “such a cruel world” as theirs a man should feed his various appetites whenever he can, loyalty to friends and ethics be damned. While Jack is simple, satisfied with his two-valued orientation...

(The entire section is 793 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Arthur Seaton

Arthur Seaton, a lathe operator in a bicycle factory in Nottingham, England. The blond, muscular twenty-one-year-old fights to remain independent of society, employers, and marriage. He dates married women—first Brenda, then Winnie—and engages in boisterous drinking bouts. After a beating by Winnie’s soldier husband, he settles for the single Doreen, deciding that he need not reject all that life offers to remain independent.


Brenda, Jack’s wife and Arthur’s lover. A young mother of two, she is bored with Jack and finds romance and excitement with Arthur. She is part of the dangerous “Saturday Night” life of the first half of the novel. After having an abortion, and after Arthur, discovered by Jack, has been beaten, she fades from the action.

Doreen Greatton

Doreen Greatton, a factory worker. Nineteen years old and single, she is eager to be married but seeks to curb Arthur’s excesses. She represents marriage and settling down to Arthur in the “Sunday Morning” half of the novel. She fails to get him past every pub but has won commitment from Arthur at the end.


Winnie, nicknamed “Gyp,” Brenda’s sister. She is livelier and more reckless than her older sister. She, too, has an affair with Arthur. Her husband, Bill, is a soldier stationed in Germany. He returns on leave with a friend and, tipped off to the affair by Jack, beats Arthur. By dating Winnie, Arthur hastens an end to the dangerous life that he is finding to be a strain.


Jack, Brenda’s husband and Arthur’s foreman at the factory. He is steady but dull. Rather than confront Arthur, he betrays him to Bill, Winnie’s husband.

Aunt Ada

Aunt Ada, Arthur’s widowed aunt, a large, boisterous, and nurturing mother figure whose house teems with family at Christmas. Following his beating by Winnie’s husband, Arthur becomes withdrawn and cautious. It is in her house, under her vital influence, that Arthur breaks out of his withdrawal and returns to life, but with new attitudes.