Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Regarded by most critics as Sillitoe’s best novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning has been frequently read as a proletarian version of Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim (1954), and Sillitoe himself was consequently grouped with writers who, when his novel was published in 1958, were labeled “angry young men,” including Amis, John Braine, John Wain, and John Osborne.

In terms of the intensity of his anger, Arthur Seaton is less like Amis’ Jim Dixon, of Lucky Jim, than like the characters created by the other, above-mentioned “angry young” writers: Dixon, for example, while rebellious (in a humorous and bungling way) against middle-class values and the various pretensions he views as germane to academia, is only mildly angry. Whereas Joe Lampton, of Braine’s Room at the Top (1957), certainly seems as angry as Arthur, in his disdain for the working class into which he was born he is more similar to D. H. Lawrence’s Paul Morel, of Sons and Lovers (1913), especially since he, unlike Arthur, desires to be a part of the upper classes. Charles Lumley’s anger, in Wain’s Born in Captivity (1953), is as intense as Arthur’s, even though it is directed against the educated middle class of which he is a part. And Jimmy Porter’s sadistic anger, in Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (1956), makes no class distinctions and is directed at everyone.

Besides their rebelliousness and...

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