Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is a novel following the rebellious life of twenty-two year old Arthur Seaton. Arthur spends his weekdays working at a bicycle factory and relaxes on weekends with plenty of drinks while in the company of various lady friends. The novel was written by Alan Sillitoe who came to be known as one of the “angry young men.” This group of writers was a dominant literary force during the 1950s and was immensely popular due to their accurate portrayal of postwar Britain and the working class. The angry young men produced a number of books (amongst other things) expressing their contempt with the class system, postwar welfare state and the lack of class change post war, the disdain of these issues are very prominent throughout Sillitoe’s novel.
The 1950s was also known, as ‘the age of affluence’, which was a period of time featuring high employment rates, wage increases, and rising consumer purchases. From 1951 to 1961 the average weekly income of men rose from 8.30 pounds per week to 15.35 pounds per week. With employment levels running high and production up, items once unobtainable by the lower classes soon became everyday household objects. For example, television sets were rare during the early 1950s but by the early 1960s seventy-five percent of households had one. Sillitoe alludes to this growth in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning when Arthur makes a statement about seeing antenna’s on almost every chimney on the street.
The angry young men were a group of writers who expressed their distain for the government through their work. The writers were angry for various reasons, but one such reason was that after the war the British government worked hard to implement the new welfare state. The legislation made changes to the education system by making higher education more accessibility for all classes. This resulted in a number of lower class students becoming educated above their classes, but failed to give them any opportunities because of their position within society. Although Sillitoe does not make reference directly to the changes in the education system in the book, he does make reference to how he feels about the government and how “they” (meaning the government) think they have made everything better by issuing insurance cards and television sets to the mass. This also gives reference to how the welfare state introduced the concept of free health care after the war, which was meant to help the people of Britain but came with its own share of problems.
The angry young men also expressed their discontentment with the rigid structure of the class system. The strict divide of class seen before the war became blurred during the war; men from all classes were fighting along side each other, children from lower classes were sent to live in affluent households during the evacuations, and women from all classes made an appearance in the work force.
It was expected that the strict boundaries of class...