The Differences in Attitudes of Billy and Geoffrey in Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
"Billy Liar" was originally a novel written by Keith Waterhouse. In
the late fifties/early sixties, Waterhouse collaborated with Willis
Hall to turn the novel into a play. It is about a boy called Billy
Fisher, his life, relationships, attitudes and lies. The story takes
place on one Saturday in the Fisher household.
During the late 1950's, teenagers were gaining more responsibility.
For the first time, it was them who had to support the family as many
adults were killed during the war. As they had jobs, teenagers had
their own money to spend. This created businesses aimed at teenagers.
Teenagers were starting to like different music and wear different
clothes rather than follow their parents like in previous times. This
was seen as rebellious by elders and highly disrespectful. At this
time, teenagers were also beginning to have their own opinions and no
longer went by the saying "children should be seen and not heard".
A great role model of the time was Elvis Presley. Teenagers saw him as
'cool' and good-looking - and he gave them a style/image to follow.
What made him even greater was that adults hated him - because he was,
in their opinion, disgusting. Elvis became a symbol of individuality
Fashion wasn't the only factor that changed. Teenagers were given more
freedom and started to own their own houses. Before, there could be
two or three generations of a family living in the same house. With
all the money teenagers were making, it was no longer necessary to
stay in their parents homes. In some ways, this made families drift
apart and have less contact with each other, proving that freedom may
not always be a good thing.
Also, for the first time, the younger generation could speak their
mind. They no longer had to keep quiet at the fear of being punished.
This created more arguments within families. When children were told
off before, they would keep quiet and accept their punishment, but
now, they were arguing back. This made the parents jobs more difficult
- and was seen as rude, disrespectful and unacceptable.
All of this is incorporated into 'Billy Liar' in a way that is
understandable, especially to teenagers of the time. It was one of the
first plays that young people could relate to and feel part of. This
play is known as a 'kitchen sink drama' as it is set in one family
home and reflects what was happening in families and societies at the
time it was written.
The two main characters are Billy and Geoffrey. Billy is a
nineteen-year-old boy, son of Geoffrey and Alice Fisher, who wants
freedom. He is sarcastic, rude and unappreciative: "I gather that he
who should burn the raincoat is father and he who should get dressed
of a morning is my good self. Why...