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May 30, 2011

Angry Young Man

One perhaps ought not to leave the twentieth century novel without referring to the literary phenomenon which journalists conceptualized for a mass public with the phrase ‘ Angry Young Man ,’ which are Kingsley Amis, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe, and John Wain. The anger of these writers was directed against the old establishment, the liberal human, largely upper middle class, and against Bloomsbury intelligenia (Virginia Woolf, Forster, and Lytton Strachey). Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (performed in 1956, published 1957) supplied the tone and little for the movement.

Among these young “angries,” the Booker Prize winner for his novel The Old Devils (1986), Kignsley Amis (1922-95) is considered the leading novelist, whose Lucky Jim (1954) provides not only a catchy title but also an effective metaphor for the protesting young men. The next is Alan Sillitoe (1928), whose Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) describes the life of a dissatisfied young Nottingham factory worker, while the title story in The Loneliness of the Long Distant Runner (1959) portrays a rebellious Borstal boy.

Another was John Braine (1922), who produced, Room at the Top (1957) , a novel about Joe Lampton, a young man who leaves the woman he loves and marries another one who has more money. It was made into a film in 1958, and Braine later wrote a sequel (= a book continuing the original story), Life at the Top (1962), which expose the emptiness of the upper class life.

However, the anger they displayed in their novels was not of a very serious order, it was not the kind of anger we associate with D.H. Lawrence. The anger or protest of these young men was rather of a lower order, closer to an ordinary disgruntlement, that is why, the anger was soon subsided, no wonder, the movement did not last beyond the decade of the 1950’s.

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