Anger as a force in 1950s literature had its origins in a group known as the Movement. Deeply English in outlook, the Movement was a gathering of poets including Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, John Wain, D J Enright and Robert Conquest. The Movement can be seen as an aggressive, skeptical, patriotic backlash against the cosmopolitan elites of the 1930s and 1940s. The poets in the group rejected modernism, avant-garde experimentation, romanticism and the metaphorical fireworks of poets such as Dylan Thomas. Their verse was ironical, down to earth, non-sentimental and rooted in a nostalgic idea of English identity. European sympathies were regarded as unmistakable signs of intellectual pretentiousness and moral turpitude. The Movement had members who were Oxbridge- educated (Oxford and Cambridge), white, predominantly male (Jennings was the only woman in the group, and she was a late arrival), middle-class, Europhobic and for the most part heterosexual. Even so, they caught the mood of their time, and Larkin and Amis in particular are undeniably major figures in English literature.
The Movement produced two anthologies, Enright’s Poets of the 1950s (1955) and Conquest’s New Lines (1956), but while Amis achieved some success as part of the group with his poetry it was his debut novel, Lucky Jim (1954), which secured his reputation. With the novel’s central character, Jim Dixon, Amis gave English literature an unlikely new hero, one who was very much in tune with the modern age.
His Angry Young Men came about as a howl of rage against the class system, the literary elite and the Establishment has been questioned. What cannot be doubted, however, is that the Angry Young Men shook things up and got themselves noticed. Lucky Jim was a best seller, Look Back in Anger roused strong emotions and the writers who followed Amis and Osborne made the literary establishment sit up and take notice. The Angry Young Men may have been loud, crude and even obnoxious, but they gave literature a fresh impetus and they helped theatre regain its relevance to modern life.
As a group of mostly working and middle-class British playwrights and novelists who became prominent in the 1950s. with leading members including John Osborne and Kingsley Amis. The phrase was originally coined by the Royal Court Theatre’s press officer to promote John Osborne’s 1956 play Look Back in Anger. Their impatience and resentment were especially aroused by what they perceived as the hypocrisy and mediocrity of the upper and middle classes. They shared an outspoken irreverence for the British class system, its traditional network of pedigreed families, and the elitist Oxford and Cambridge universities. They showed an equally uninhibited disdain for the drabness of the postwar welfare state, and their writings frequently expressed raw anger and frustration as the postwar reforms failed to meet exalted aspirations for genuine change.
Who were the Angry Young Men:
- Many British novelists and playwrights, who emerged in the 1950s, expressed scorn and disaffection with the established sociopolitical order of their country.
- Their impatience and resentment were especially aroused by what they perceived as the hypocrisy and mediocrity of the
- The Angry Young Men were a new breed of intellectuals who were mostly of working class or of lower middle-class origin.
- Some had been educated at the postwar red-brick universities at the state’s expense, though a few were from Oxford. upper and middle classes.
- They shared an outspoken irreverence for the British class system, its traditional network of pedigreed families, and the elitist Oxford and Cambridge universities.
- They showed an equally uninhibited disdain for the drabness of the postwarwelfare state, and their writings frequently expressed raw anger and frustration as the postwar reforms failed to meet exalted aspirations for genuine change.
- Another frequent subject in this age is the depiction of the position of the youth in society. The writers often portrayed the central hero being disillusioned with the life and dissatisfied with their job and a society where he is unfit and deprived of normal rights.
- Angry Young Men literature strongly revolted against all the accepted norms and ideals. Typically, the hero is a rootless, lower-middle or working-class male psyche with a university degree. He expresses his dissatisfaction towards social ills with excessive anger and sardonic humor. He often indulges into adultery and inebriation to escape from complexities of life. In life, he is the very epitome of a frustrated post-World War II generation.