Topic 57B – The united kingdom in the interwar period And during the second world war. Representative authors

Topic 57B – The united kingdom in the interwar period And during the second world war. Representative authors



2.1 Political transformation

2.2 Interwar period

A 1919 – 1929

B 1929 – 1939

2.3 Great Britain in the Second World War


3.1 Poetry

A The War Poets

B T. S. Eliot

C W.H. Auden

3.2 Narrative

A E.M. Forster

B D.H. Lawrence

C James Joyce

D Virginia Woolf

E Graham Greene

F Evelyn Waugh

G George Orwell

3.3 Drama

A George Bernard Shaw

B Sean O´Casey




Social and economic problems are the most outstanding features in Great Britain from the very end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second World War. However, two different periods should be considered, the first one from 1919 to 1929, in which the consequences of the Great War were felt as a state of permanent crisis; and the second one, from 1929 to the beginning of the Second World War, when Great Britain had to stand the weight of the world crisis of 1929 undergoing a striking change in most life aspects.

Within four years after the accession of George V in 1910, Britain entered World War I when Germany invaded Belgium. The nation was led by coalition cabinets, headed first by Herbert Asquith and then, starting in 1916, by the Welsh statesman David Lloyd George. Post-war labour unrest culminated in the general strike of 1926.

With regards to monarchy, King Edward VIII succeeded to the throne on Jan. 20, 1936, at his father’s death, but he abdicated on Dec. 11, 1936 (in order to marry an American divorcée, Wallis Warfield Simpson), in favour of his brother, who became George VI.

The efforts of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to stem the rising threat of Nazism in Germany failed with the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, which was followed by Britain’s entry into World War II on Sept. 3. Allied reverses in the spring of 1940 led to Chamberlain’s resignation and the formation of another coalition war cabinet by the Conservative leader, Winston Churchill, who led Britain through most of World War II. Churchill resigned shortly after V-E Day, May 8, 1945, but then formed a “caretaker” government that remained in office until after the parliamentary elections in July, which the Labour Party won overwhelmingly. The new government, formed by Clement R. Attlee, began a moderate socialist program.

With regards to the literary panorama, the movement known as English literary modernism grew out of a general sense of disillusionment with Victorian era attitudes of certainty, conservatism, and objective truth. The movement was greatly influenced by the ideas of Romanticism, Karl Marx‘s political writings, and the psychoanalytic theories of subconscious – Sigmund Freud. The continental art movements of Impressionism, and later Cubism, were also important inspirations for modernist writers.

Although literary modernism reached its peak between the First and Second World Wars, the earliest examples of the movement’s attitudes appeared in the mid to late nineteenth century. Gerard Manley Hopkins, A. E. Housman, and the poet and novelist Thomas Hardy represented a few of the major early modernists writing in England during the Victorian period.

The first decades of the twentieth century saw several major works of modernism published, including the seminal short story collection Dubliners by James Joyce, Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness, and the poetry and drama of William Butler Yeats.

Important novelists between the World Wars included Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse and D. H. Lawrence. T. S. Eliot was the preeminent English poet of the period. Across the Atlantic writers like William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and the poets Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost developed a more American take on the modernist aesthetic in their work.

Perhaps the most contentiously important figures in the development of the modernist movement were T. S. Eliot and James Joyce, whose stream of consciousness novel Ulysses is considered to be one of the century’s greatest literary achievements.

Other notable writers of this period included D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, W. H. Auden, E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and Graham Greene. However, some of these writers are more closely associated with what has become known as post-modernism, a term often used to encompass the diverse range of writers who succeeded the modernists.

In the first part of this topic, we shall analyze the political transformation of Great Britain during the interwar period. This historical background will serve us to study in depth the most representative authors of the literary panorama in narrative, poetry and drama at this time.


2.1 Political transformation

The political system continued to be based upon the Parliamentary Monarchy, George V being the King from 1910 to 1936; Edward VIII in 1936 since he had to abdicate due to his relationship with the American divorcée Wallis Simpson; and George VI from 1936 to 1952. There was during this period the extension of democracy, since in 1919 the Universal Individual Suffrage was extended to all men and to women over 30. Later during the 20’s suffrage for women was extended on the same terms as men.

The Conservative Party continued to be the party of the right. It underwent little change and prevailed over the other parties. The Liberal Party was divided into two groups in 1916: the National Liberals, led by Lloyd George, who governed in coalition with the Conservatives, and the Independent Liberals, a minority led by Asquith. The Labour Party developed greatly during this period to become the second party in importance. The first Labour Government was constituted in 1924 with MacDonald as Prime Minister. The main characteristic of politics of the 30’s was the National Union Governments, from 1931 to 1935 with the Labour Prime Minister MacDonald, and from 1935 to 1940 with the Conservative Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin in the first two years and Neville Chamberlain during the others.

2.2 Interwar period

Most authors point social and economic problems as the most outstanding features in Great Britain from the very end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second World War, a period of crisis. Two stages should be distinguished in this period:

a) 1919 – 1929: During this period the consequences of the war were felt as a state of permanent crisis.

b) 1929 – 1939: During this period Great Britain had to stand the weight of the world crisis of 1929 undergoing a striking change in most life aspects.

A 1919 – 1929

The main economic problems which Britain had to face after the First World War were mostly due to the inability of the country to adapt its needs to the new economic order. Britain was in an inferior position if compared to the USA or Japan because of:

– The problem of coal. The British supremacy in the World War had lain upon the so important coal industry. With the appearance of new energy sources, namely oil and electricity, most coal export fell off.

– Old fashioned industry. As far as it was in England where the Industrial Revolution first appeared, the techniques and organisation of work were no longer valid for the new economy. The English, on the other hand, were reluctant to do any change in their industry.

– The loss of international markets, which led to a progressive unevenness between import and export, and the subsequent unbalance in their economy. The colonial question had to do with the development of Germany as a colonial power during the end of the XIXth century. Germany, in order to expand and have an empire, started a process of re-armament. The German objective was to conquer lands in the Turkish Empire, so the country took action in the Balkans and Near East, which were crucial territories. But Germany became a threat for England when they occupied some places in the Low Countries, too near the British Isles. England decided then to jump into war against Germany.

The Irish Question was after the First World War a first-class problem in Britain, not only for its internal policy consequences, but also for its imperial character. The main Irish parties fought for a complete independence of Ireland and its establishment as a republic. Some of these parties were the Irish Socialist Republic Party, the Sinn Fein and the Irish Republic Brotherhood. Each of them had a military organisation: the Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Army.

The Ulster Protestants, in their turn, fought for their separation from the rest of the island. After the war strikes and revolts continued and independentism became stronger. In January 1919 the 73 Irish MP’s of the Sinn Fein rejected to occupy their seats in Westminster and established a segregated Assembly in Dublin, which created an illegal Government and Administration. De Valera was chosen Prime Minister of the proclaimed Independent Republic of Ireland. At the same time members of the IRA started a guerrilla warfare against the British. The English Government, weakened after the war, decided to accept the independence of Ireland, although it was formally a member of the Commonwealth. However, six Northern Counties from the Ulster preferred a different kind of autonomy and remained in the United Kingdom.

After this there was still a civil war between different factions of Irish independentists, the ones who had accepted the conditions of the independence, which formed the party Fine Gael, and those who did not, with De Valera as their leader, who formed Fianna Fail. At first a Constitution was drawn in 1922 forming the Irish Free State, but the Constitution of 1936 set already a republican character, although the Republic was not officially declared until 1949.

B 1929 – 1939

With the crisis of 1929 export trade diminished considerably whilst the index of imports remained the same. The number of unemployed people passed from one million to two and a half million. The Labour Party was in the Government during the crisis of 1929. They tried to re-establish the balance of the budget by means of economic restrictions, but this led to the division of the Labour Party, so that Prime Minister MacDonald in order to continue in office had to accept the support of the Conservative Party to form a National Union Government.

In September 1931 the Government decided to abandon the Gold Standard again as an economic measure against the crisis. The Conservative, in their turn, took their opportunity to re-establish a common customs tariff in 1932. They also tried, during the Congress of Ottawa, to establish the so-called Imperial Preference which favoured in trade and commerce a tendency towards imperial co-operation.

A slight sign of economic recovery started to be felt in 1934. The index of production increased and unemployment decreased. There were two outstanding factors which led to the economic recovery: the fall of import prices and a cutting in British investment in other countries in order to invest in their own country. During the 30’s British economy was characterised by an isolationist policy and their withdrawal from the outside world.

2.3 Great Britain in the Second World War

For Great Britain the Second World War was the longest and most terrible experience they had to face in the last centuries. The country was completely destroyed and the population deprived from their basic necessities. In September 1939 Great Britain and France declared war on Germany as a reply to the German invasion of Poland. After the first crushing defeat of the Allies, the Prime Minister resigned and a new government of coalition was created with Winston Churchill as Prime Minister.

After the occupation of France in 1940, England had to face the war on its own in what came to be known as the Battle of England. The fact that the Germans were unable to invade the island gave the British the impression that they would manage to win the war. In this first period of the war the USA had abandoned their policy of neutrality and had established a non-written treaty with Britain which conveyed the creation of the National Council for Defence in the USA. In 1941 Churchill and Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter which would take the USA to declare war on Germany.

Throughout the war the governments of the USA, USSR and Great Britain met on many occasions to decide on the tactics of the war. In December 1942 the first Conference of Washington was held, and as a result the Pact of Washington, the origin of the United Nations, was signed. The Allies developed a system of alliances to prepare the peace, to free the invaded countries and to achieve a new international order after the war.

Winston Churchill played an important role in the Second World War. His character led the British to the conviction that the war would finally be won. He asked scientists and war technicians for advice, and despite some faults in his tactics his steadiness was fundamental for their political stability. As in the First World War, the co-operation of the Dominions and Colonies was greatly appreciated, though for Great Britain it would mean the end of their Empire.


English literary modernism grew out of a general sense of disillusionment with Victorian era attitudes of certainty, conservatism, and objective truth. The movement was greatly influenced by the ideas of Romanticism, Karl Marx‘s political writings, and the psychoanalytic theories of subconscious – Sigmund Freud. The continental art movements of Impressionism, and later Cubism, were also important inspirations for modernist writers.

Let´s study the most important writes in poetry, narrative and drama:

3.1 Poetry

A The War Poets

The British nation had achieved a high degree of literacy and before the development of radio and television all mass communication was via the printed page. Young men of education went to the army as junior officers and read poetry as a source of solace and memories of home and often they wrote poetry themselves. Most often they wrote poetry expressing their experiences at war.

The term war poet came into currency during and after World War I. A number of poets writing in English had been soldiers, and had written about their experiences of war. Quite a number had died, most famously Rupert Brooke, Isaac Rosenberg, Wilfred Owen, and Charles Sorley. Others such as Siegfried Sassoon had survived, but made a reputation based on scathing poetry written from the disabused point of view of the trench soldier who had lost faith in his military superiors.

At the time the most famous of the war poets was Rupert Brooke. For one whom Yeats proclaimed “the handsomest young man in England,” Rupert Brooke has not aged well. The neo-Romanticism of Brooke and the Georgian Poets was one of the casualties of the Great War.

Brooke’s entire reputation as a war poet rests on only 5 “war sonnets” (6 if you count Treasure — unnumbered in his short sonnet cycle). This short sequence of sonnets called 1914 which achieved immense posthumous fame, particularly the one beginning If I should die, think only this of me.

Brooke’s war experience consisted of one day of limited military action with the Hood Battalion during the evacuation of Antwerp. Consequently, his “war sonnets” swell with sentiments of the most general kind on the themes of maturity, purpose and romantic death — the kind of sentiments held by many (but not all) young Englishmen at the outbreak of the war. Brooke’s “war sonnets” are really more a declaration occasioned by the ups and downs of his tumultuous personal life than a call to war for his generation.

Brooke was already a promising young poet when Britain entered the war the day after his 27th birthday. Unfortunately, the publication of his (pre-) “war sonnets” coincided with his almost mythological (pre-war) death.

Wilfred Owen served as a young officer and was killed in action. His poems are preoccupied with the deaths of young men. The war made Owen into a major poet, and it was his only real subject. During the latter part of 1914 and early 1915 Owen became increasingly aware of the magnitude of the War and he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles in 1915. He received his commission to the Manchester Regiment (5th Battalion) in June 1916, and spent the rest of the year training in England.

1917 in many ways was the pivotal year in his life, although it was to prove to be his penultimate. In January he was posted to France and saw his first action in which he and his men were forced to hold a flooded dug-out in no-man’s land for fifty hours whilst under heavy bombardment. He was injured and sent to Craiglockhart. Had Owen not arrived at the hospital at that time one wonders what might have happened to his literary career, for it was here that he met Siegfried Sassoon who was also a patient. Sassoon already had a reputation as a poet and after an awkward introduction he agreed to look over Owen’s poems. As well as encouraging Owen to continue, he introduced him to such literary figures as Robert Graves (a friend of Sassoon’s) which in turn, after his release from hospital, allowed Owen to mix with such luminaries as Arnold Bennett and H. G. Wells.

Edward Thomas was born in Lambeth, London, of Welsh descent and he was educated at St Paul’s college and then Lincoln College at Oxford University (where he studied history). A prolific writer of prose (including biographies of Richard Jeffiries, Swinburne, and Keats), and a moderately successful journalist, he began writing poetry in 1912 (under the pseudonym Edward Eastaway) but did not devote himself fully to the medium until 1913 after a meeting with Robert Frost, the American poet, who by then was living in England. Thomas enlisted in 1915 with the Artist’s Rifles as a private but was killed two years later at Arras having achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. His poems include some of the most noted pieces from the genre, capturing the love of the English countryside unlike any other.

During the first two years of his military service he began writing poetry, crystallising into verse his feelings about English rural life and tradition. His poetry is descriptive and the war is scarcely mentioned in his poems.

One of the most interesting victims of the war was Isaac Rosenberg. Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918) was one of the least privileged of the renowned British war poets; he was born into a working-class Jewish family that had emigrated from Russia and eventually moved to the East End of London.

Although his working-class origins and economic circumstances prevented him from attending Oxford or Cambridge, he was a talented artist and enrolled in evening classes in the Art School of Birkbeck College, London University. He hoped to make his living as a portrait artist and had moved to South Africa to pursue his career when the war broke out. He returned to England in 1915, enlisted in 1916 and was killed at the front on April 3, 1918. Before going to the front he published a small volume of poems, Youth; both T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound knew Rosenberg’s poetry and admired it. Some critics suggest that, had he survived the war, he might have been an outstanding poet, equalling both Pound and Eliot in reputation. The voice of a “modern” poet is clearly heard, for example, in the poem God and in his longer projected work Moses.  The century was deprived of one of its most promising poets when he died in the Great War. As a poet of Jewish and urban antecedents his main source of inspiration was Jewish history and legend. He wrote Louse Hunters and Break of Day in the Trenches, one of the finest of all war poems.

B T.S. Eliot

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Eliot’s father, was a prosperous industrialist and his mother Charlotte was a poet. In 1906 he went to Harvard, where he contributed poetry to Harvard Advocate. After receiving his B.A. in 1909, Eliot spent a year in France, attending Henri Bergson’s lectures at the Sorbonne and studying poetry with the novelist and poet Henri Alain-Fournier.

In 1915 Eliot made England his permanent home. With Ezra Pound, his countryman and an advocate on literary modernism, he started to reform poetic diction. Pound was largely responsible for getting Eliot’s early poems into print, such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Pufrock in the Chicago magazine Poetry in 1915. The title character is tormented by the uncertainty of his identity and the difficulty of articulating his feelings. Prufrock is a perfect gentleman and tragic in his conventionality. He has heard “the mermaids singing” but is paralyzed by self-consciousness  “I do not think that they will sing to me.”

Eliot’s second book, Ara Vos Prec (published in the U.S. as Poems), which appeared in 1919, was hand-printed by Virginia and Leonard Woolf at the Hogath Press. In an early essay, Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919), Eliot propounded the doctrine, that poetry should be impersonal and free itself from Romantic practices. “The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.” Eliot saw that in this depersonalization the art approaches science. With his collection of essays, The Sacred Wood (1920), and later published The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933) and The Classics and the Man of Letters(1942), Eliot established his reputation as a literary critic.

After a physical and mental breakdown in 1921, Eliot went to Lausanne for treatment. There he completed The Waste Land (1922), a poetic exploration of soul or civilization struggle for regeneration. It is a long and highly complex poem which brings together great variety of human voices and experiences, from a modern typist to a blind priest of ancient Greece. It also brings together the ancient beliefs in the circularity of life with the Christian belief in a life after death. The human unhappiness presented in the poem comes from the fact that that the people cannot understand the meaning of their own experiences. The first version, with Pound’s revisions, was published in 1971.Eliot’s long poem, which caught the mood of confusion and feelings of nostalgia for a “paradise lost” after World War I, was not unanimously hailed as a masterpiece. Divided into five sections, The Waste Land is a series of fragmentary dramatic monologues, a dense chorus of voices and culture historical quotations that fade one into another.

In 1927 Eliot became a British citizen and member of the Church of England. His way towards his own particular brand of High Anglicanism may be charted in his poetry, starting from The Hollow Men (1925) to visions in Four Quartets (135-42), which Eliot himself regarded as his masterpiece.

Eliot’s other works include poetic dramas, in which his dramatic verse became gradually indistinguishable from prose. Murder in the Cathedral(1935) was written for a church performance and treated the martyrdom of St. Thomas à Beckett. After the publication of the play, Eliot was appointed to the committee in charge of a new English translation of the Bible. In The Family Reunion (1939) Eliot took a theme of contemporary life, and tried to find a rhythm close to contemporary speech. The Cocktail Party (1950) was partly based on Alcestis of Euripides.

C W.H. Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, North Yorkshire, as the son of George Augustus Auden, a distinguished physician, and Rosalie (Bicknell) Auden. In 1925 he entered Christ Church, Oxford. Auden’s studies and writing progressed without much success: he took a disappointing third-class degree in English. And his first collection of poems was rejected by T. S. Eliot at Faber & Faber. At one time in his undergraduate years he planned to become a biologist. From 1928 to 1929 he lived in Berlin, where he took advantage of the sexually liberal atmosphere, and was introduced to the psychological theories of Homer Lane.

After returning to England Auden taught in several schools. Auden first gained attention in 1930 when his short verse play called Paid on Both Sides was published in T. S. Eliot’s periodical The Criterion. In the same year appeared Auden’s Poems, his first commercially published book, in which he carefully avoided Yeatsian romantic self-expression – the poems were short, untitled, and slightly cryptic. Auden soon gained fame as a leftist intellectual. He showed interest in Marx and Freud and he wrote passionately on social problems, among others in Look, Stranger! (1936). However, by 1962 he argued in his essay The Poet and the City that art and politics were best kept apart. Compressed figures of speech, direct statement, and musical effect characterized On This Island(1937) and Another Time(1940). In the late 1930s Auden’s poems were perhaps less radical politically, suffering and injustice are not rejected as a part of ordinary life. The last works from this decade astonished readers with their light comic tone and domesticity.

In 1937 Auden went to Spain as a civilian and gave radio broadcasts to help the Republican forces. These experiences he recorded in Spain (1937). However, he did not actively continue his campaign. Like George Orwell and Arthur Koestler, he became disillusioned with the politics of the struggle. In stead of being welcomed as a supporter of the Republican cause he was ignored because he wasn’t a member of the Communist Party.

In the 1940s he turned into a religious thinker under the influence of Kierkegaard and Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), the foremost American Protestant theologian. Auden depicted his conversion to Anglicanism, his mother’s faith, in the The Sea and the Mirror(1944) and For the Time Being (1944).

About the House (1965) represents Auden’s mature period, technically playful and intellectually sharp and witty. The poems corresponded to the rooms of Auden’s Austrian house, the boundaries of his everyday life. Auden also wrote opera librettos with the American poet Chester Kallman, who was only 18 when Auden fell in love with him, and who lived with him over 20 years. In 1972 Auden left New York and returned to Oxford, living in a cottage provided by Christ Church. He died of a heart-attack in Vienna on September 29, 1973.

3.2 Narrative

The English novels of the 19th century were written at a time of great confidence in British society, culture and political organisation. The writers of the 20th century do not share this confidence. The change in beliefs and political ideas was influenced by the World War I and by the events across the world that led to the break-up of the British Empire. The main literary movement of this period is known as modernism.

A E.M. Forster

He was a member of Bloomsbury group and a friend of Virginia Woolf. After gaining fame as a novelist, Forster spent his 46 remaining years publishing mainly short stories and non-fiction. Of his five important novels four appeared before World War I. Forster’s major concern was that individuals should “connect the prose with the passion’ within themselves, and that one of the most exacting aspect of the novel is prophecy”.

Forster´s fame rests largely on his novels Howard’s End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924) and on a large body of criticism. His father died when he was a baby, and he was brought up by his mother and paternal aunts. He received a good education, first at a public school and then at King’s College, Cambridge. He developed a sense of the uniqueness of the individual, of the healthiness of moderate scepticism, and of the importance of Mediterranean civilisation as a counterbalance to the strict attitudes of northern European countries.

His first novel is Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905). In the following year he lectured on Italian art and history for the Cambridge Local Lectures Board. In 1907 appeared The Longest Journey. In this novel he suggested that cultivation of either in isolation is not enough, reliance on the earth alone leading to brutishness and exaggerated development of imagination undermining the individual’s sense of reality. The same theme runs through Howard’s End, a more ambitious novel that brought Forster his first major success.

Then he writes A Room with a View (1908), based partly on the material from extended holidays in Italy with his mother. The first part of the novel is set in Florence, where the young Lucy Honeychurch is visitng with her older cousin Charlotte Bartless. Lucy witnesses a murder and becomes caught between two men, shallow, conventional Cecil Vyse and George Emerson, who kisses Lucy during a picnic. Forster had found something emotionally incomplete in English life and here he explores the contrast of more passionate Italian life. He contrasts English narrow and fenced middle-class respectabilities, praising the loving freedom exercised by those more radical. Those themes were developed with maturity in Howard’s End, an admirable picture of English middle-class life before the First World War and an exploration of its complexities due to the transformation of a century of industrialisation and imperial expansion.

He visited India twice, in 1912-13 and 1921. The first visit to India put him in contact with the cultural contrast between the British and the Indians and he began A Passage to India. Mrs. Moore, a woman of unaffected kindness brings the young Adela Quested to India to marry her son. The local British bureaucracy lives at a distance from the local population, but Cyril Fielding, the principal of the local college, tries to make genuine contacts with the Indians, and so do Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested, who are taken to visit the Marabar Caves by Fielding’s friend Dr. Aziz. Adela accuses him of assault at the darkness of the cave, but at his trial she retracts, suddenly aware that she suffered a hallucination.

Forster often criticized in his books Victorian middle class attitudes and British colonialism through strong woman characters. However, Forster’s characters were not one-dimensional heroes and villains, and except his devotion to such values as tolerance and sense of comedy, he was uncommitted.

B D.H. Lawrence

David Herbert Lawrence was born in the mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, in central England. Lawrence’s childhood was dominated by poverty and friction between his parents. Encouraged by his mother, with whom he had a deep emotional bond and who figures as Mrs Morel in his first masterpiece, Lawrence became interested in arts. He was educated at Nottingham High School, to which he had won a scholarship. He worked as a clerk in a surgical appliance factory and then four years as a pupil-teacher. After studies at Nottingham University, Lawrence received his teaching certificate at 22 and briefly pursued a teaching career at Davidson Road School in Croydon in South London (1908-1911). Lawrence’s mother died in 1910  he helped her die by giving her an overdose of sleeping medicine. This scene was re-created in his novel Sons and Lovers (1912).

The appearance of his first novel, The White Peacock (1911), launched Lawrence as a writer at the age of 25. In 1913 Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers appeared. It was based on his childhood and contains a portrayal of Jessie Chambers, the Miriam in the novel and called Muriel in early stories.

Lawrence’s fourth novel, The Rainbow (1915), was about two sisters growing up in the north of England. The character of Ursula Brangwem was partly based on Lawrence’s teacher associate in Nottingham, Loui Burrows. She was Lawrence’s first love. The novel was banned for its alleged obscenity  it used swear words and talked openly about sex. Lawrence’s frankness in describing sexual relations between men and women upset a great many people and over 1000 copies of the novel were burned by the examining magistrate’s order. The banning created further difficulties for him in getting anything published. Also his paintings were confiscated from an art gallery.

During the First World War Lawrence and his wife were unable to obtain passports and were target of constant harassment from the authorities. They were accused of spying for the Germans and officially expelled from Cornwall in 1917. The Lawrences were not permitted to emigrate until 1919, when their years of wandering began.

Lawrence started to write The Lost Girl (1920) in Italy. He had settled with her wife in Gargano. In those days they were so poor that they could not afford even a newspaper. The novel dealt with one of Lawrence’s favorite subjects  a girl marries a man of a much lower social status, against the advice of friends, and finds compensation in his superior warmth and understanding.

Lawrence’s best known work is Lady Chatterley’s Lover, first published privately in Florence in 1928. It tells of the love affair between a wealthy, married woman, Constance Chatterley, and a man who works on her husband’s estate. A war wound has left her husband, Sir Clifford, a mine owner in Derbyshire, impotent and paralyzed. Constance has a brief affair with a young playwright and then enters into a passionate relationship with Sir Clifford’s gamekeeper, Oliver Melloers. Connie becomes pregnant. Sir Clifford refuses to give a divorce and the lovers wait for better time when they could be united. Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned for a time in both the UK and the US as pornographic. In the UK it was published in unexpurgated form in 1960 after an obscenity trial, where defense witnesses included E.M. Forster, Helen Gardner, and Richard Hoggart.

Among Lawrence’s other famous novels is Women in Love (1920), a sequel to Rainbow. The characters are probably partially based on Lawrence and his wife, and John Middleton Murray and his wife Katherine Mansfield. Lawrence argued that instincts and intuitions are more important than the reason. Lawrence’s belief in the importance of instincts reflected the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, whom Lawrence had read already in the 1910s. D.H. Lawrence died at Villa Robermond, in Vence, France on March 2, 1930.

C James Joyce

James Joyce was born in into a middle-class Catholic family. He was educated in Ireland in Catholic schools and at University College, where the brilliance of his mind and his rebelliousness became evident. Eventually he left Ireland, breaking all the ties with family, religion and country to devote his life to literature. He lived in France, Italy and Switzerland and kept himself by teaching until he was able to be a full time writer with the help of patronage.

In 1914 he published Dubliners, a book of short stories. On the surface they were realistic, but they also carried a deeper symbolic meaning. They deal successively with events of childhood, youth and adulthood, and they show the nullifying effect of the Dublin social and mental environment on characters whose dreams, hopes and ambitions are pathetically or tragically unfulfilled.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man presents Joyce himself in the character of his hero, Stephen Dedalus. However, he at the same time shows sympathy for the hero and distances from him with irony. Stephen is formed by the powerful forces of Irish national, political and religious feelings, but he gradually frees himself from the influence of these forces to follow his own nature and his own fate and become an artist.

Stephen Dedalus also appears in Ulysses, a book which is regarded as one of the most important novels in English of the 20th century. In it Joyce created a completely new style of writing that allows the reader to move inside the minds of the characters, presenting their thoughts and feelings in a continuous stream. For this reason the language breaks all the rules. This is known as “interior monologue” or “stream of consciousness”, and it has had a powerful influence of many later novelists. Actually Ulysses has no real plot. It rather follows the three main characters, Stephen, Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly, through a day in Dublin. The characters and the elements of the novel are connected with and reflect characters and events of ancient Greek stories as the title suggests.

Finnegans Wake took one step further the new kind of language that Joyce was starting to create in Ulysses. This work occupied Joyce´s time for 16 years. Here not only the sentences are mixed up, but the forms of the words themselves are transformed. The book was partly based on Freud´s dream psychology, Bruno´s theory about the conflicting nature of opposites and the cyclic theory of history of Giambattista Vico. The novel presents the dreams and nightmares of a certain Mr. Earwicker and his family – the wife Anna Livia Plurabelle, the twins Shem and Shaun and the daughter Issy- as they lie asleep throughout the night. In the frame of a minimal central story, Joyce experiments with language, combines puns and foreign words with allusions to historical, psychological and religious cosmology. The characters turn up in hundreds of different forms, etc. The new technique of verbal ambiguity allows for the accumulation of meanings at a new level of complexity. The difficulty of the language, in which he forced as many associations as possible into each word gives readers many problems of understanding. He justified this method on the grounds that the world of Finnegans Wake is the dream world where shifting identities and multiple significances are common. He also uses again references to ancient stories to express the themes of the nature of artistic creation and the humour and tragedy of human life.

All in all, Joyce spent his entire life experimenting on the novel, and in spite of suffering the rejection of publishers and the misunderstanding of the readers, his technical achievements were a revolt to take into account for the next generation of writers.

D Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was born in London. Her youth was shadowed by series of emotional shocks. Gerald Duckworth, her half-brother, sexually abused her. When her brother Thoby died in 1906, she had a prolonged mental breakdown. Following the death of her father in 1904, Woolf moved with her sister and two brothers to the house in Bloomsbury. Vanessa, a painter, agreed to marry the critic of art and literature Clive Bell. Virginia’s economic situation improved when she inherited £2,500 from an aunt. Their house became central to activities of the Bloomsbury group.

With To the Lighthouse (1927) and The Waves (1931)Woolf established herself as one of the leading writers of modernism. To the Lighthouse had a tripartite structure: part 1 presented the Victorian family life, the second part covers a ten-year period, and the third part is a long account of a morning and reconciliation. The central figure, Mrs. Ramsay, was based on Woolf’s mother. Also other characters in the book were drawn from Woolf’s family memories.

The Waves is perhaps Woolf’s most difficult novel. It follows in soliloquies the lives of six persons from childhood to old age. In these works Woolf developed innovative literary techniques in order to reveal women’s experience and find an alternative to the male-dominated views of reality. Marital disappointments and frustrations she often dealt ironically.

Mrs. Dalloway (1925) formed a web of thoughts of several groups of people during the course of a single day. There is little action, but much movement in time from present to past and back again. The central figure, Clarissa Dalloway, married to Richard Dalloway, is a wealthy London hostess. She spends her day in London preparing for her evening party. She recalls her life before World War I, her friendship with the unconventional Sally Seton, and her relationship with Peter Walsh. At her party she never meets the shell-shocked veteran Septimus Smith, one of the first Englishmen to enlist in the war. Sally returns as Lady Rossetter, Peter Walsh is still enamored with Mrs. Dalloway, the prime minister arrives, and Smith commits suicide.

During the inter-war period, Woolf was a central character of the literary scene both in London and at her home in Rodmell, near Lewes, Sussex. She lived in Richmond from 1915 to 1924, in Bloomsbury from 1924 to 1939, and maintained the house in Rodmell from 1919-41. The Bloomsbury group was initially based at the Gordon Square residence of Virginia and her sister Vanessa (Bell). Its other members included among others E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, and Leonard Woolf. The consolidation of the group’s beliefs in unifying aesthetic concerns occurred under the influence of the philosopher G.E. Moore (1873-1958). By the early 1930s, the group ceased to exist in its original form.

In the event of a Nazi invastion, Woolf and Leonard had made provisions to kill themselves. After the final attack of mental illness, Woolf loaded her pockets full of stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse near her Sussex home on March 28, 1941.

Virginia Woolf’s concern with feminist thematics are dominant in A Room of One´s Own (1929). In it she made her famous statement: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf examined the obstacles and prejudices that have hindered women writers. She separated women as objects of representation and women as authors of representation, and argued that a change in the forms of literature was necessary because most literature had been “made by men out of their own needs for their own uses.” In the last chapter Woolf touched the possibility of an androgynous mind.

Three Guineas (1938) urged women to make a claim for their own history and literature.

Her last novel was Orlando (1928), a fantasy novel which traced the career of the androgynous protagonist, Orlando, from a masculine identity within the Elizabethan court to a feminine identity in 1928.

E Graham Greene

English novelist, short-story writer, playwright and journalist, whose novels treat moral issues in the context of political settings. Greene is one of the most widely read novelist of the 20th-century, a superb storyteller. Adventure and suspense are constant elements in his novels and many of his books have been made into successful films. Although Greene was a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature several times, he never received the award.

Graham Greene was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. He was educated at Berkhamstead School and Balliol College, Oxford. During World War II Greene worked “in a silly useless job” as he later said, in an intelligence capacity for the Foreign Office in London, directly under Kim Philby, a future defector to the Soviet Union. After the war he travelled widely as a free-lance journalist, and lived long periods in Nice, on the French Riviera, partly for tax reasons. With his anti-American comments, Greene gained access to such Communist leaders as Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh.

Greene’s agent novels were partly based on his own experiences in the British foreign office in the 1940s and his lifelong ties with SIS. As an agent and a writer Greene is a link in the long tradition from Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson and Daniel Defoe to the modern day writers John Le Carré, John Dickson Carr, Somerset Maugham, Alec Waugh and Ted Allbeury. As a writer Greene was very prolific and versatile. He wrote five dramas and screenplays for several films based on his novels.

After the unsuccessful attempts as a novelist, Greene was about to abandon writing. His first popular success was Stamboul Train (1932), a thriller with a topical and political flavour. Greene wrote it deliberately to please his readers and to attract filmmakers.

The Confidential Agent (1939) is a problematic work about the mysterious Forbes/Furstein, a rich Jew, plans to destroy traditional English culture from within. However, in 1981 the author was invited to Israel and awarded the Jerusalem Prize. He had visited Israel in 1967 for the first time, and spent some of the time lying against a sand dune under Egyptian fire, and thinking that the Six Day War “was a bit of misnomer. The war was too evidently still in progress.”

Greene’s religious convictions did not become overtly apparent in his fiction until The Brighton Rock (1938), which depicted a teenage gangster Pinkie with a kind of demonic spirituality. Religious themes were explicit in the novels The Power and the Glory(1940), The Heart of the Matter (1948), which Greene characterized as “a success in the great vulgar sense of that term,” and The End of the Affair (1951), which established Greene’s international reputation. The story, partly based on Greene’s own experiences, was about a lover, who is afraid of loving and being loved. These novels were compared with the works of such French Catholic writers as Georges Bernanos and François Mauriac.

The Third Man (1949) is among Greene’s most popular books. The story about corruption and betrayal gave basis for the film classic under the same title. Successful partners on The Fallen Idol (1948) and Our Man in Havanna (1960), Graham Greene and the director Carol Reed achieved the peak of their collaboration on this film.

In Ways of Escape Greene told a story about the Other, who called himself Graham Greene, but whose real name was perhaps John Skinner or Meredith de Varg.

The Asian setting stimulated Greene’s The Quiet American (1955), which was about American involvement in Indochina. The story focuses on the murder of Alden Pyle (the American of the title). The narrator, Thomas Fowler, a tough-minded, opium-smoking journalist, arranges to have Pyle killed by the local rebels. Pyle has stolen Fowler’s girl friend, Phuong, and he is connected to a terrorist act, a bomb explosion in a local café. This novel was considered sympathetic to Communism in the Soviet Union and a play version of the novel was produced in Moscow. Our Man in Havanna(1958) was born after a journey to Cuba, but Greene had the story sketched already much earlier. The Comedians, The Honorary Consul (1973)and The Human Factor (1978) were his last novels.

F Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh was born in London into a comfortable middle-class family. Three years before starting his career as a writer, Waugh attempted suicide. He walked out into the water and began swimming but decided to return. Fuelled with admiration for Pre-Raphaelites, Waugh wrote his first book, Rossetti, which appeared in 1928. In the same year Waugh established his literary reputation with the novel Decline and Fall, an episodic story of Paul Pennyfeather who is expelled from Oxford. Paul is caught in the web of London Society, but in the end he escapes to a saner and happier life. Like Waugh’s other works, continued the tradition of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw – Waugh is as flippant and irreverent.

Waugh’s next novel, Vile Bodies(1930), which the author described as “a welter of sex and snobbery,” caricatured the world of the Bright Young People. Vile Bodies gained a huge success, and contributed to the end of “the freak parties”. The “happy ending” of Vile Bodies was not in tune with Waugh’s own life, which was falling apart. He had fallen in love with Diana Guinness (later Diana Mosley), and his wife had left him for a BBC news editor. In 1930 Waugh converted to Roman Catholicism. After the collapse of his marriage with Evelyn Gardner, Waugh travelled in Africa and South America. Waugh published several travel books, and worked as a foreign correspondent, notably in Abessinia to cover the Italian invasion in 1936. In 1937 he married Laura Herbert; they had six children, though he was believed to be a homosexual.

Black Mischief (1932) was inspired by the coronation of the Emperor Haile Selassie in Abyssinia. A Handful of Dust was an embittered story of adultery, in which the hero is called Tony Last. Also Scoop (1937), which mocked foreign correspondents, was set in Africa, this time in a fictitious country called Ishmaeliah.

During the early part of World War II, Waugh served in the Middle East. Put Out More Flags (1942) satirized W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, who did not serve in the army, but emigrated to the United States. Disenchantment with the war, Waugh took leave in order to write Brideshead Revisited (1945), a nostalgic story about beauty and corruption. It gained a great popular success but was also criticized because of its glorifying of the upper class. It depicts the story of the wealthy Roman Catholic Marchmain family.

After the war, Waugh spent much time at Combe Florey in Somerset, sporting exaggeratedly in Edwardian suits, and using and exaggerated large ear-trumpet. Waugh’s major work was the trilogy Sword of Honour (1952-1961). Its central character, Guy Crouchback, enlists in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers to establish his identity. He loses his illusions and departs for action in Alexandria. In the last volume Guy volunteers for service in Italy. Eventually he goes to Yugoslavia as a liaison officer with the partisans and rescues a group of Jewish refuges. In the Epilogue Guy has remarried and he is surrounded with a family. In this trilogy formed by Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), and Unconditional Surrender (1961) he analysed the character of World War II in relation with the eternal struggle between good and evil and civilisation and barbarism.

G George Orwell

George Orwell was born in Motihari, Bengal, India. In 1904 Orwell moved with his mother and sister to England, where he attended Eton. His first writings Orwell published in college periodicals. During these years Orwell developed his antipathy towards the English class systems.

Orwell went in 1922 to Burma to serve in the Indian Imperial Police (1922-27) as an assistant superintendent, then he returned to Europe and lived as a tramp and beggar, working low paid jobs in England and France (1928-29). In 1928 he had decided to become a writer, but his first amateurish efforts arose smiles. Orwell’s experiences in poverty gave material for Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). Unable to support himself with his writings, Orwell took up a teaching post at a private school, where he finished his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). He was commissioned in 1936 by the publisher Victor Gollancz to produce a documentary account of unemployment in the North of England for the Left Book Club. The result, The Road to Wigan Pier, is considered a milestone in modern literary journalism.

In the1930s Orwell had adopted socialistic views. Like many other writers, he travelled to Spain to report on the Civil War. He fought alongside the United Workers Marxist Party militia and was shot through the throat by a Francoist sniper’s bullet. When Stalinists on their own side started to hunt down Anarchists and his friends were thrown into prison, Orwell escaped with his wife Eileen Blair from the chaos. The war made him a strong opposser of communism and an advocate of the English brand of socialism. Special Branch police had monitored Orwell since the late 1920s, but eventually the authorities decided that he was not a threat to the national security. Orwell’s book on Spain, Homage to Catalonia, appeared in 1938 after some troubles with its publication. The book was coldly received by left-wing intelligentsia, who regarded Communists as heroes of the war.

Orwell opposed a war with Germany, but he condemned fascism. During World War II he served as a sergeant in the Home Guard and worked as a journalist for the BBC, Observer and Tribune, where he was literary editor from 1943 to 1945. Toward the end of the war, he wrote Animal Farm, which depicted the betrayal of a revolution. The biting satire of Communist ideology in The Animal Farm made Orwell for the first time prosperous. Led by the pigs, the Animals on Mr Jones’s farm revolt against their human masters. After their victory they decide to run the farm themselves on egalitarian principles. Inspired by the example of Boxer, the hard-working horse, the cooperation prosper. The pigs become corrupted by power and a new tyranny is established under Napoleon (Stalin).

Another world wide success was Nineteen Eighty-Four, one of the classical works of science fiction along with Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World, and H.G. Wells novels Time Machine, War of The World and Invisible Man. The novel was a bitter protest against the nightmarish future and corruption of truth and free speech of the modern world. In the story, Britannia has become Airstrip One in the super-state Oceania, which is controlled by Big Brother and the Party.

3.3 Drama

A George Bernard Shaw

He was born in 1856 in Dublin. His family came from the Anglo-Irish gentry, but they were poor. After his parents separated he went to live in London with his mother. He was member of the socialist Fabian Society and of the Labour Party. He was a dramatist, a literary critic, a socialist spokesman, and a leading figure in the 20th century theatre. Shaw was a freethinker, defender of women’s rights, and advocate of equality of income. In 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Shaw accepted the honour but refused the money.

Working in journalism he specialised as a drama critic. From that position he tried to displace the artificiality and hypocrisy of the Victorian theatre. He ended up doing that through his own plays, influenced by the realistic and socially conscious theatre of Ibsen. Shaw used theatre as a platform to present his ideas. As a comic dramatist he fought mordantly the conventions of society, but some of his greatest works have at the same time a high seriousness. As a public figure he was very influential also very critical of his own country, especially during World War I. He remained productive as a public figure and as a playwright until the end of his long life. He is considered the best dramatist of his time and the most significant dramatist since Shakespeare. Shaw called this type of drama in which the exposition of the ideas is more important than plots or characters “debated drama” where the main concern is the discussion of mental and spiritual states of the characters involved in the action of the play.

His first plays introduced a drama of ideas but respected the form of the high comedy. He is also the direct responsible for the revolution of the English drama. Highly influenced by Ibsen, he publishes The Quintaessence of Ibsinism, a passionate defence of Ibsen and a profound critic against the well-made play so popular at his time. Shaw takes from Ibsen the social criticism but not the symbolism neither the poetic style, maybe because he was not much interested in art but in the ideas; as a matter of fact he used his plays as a vehicle for his social thinking.

His first play, Widower´s Houses, denounced the exploitation of the poor forced to pay high rents to live in the slums. He went against the romantic conventions of the theatre concentrating not in the relationship between the protagonist couple but in the social issue.

In Man and Superman he went further than before in the expression of his ideas, presenting his philosophy about humanity. Jack Tanner rejects Ann Whitefield because he is looking for spiritual development, but he finally submits to marriage. Behind the debate about the relationship of the sexes, the play presents Shaw’s belief in the improvement of humanity and the idea that it lies in its continuation through the reproductive capacity of women.

Those plays gave him some fame, but it was not until the success of the play about Ireland John Bull’s Other Island in 1904 that his reputation was finally established in England.

Then came his most famous plays. Major Barbara explores religious consciousness. This play had more dramatic vitality than earlier ones. He shows the striking contradiction between the hypocrisy that the protagonist experiences in the Salvation Army and the authentic religious principles of her father, an ammunitions manufacturer.

His most popular play was Pygmalion, regarded as the masterpiece of his comedies although it is not as much a play of ideas as his other plays. This is a satire of the English class system in which a professor of phonetics trains a florist to pass as a lady.

The World War I was a watershed for Shaw´s works and this event puts an end to his former stage of satire and humour. His faith in the superman was strengthened but he lost faith in the humankind, in man as a political and social individual.

Heartbreak House (1919) presents the spiritual degradation of the generation responsible for the war.

Shaw had previously supported gradual democratic change toward socialism, but now he saw more hope in government by benign strong men. This sometimes made him oblivious to the dangers of dictatorships. Near his life’s end that hope failed him too. Back to Methuselah and The Apple Cart share similar characteristics.

With Saint Joan (1924), his masterpiece, Shaw was again accepted by the post-war public. The play presents Joan of Arc as a superior being and the personification of the tragic heroine. He showed her death as the expression of a paradox, that men fear their heroes and their saints because of their higher moral qualities.

In the last plays there is a tendency towards the symbolic, there are no real villains, or rather say, the real villain is society itself. Shaw asserted “until society is reformed, no man can reform himself except in the most insignificant small details”.

B Sean O´Casey

Sean O’Casey was born in the year 1880 in the slummy area of Dublin. Like George Bernard Shaw, he is a Protestant, although he grew up in a poor Catholic district of Dublin. Although O’Casey initially identified with the Irish national movement, he soon discovered that this movement was bourgeois in character and neglected the interests of the working classes. Consequently, O’Casey became a socialist.

O’Casey’s first accepted play, The Shadow of a Gunman, was performed on the stage of the Abbey Theatre in 1923. This was the beginning of a relationship that was to be fruitful for both theatre and dramatist, but that ended in some bitterness. The play is set during the confrontation between the Irish Republican Army and the British forces. The protagonist is mistaken with a revolutionary and people admire him. However, eventually it is a woman who pays with her life for masculine politics and vanity.

It was followed by Juno and the Paycock (1924). It deals with the impact of the Irish Civil War on the working class poor of the city. It has been considered his masterpiece. The setting chosen is again the same, but the political background is now the Civil War of 1922.

Next came The Plough and the Stars (1926), which is set during the Easter Rising of 1916. This play contrasts again the vanity of fanatical revolutionaries with the suffering of their women. The protagonist tries to keep her husband away from the battles, but he is too vain and too stubborn. Eventually he dies, and she looses her child and goes insane. However, he did not succeed in repeating the success of his Dublin Trilogy.

These early plays are marked by mixing feelings about the Irish working class: on the one hand, he admires his compatriots for the unconquerable spirit; on the other hand, he rejects them because they are unable to give a solid direction to the Irish cause.

Once in England he married an American actress and didn’t want anything to do with Ireland or Dublin anymore. Most of his next plays, all of which were experiments with expressionism, would be premiered on a London stage. In 1958 O’Casey even imposed a ban on all productions of his plays in Ireland – a move that was probably also inspired by his recent turn to communism and his aversion to Catholic Ireland.

The new stage in O´Casey´s drama production was pervaded with Expressionist and Symbolist techniques he did not win the same acceptance as before. Expressionism is opposed to realism because it tries to express the problems of society by the use of stylised characters and by movement, chants, dance and symbols. Ernst Toller and Georg Kaiser, who also influenced Eugene O’Neill, Elmer Rice and a little later also Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco, were O’Casey’s new heroes. The mix of tragedy and comedy remained an important part of his work, but it became a little more abstract and also didactic, which according to many critics, was the reason for the diminished dramatical impact of his plays. He first used this kind of elements in The Silver Tassie (1929), an anti-war drama.

The plays he wrote after this, including the darken, allegorical Within the Gates (1934); his Communist extravaganza, The Star Turns Red (1940); the “wayward comedy” Purple Dust (1942); and Red Roses for Me (1943), saw a move away from his early style towards a more expressionistic and overtly socialist mode of writing.

These plays have never had the same critical or popular success as the early trilogy. After World War II he wrote Cock-a-Doodle Dandy (1949), which is perhaps his most beautiful and exciting work. From The Bishop’s Bonfire (1955) O’Casey’s late plays are studies on the common life in Ireland, “Irish microcosmos”, like The Drums of Father Ned (1958). They are mainly satirical expositions of the conservative forces in Irish society. Critics were divided on O’Casey’s conversion, but the author himself thought it to be the ideal way for the theatre to embrace more than just the realistic aspect of life.

In these late years, O’Casey put his creative energy into his highly entertaining and interesting six-volume Autobiography too. It is a work of great contribution for the understanding of the works and beliefs of O´Casey this six volumes of autobiography that were written as stream of consciousness in a brilliantly subjective style of a third person named Johnny Casside. O’Casey’s finest writing after his self-imposed exile from Ireland in 1926 is considered to be his six volumes of autobiography: I Knock at the Door, Pictures in the Hallway, Drums Under the Window, Inishfallen Fare Thee Well, Rose and Crown, and Sunset and Evening Star. They were written as stream of consciousness works and in a brilliantly subjective style and voice of the third person named Johnny Casside. David Krause, author of Sean O’Casey and His World, says of the autobiography: “Like the voluble characters in his plays, O’Casey can be profligate and exuberant with words, playing with their sounds and meanings, indulging in the Joycean game of puns, parodies, malapropisms and comic invective.”

O’Casey’s plays must be understood with regard to the political conflicts of his time. The plays reflected the author’s changed opinions on politics. He had begun propagating an apolitical stance in matters concerning Ireland and thought the theatre to be the perfect place to propagate his pacifistic views.


The political system continued to be based upon the Parliamentary Monarchy, George V being the King from 1910 to 1936; Edward VIII in 1936 since he had to abdicate due to his relationship with the American divorcée Wallis Simpson; and George VI from 1936 to 1952. The universal individual suffrage was extended to all men and to women over 30. Later during the 20’s suffrage for women was extended on the same terms as men.

The Conservative Party continued to be the party of the right. It underwent little change and prevailed over the other parties. The Liberal Party was divided into two groups in 1916: the National Liberals, led by Lloyd George, who governed in coalition with the Conservatives, and the Independent Liberals, a minority led by Asquith. The Labour Party developed greatly during this period to become the second party in importance. The first Labour Government was constituted in 1924 with MacDonald as Prime Minister. The main characteristic of politics of the 30’s was the National Union Governments, from 1931 to 1935 with the Labour Prime Minister MacDonald, and from 1935 to 1940 with the Conservative Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin in the first two years and Neville Chamberlain during the others.

With regards to literature, we shall distinguish three great blocks: poetry, narrative and drama. In the first group, the so-called War Poets inaugurated a sort of poetry whose raw material was the war experience, among the most famous were Rupert Brooke, Isaac Rosenberg and Wilfred Owen.

Another of the best known poets of the period between the wars was T.S. Eliot, who was born in America but spent most of his adult life in England. He writes as a man living through the years after the First World War in which men’s lives had been lost or damaged, their hopes destroyed and promises broken. In this situation, he sees poetry and ceremony as forces that give meaning to the emptiness and confusion of the modern world. The Waste Land (1922) is a long and highly complex poem which brings together great variety of human voices and experiences.

In the 30s another group of poets became well known, and the most representative one is W.H. Auden. His work of this period shows concern for the political and social events and a wish to become part of them, in contrast with the distance from the world which characterised Eliot. In some poems for example he writes about the effect of political events on private lives, such as the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of the Second World War.

With regards to narrative the most outstanding figures were E.M. Forster, D. H.Lawrence, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell.

E.M. Forster is the first writer to take a new view of the values which governed British society and on which the British Empire was based. Howard’s End (1910) shows the different beliefs of two families, the Wilcoxes, concerned with practical things, and the Schlegel sisters, concerned with spiritual values, who struggle for the possession of the house that names the novel and which stands for England itself. Forster’s interest was how to connect the qualities that each family stands for. He started to write before the war A Passage to India before the war, but he did not finish it until 1924. This novel is more pessimistic than his pre-war novels. He presents the English that govern India like the Wilcoxes, interested in the appearances but unable to see the inner truth of events.

In the development of literary modernism 1915 was a significant year for fiction. D.H. Lawrence felt it was the novelist’s job to show how an individual’s view of his own personality was often affected by conventions of language, family and religion, and to show how people and their relationships with each other were always changing and moving. He took the form of the traditional novel and made it wider and deeper. Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover are some of his works. Sexuality is one of Lawrence’s major themes. Others are industrialism and art.

Another novelist product of this time was James Joyce, who was born and educated in Ireland but spent most of his adult life in Europe. His first short stories, published as Dubliners (1914), are realistic on the surface but carry a deeper meaning. Something similar happens in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), concerned with the autobiographical character Stephen Dedalus. This novel shows his rejection of politic and religious feelings before he can follow his own fate. Stephen appears again in Ulysses (1922), regarded as one of the most important novels of the 20th century. In Ulysses he created a new style of writing which allows the reader to move within the minds of the characters. The novel has no real plot, it follows the three main characters and plays with style and with the themes and characters of ancient Greek stories. The main concern again is the nature of the act of artistic creation. His last novel, Finnegan’s Wake (1939) took one step further the new type of language, the disintegration of the form of the novel and the tragedy and humour of human life.

Virginia Woolf was also attempting to explore the consciousness of her characters, but she did not deal with so many types of people and situations as Joyce. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) describes a single day in 1923 as it is experienced by the central character but she did not deal with so many types of people and situations as Joyce. To the Lighthouse (1927) presents a family on holiday in Scotland in 1910. The novel shows two kinds of truth, Mr. Ramsay’s, the truth of facts that can be proved, and Mrs. Ramsay’s, an attempt to find the truth that lies below the facts.

In the 30’s we see the development of a more socially conscious narrative. Graham Greene is one of the most widely read British novelists of the 20th century. The world of his characters is characterised by danger, violence, and physical decay. The tone of his works emphasises the presence of evil as a palpable force and a preoccupation with sin and moral failure, influenced by the Catholicism into which he converted. Greene’s most famous novel, The Power and the Glory (1940), has a Catholic theme: the wanderings of a priest hunted down in rural Mexico where the church is outlawed. Greene worked for the Foreign Office during the war and later travelled widely as a journalist. From these experiences he drew materials for many novels. Some of his best known novels deal with Third World nations on the brink of revolution, such as The Quiet American (1956), set in Vietnam in the early 1950s and Our Man in Havana (1958), set in Cuba just before the revolution.

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) was educated at Oxford and then he devoted himself to travelling and to the writing of novels, soon earning a wide reputation as a satirical novelist. After the war that took him to Yugoslavia he led a retired life. The novels he wrote before 1939 were mainly satirical. In Decline and Fall (1928) he sets the pattern of his satirical novels, with the story of a young man’s innocence and the world’s dishonesty. During the war Waugh’s writing took a more serious turn. In Brideshead Revisited (1945) he studied providence and the recovery of faith among the members of a Catholic landed family (Waugh converted into Catholicism in 1930). In a trilogy formed by Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), and Unconditional Surrender (1961) he analysed the character of World War II in relation with the eternal struggle between good and evil and civilisation and barbarism.

George Orwell also began his career in the 30s, but his fame rests mainly on his books of the late 40s. Much of his best writing is political. His most famous work is Animal Farm (1945) an allegory about a revolution gone wrong. The animals on a farm drive out their master and take control, but the purity of their ideas is destroyed and they end up being as greedy and dishonest as the farmer. Orwell was conscious of how language could be used to hide the truth, and in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) he shows how governments can use it to deceive the people. This book describes a future world where every word and action is controlled by the state, which has changed the language so that the only words left are those for objects and ideas that they want people to know about.

With regards to drama, the most important dramatist of this time were George Bernard Shaw and Sean O´Casey..

Before the war Shaw had already been very critical with the British society, but with optimism in the future in plays like Man and Superman (1903) and Major Barbara (1905). He had also achieved success for the comic elements in his plays, especially in Pygmalion (1912), the story of a flower girl turned into a lady by a teacher of phonetics. But in the 20’s he wrote his masterpiece: Saint Joan (1924). He presents Joan of Arc as a superior being and the personification of the tragic heroine. The extraordinary success of this play led to the awarding to him of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925, but he refused it.

On the other hand, Sean O´Casey was an idealist with a strong sense of justice that marked his life and work. In his early forties, while continuing to support himself as a labourer, we wrote, in quick succession three realistic plays about the slums of Dublin. The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, and The Plough and the Stars provoked public outcry mainly because of O’Casey’s consistent refusal to glorify the violence of the nationalist movement, instead mocking the heroics of war and presenting the theme that dead heroes were far outnumbered by dead innocent people. O’Casey followed these plays of realism with The Silver Tassie, which was submitted to the Abbey Theatre in 1927. It was a play considered more symbolic and expressionistic than the previous Abbey plays. It was labelled a tragicomedy based on the cruel horrors of World War I.

Most of his plays which followed, filled with symbolism and fantasy, were infused with the evangelical view that became the theme of the rest of O’Casey’s life. These plays include Within the Gates, The Star Turns Red, Purple Dust, Red Roses for Me and Cock A Doodle Dandy.


D.H. Lawrence: A Biography by J. Meyers (1990); D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years, 1885-1912 by John Worthen (1991); D.H. Lawrence: Aesthetics and Ideology by A. Fernihough (1993); D.H. Lawrence: A Study of the Shorter Fiction by W. Thornton (1993); D. H. Lawrence: The Story of a Marriage by Brenda Maddox (1996); D.H. Lawrence: A Reference Companion by P. Poplawski (1996); D.H. Lawrence: Triumph to Exile, 1912-1922 by Mark Kinkead-Weekes (1996); D.H. Lawrence: The Thinker as Poet by F. Becket (1997); D.H. Lawrence, Dying Game by D. Ellis (1998); D. H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider by John Worthen (2007

The Language of 1984 by W.F. Bolton (1984); George Orwell, ed. by Courtney T. Wemyss and Alexej Ugrinsky (1987); Orwell by Michel Shelden (1991); Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation by Jeffrey Meyers (2000); Orwell’s Victory by Christopher Hitchens (2002); George Orwell and the Betrayal of Dissent by Scott Lucas (2003); George Orwell by Gordon Bowker (2003); Orwell: The Life by D.J. Taylor (2003

Evelyn Waugh by D. Lodge (1971); Evelyn Waugh by Christopher Sykes (1975, rev. 1977); Evelyn Waugh by C.W. Lane (1981); The Picturesque Prison by J. Heath (1982); Evelyn Waugh by Martin Stannard (1986); Evelyn Waugh by Selina Hastings (1994); The Life of Evelyn Waugh: A Critical Biography by Douglas Lane Patey (2001

Graham Greene: Man of Paradox, ed. by A.F. Cassis (1994); Graham Greene: The Enemy Within by Michael Shelden (1994); Conversations with Graham Greene, ed. by Henry J. Donaghy (1992); Graham Greene: A Study of the Short Fiction by Richard Kelly (1992); Graham Greene: A Revaluation, ed. by Jeffrey Meyers (1990); The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. 1: 1904-1939 by Vincent Sherry (1989); A Reader’s Guide to Graham Greene by Paul O’Prey (1988); Graham Greene by Richard Kelley (1985); Saints, Sins, and Comedians by Roger Sharrock (1984); The Other Man by Marie Francoise Allain (1983); Graham Greene, ed. by Samuel Hynes (1973);

Virginia Woolf: a Winter’s Life by Lyndall Gordon (1984); Virginia Woolf by Rachel Bowlby (1988); Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis by Elizabeth Abel (1989); Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work by Louise DeSalvo (1989); Virginia Woolf: A Literary Life by John Mepham (1991); Virginia Woolf: A Collection of Critical Essays by M. Homans (1993); Vita and Virginia by Suzanne Raitt (1993);

The Birth of Modernism: Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats and the Occult by Leon Surette (1993); T.S. Eliot: A Life by P. Acroyd (1985); T.S. Eliot: The Critic as Philosopher by L. Freed (1979); The Composition of Four Quarters by Helen Gardner (1978); T.S. Eliot by B. Bergonzi (1973W.H. Auden: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter (1981); W.H. Auden: The Critical Heritage, ed. by John Haffenden (1983); Early Auden by Edward Mendelson (1983); W.H. Auden: The Far Interior, ed. by Alan Bold (1985); Auden’s Apologies for Poetry by Lucy McDiarmid (1990); Auden by Richard Davenport-Hines (1995); Later Auden by Edward Mendelson (1999); The Poetry of W.H. Auden by Paul Hendon (2002) .