Topic 58 – Political, social and economic evolution of the united kingdom and ireland since 1945. Their presence in the european community. Literary panorama of this period in both countries

Topic 58 – Political, social and economic evolution of the united kingdom and ireland since 1945. Their presence in the european community. Literary panorama of this period in both countries



2.1 Political development at the end of the World War

2.2 Labour (1945 – 51): The Welfare State and the withdrawal from the Empire

2.3 Conservative government (1951-64)

2.4 Labour interlude (1964-68)

2.5 The United Kingdom in the 1970S: Wilson, Heath and Callaghan

2.6 Conservative government from 1979 to 1997: Thatcher and John Major

2.7 Tony Blair and Gordon Brown

2.8 The Irish Republic since 1945



4.1 Narrative

A Graham Greene

B Evelyn Waugh

C George Orwell

D William Golding

E Iris Murdoch

F Anthony Burgess

G Popular fiction

4.2 Theatre

A Samuel Beckett

B Harold Pinter

C John Osborne

D Brian Friel

4.3 Poetry

A W.H. Auden

B The poets of the Second World War

C Dylan Thomas

D The Movement

E Ted Hughes




In 1951, Churchill again became prime minister at the head of a Conservative government. George VI died on Feb. 6, 1952, and was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth II. Churchill stepped down in 1955 in favour of Sir Anthony Eden, who resigned on grounds of ill health in 1957 and was succeeded by Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home. In 1964, Harold Wilson led the Labour Party to victory. A lagging economy brought the Conservatives back to power in 1970. Prime Minister Edward Heath won Britain’s admission to the European Community. Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first woman prime minister as the Conservatives won 339 seats on May 3, 1979.

Although there were continuing economic problems and foreign policy disputes, an upswing in the economy in 1986–1987 led Thatcher to call elections in June, and she won a near-unprecedented third consecutive term. The unpopularity of Thatcher’s poll tax together with an uncompromising position toward further European integration eroded support within her own party. When John Major won the Conservative Party leadership in November, Thatcher resigned, paving the way for Major to form a government.

On the other hand, the Irish Republic had not participated directly in the war Ireland was severely hit because of the difficult economic situation of Britain, it’s main market. An immediate ending of emergency conditions in Ireland did not follow the end of World War II in 1945. Food and fuel were in short supply and large numbers of people continued to emigrate. During the 1950’s, and despite frequent changes in government, there was little change in the living conditions of ordinary people: unemployment was widespread and the only option open to many young people was to leave Ireland in search of work. In this decade emigration reached huge levels not known since the 19th century.

Nevertheless, in the 1960’s there was also a change in politics that brought in a bright new future.

The government gave grants to farmers and business to help them produce more goods, and big foreign industries were attracted by generous grants and tax concessions. As a result many new jobs were created during this decade, emigration was greatly reduced and the Irish population began to increase for the first time since the Famine.

But economic progress was not the only change experienced, there were also significant changes in education and society at large. The 60’s were years of great social change throughout the whole Western world, there were new tastes in music and fashion, new attitudes among young people and massive changes in technology and communications. And Ireland was part of this changing world. In these years the standard of living of most Irish people rose, this was possible by greater job opportunities and higher wages.

With regards to literature, this era is known as postmodernism. As with all stylistic eras, no definite dates exist for the rise and fall of postmodernism’s popularity. 1941, the year in which Irish novelist James Joyce and British novelist Virginia Woolf both died, is sometimes used as a rough boundary for postmodernism’s start.

The prefix ‘post,’ however, does not necessarily imply a new era. Rather, it could also indicate a reaction against modernism in the wake of the Second World War (with its disrespect for human rights, just confirmed in the Geneva Convention, through the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Holocaust, the bombing of Dresden, the fire-bombing of Tokyo, and Japanese American internment).

In the following topic we shall study the political, social and economic evolution of the United Kingdom and Ireland since 1945. After that, we will analyse the most representative authors in narrative, theatre and poetry.


2.1 Political development at the end of the World War

Churchill had promised in the House of Commons to dissolve the Parliament, elected in 1935, after the German surrender. Considering that the leading figures in each party had been colleagues, the electoral campaign was remarkably bitter. The Conservatives focused on Churchill as the man who had won the war. Churchill denounced Labour as the party of socialism and totalitarianism while promising strong leadership and unspecific measures of social reform while Labour concentrated on peacetime reconstruction and fair shares for all. The result was an overwhelming victory of Labour.

2.2 Labour (1945-51): The Welfare State and the withdrawal from the Empire

Labour faced serious problems. The war deprived Britain of its foreign financial resources and the nation had large debts with other countries. Moreover, the economy was in crisis. War industries were very large while others, such as railways and coal mines, were old-fashioned. With nothing to export, Britain could not even pay for food and had to negotiate a loan from the United States. However, Labour also enacted measures that had long been its program such as the nationalisation of railroads, coal mines, the Bank of England, road transport, docks and electrical power. They also established in 1946 the National Health Service, creating the so-called “welfare state”. However, by 1947 they were overtaken again by the economic crisis and rationing continued. Relief came with the announcement by the U.S. secretary of state George C. Marshall of a massive program of financial aid to Europe.

The election of the Labour government at the end of World War II coincided with the rise of civil confrontations within India, where the independentist movement had been very important since World War I. Britain had no choice but to withdraw from colonial territories since it no longer had the military and economic power to control them. British administration in India ended in 1947, while Burma and Ceylon received independence by early 1948. The same circumstances required the end of the control of Trans-Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. The orderly ending of the British Empire was Labour’s greatest international achievement.

The distance between Ireland and the UK had become greater during World War II, due to Ireland’s neutrality. In 1948 the Irish Prime Minister John A. Costello proclaimed the Republic of Ireland ending the fiction of Commonwealth membership. Britain recognised the status of Ireland but declared that cession of Northern Ireland could not occur without consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. After the full independence followed a few years of stability. The IRA had some activity during the 50’s and 60’s, but this did not affect much the relations between the North and the South. The Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom even formed a trading partnership, and they would end up joining together in 1973 the EEC.

2.3 Conservative government (1951-64)

Economic problems and party division troubled Attlee’s administration and in 1951 the Conservatives returned to power. Churchill was Prime Minister again and he presided over the accession of the new monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1952. In 1955 he had to resign due to his ill health, and the next Prime Minister was Anthony Eden, who resigned in January 1957 as a result of the failed attempt to reoccupy the Suez Canal. Eden was succeeded by Harold Macmillan, who remained in office until October 1963 when he was succeeded by Sir Alexander Douglas-Home. In this period the main concerns were economic change and the continued retreat from colonialism. On the surface the 1950s and early 60s were years of economic expansion and prosperity, but economic crises were frequent. However, Britain also benefited from the rise in tourism mostly in London.

2.4 Labour interlude (1964-68)

The long Conservative tenure finished in 1964, with the election of Harold Wilson. His government inherited the problems accumulated during the period of Conservative prosperity: poor labour productivity, a shaky pound and trade union unrest. His programme for improvement included unpopular controls on imports, the devaluation of the pound, wage restraint, and an attempt to reduce the power of the trade unions. Furthermore, in 1968 Wilson was confronted with civil rights agitation in Northern Ireland degenerating into armed violence. The population of Northern Ireland was still mainly protestant and the local government was dominated by the Unionist party, but radical Unionist politicians presented the growth of the Catholic population as a threat to the interests of the Protestants. The British government started to intervene, and they ended up sending troops. In January 1972 a civil rights march resulted in the shooting by the army of thirteen civilians in what is known as “Bloody Sunday”. Finally London resumed direct control of the affairs of Northern Ireland and appointed a secretary of state over the province.

2.5 The United Kingdom in the 1970S: Wilson, Heath and Callaghan

But the Conservatives returned to power with Edward Heath. He took Britain into the EEC, but his economic policies were defeated by the trade unions, which boycotted his industrial legislation, and by the Arab oil embargo in 1973, which made a national coal strike particularly effective. A new election resulted in the return of Wilson to office, which soon made peace with the miners. However, the last years of this Labour government were also difficult. Both Wilson and James Callaghan, who succeeded him in 1976, had to deal with the union unrest induced by rapidly increasing prices.

2.6 Conservative government from 1979 to 1997: Thatcher and John Major

In 1979 Callaghan was defeated in Parliament and in the subsequent election the Conservatives returned under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. She denationalised the industries that Labour had taken under government control as well as some other such as telecommunications that had always been in state hands. But her main achievement was winning the contest for power with the trade unions. Finally in 1984 she won a yearlong struggle with the coal miners. Her policies were helped by a revival of world prosperity and by the profits from industries sold to investors. She also achieved popularity by sending the armed forces to expel an Argentine force from the Falkland Islands in the spring of 1982, but she was unable to end the strife in Northern Ireland. She became in 1988 the longest continually serving prime minister since the 19th century. However, she did not survive the third term. She lost much support with her fellow Conservatives for her insistence on replacing local property taxes with a uniform poll tax and for her unwillingness to integrate Britain into a common European currency. In 1990 she was replaced by John Major. Amid the longest recession since the 1930s, the Conservatives won general elections in April 1992 to return for a fourth term, even though their majority in Parliament was diminished.

2.7 Tony Blair and Gordon Brown

Eighteen years of Conservative rule ended in May 1997 when Tony Blair and the Labour Party triumphed in the British elections. Blair has been compared to former U.S. president Bill Clinton for his youthful, telegenic personality and centrist views. He produced constitutional reform that partially decentralized the UK, leading to the formation of separate parliaments in Wales and Scotland by 1999. Britain turned over its colony Hong Kong to China in July 1997.

Blair’s controversial meeting in Oct. 1997 with Sinn Fein’s president, Gerry Adams, was the first meeting in 76 years between a British prime minister and a Sinn Fein leader. It infuriated numerous factions but was a symbolic gesture in support of the nascent peace talks in Northern Ireland. In 1998 the Good Friday Agreement, strongly supported by Tony Blair, led to the first promise of peace between Catholics and Protestants since the beginning of the so-called Troubles.

In June 2001, Blair won a second landslide victory, with the Labour Party capturing 413 seats in parliament. Britain became the staunchest ally of the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks. British troops joined the U.S. in the bombing campaign against Afghanistan in Oct. 2001, after the Taliban-led government refused to turn over the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden.

On May 5, 2005, Blair won a historic third term as the country’s prime minister. Despite this victory, Blair’s party was severely hurt in the elections. The Labour Party won just 36% of the national vote, the lowest percentage by a ruling party in British history. The Conservative Party won 33%, and the Liberal Democrats 22%. Blair acknowledged that the reason for the poor showing was Britain’s involvement in the war in Iraq. A number of political analysts believe Blair will not serve out his new five-year term. Many expect him to resign in the next several years and turn over the reins of the Labour Party to Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, whose policies many credit in creating Britain’s strong and stable economy.

In April 2006, the Blair government weathered a major scandal when it was revealed that since 1999 it had released 1,023 foreign convicts—among them murderers and rapists—into British society instead of deporting them to their countries of origin.

In May Blair announced that he would leave office on June 27. Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, succeeded Blair. Brown is a study in contrasts to Blair. Brown, typically dour, lacks Blair’s charisma and quick wit. The new prime minister faces the task of shoring up the Labour Party, which has not fared well in recent elections, and of regaining the public’s trust. Both have suffered from Britain’s support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

2.8 The Irish Republic since 1945

Although they had not participated directly in the war Ireland was severely hit because of the difficult economic situation of Britain, it’s main market. An immediate ending of emergency conditions in Ireland did not follow the end of World War II in 1945. Food and fuel were in short supply and large numbers of people continued to emigrate. During the 1950’s, and despite frequent changes in government, there was little change in the living conditions of ordinary people: unemployment was widespread and the only option open to many young people was to leave Ireland in search of work. In this decade emigration reached huge levels not known since the 19th century.

Nevertheless, in the 1960’s there was also a change in politics that brought in a bright new future.

The government gave grants to farmers and business to help them produce more goods, and big foreign industries were attracted by generous grants and tax concessions. As a result many new jobs were created during this decade, emigration was greatly reduced and the Irish population began to increase for the first time since the Famine.

But economic progress was not the only change experienced, there were also significant changes in education and society at large. The 60’s were years of great social change throughout the whole Western world, there were new tastes in music and fashion, new attitudes among young people and massive changes in technology and communications. And Ireland was part of this changing world. In these years the standard of living of most Irish people rose, this was possible by greater job opportunities and higher wages.

The Catholic Church of Ireland also changed greatly: after the Second Vatican Council lay people became more involved in Church affairs and many young people began to question the beliefs of the older generation.

By the end of the decade the country was enjoying economic prosperity, but the rate of economic growth was slowing down and many critics of the government believed that more could have been done to help the underprivileged in society. The Irish Labour Party won many recruits, including some prominent figures from University and the world of broadcasting.

At this time also serious unrest broke out in Northern Ireland. During 1968 members of the minority Catholic community were campaigning for equal rights with Protestants in what came to be known as the “Civil Rights Movement”. In August 1969 widespread violence erupted in Belfast and Derry, resulting in many dead or injured. This Northern crisis was to have a serious impact on the government. In a famous speech the Taoiseach, Jack Linch, hinted at help for nationalists in Northern Ireland when he said that “the government can no longer stand by” as Catholic communities were under attack. At the time there was widespread sympathy throughout the Republic for Catholics in Northern Ireland. Many people held simplistic views on Irish unification and took no account of the feelings of Ulster Unionists, and these included some members of the government. In 1970 two former ministers were arrested and charged with attempting to import arms and ammunition for the IRA. The trial that followed became known as “the Arms Trial”.

Meanwhile the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland continued to influence people in the Republic. In 1973 an agreement, the Sunningdale Agreement, was signed with the British PM, but extremists destroyed it within a year. In response to the continuing violence the Irish government introduced a number of strict laws against members of the IRA and other illegal organisations. Years later, in 1983 and 1984 Irish nationalists of all the non-violent political parties from North and South met in Dublin to discuss possible solutions to the crisis in Northern Ireland known as the “New Ireland Forum”. After long, patient negotiations a historic agreement was reached in 1985, the “Anglo Irish Agreement”, which gave the Irish government a say in government action in Northern Ireland and a right to represent the views of the nationalist minority there. Under its terms closer links were set up between the Irish government and the British cabinet minister in charge of Northern Ireland so that they could work together to bring peace and prosperity to the whole island.

Against a background of increasing violence in Northern Ireland, the government also prepared for an event which would shape the country’s future destiny: Ireland’s entry into the EC. As far back as 1961 the Irish government had applied for dull membership of the EC at the same time as Great Britain, but when France blocked British entry Ireland could no longer attempt to join because the economies of both countries were so closely linked. When France retired her objections in 1969 both of them reapplied for membership. Farmers and businessmen were among those most in favour of Irish entry in the EC, arguing that it would bring better market for both agriculture and industrial products and lead to a greater number of jobs. Many trade unions were against it because they believed that jobs would be lost when cheaper goods from Europe replaced homemade products in Irish shops. When a referendum was held on the question in May 1972 eighty three percent of the people voted in favour of the entry. All was now in place for Ireland to enter the EC in January 1973.


Britain’s entry into the EEC was welcomed by the smaller EC countries, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands, which believed that the British would help counterbalance the combined power of France and Germany. But the EC countries expected more from Britain than she was prepared to give. Britain at once objected to the agricultural policy which kept food prices high in order to protect the small French and German farmers. Prices went up, not down. Anti-marketers from both the left and the right protested loudly that they did not want to be tied to a Europe that lived in a manner quite foreign to the British way of life. The left wing of the Labour Party disliked European capitalism, while the right wing of the Conservative Party was bitterly opposed to the interference in Britain’s affairs.

When Mrs. Thatcher won the election in 1979 the other EC members found her tough, determined and, at times, difficult. But she made it absolutely clear from the start that Britain meant to stay in the EC. She negotiated reductions in Britain’s payments to the EC in 1980 and 1984. Although she succeeded in cutting Britain’s bill by two-thirds she was not able to reform the agricultural policy, which continued to allow huge quantities of unwanted food to be produced at enormous cost.

Since joining the EC, Britain’s trade with other member states has increased to nearly 50 percent of its total foreign trade and it now seems very unlikely that Britain would renounce its membership of the world’s largest trading bloc. However, in the 90’s Britain remained distanced from the majority of the countries in the community in rejecting the closer links, both economic and political, that were formed, transforming the European Community into the European Union. Eurosceptics, as the people who reject closer integration into the Union are now known, are present in both the Conservative and the Labour Party. This has led Britain to be one of the few countries to remain voluntarily outside the single European currency, the euro.

On the other hand, Ireland has taken more advantage than Britain from European Union membership, integrating fully into its structure and benefiting from its structural and cohesion funds in order to modernise itself and get finally out of its traditional weak economic situation. It has also helped the country finally free itself from its strong economic dependence on Britain, especially due to Britain’s lack distance from European institutions and policies.


3.1 Narrative

A 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.

B 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.

C 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.

D William Golding

The five years Golding spent in the navy (from 1940 to 1945) made an enormous impact, exposing him to the incredible cruelty and barbarity of which humankind is capable. Writing about his wartime experiences later, he asserted that “man produces evil, as a bee produces honey.” Long before, while in college, he had lost faith in the rationalism of his father with its attendant belief in the perfectibility of humankind. While Golding’s body of fiction utilizes a variety of storytelling techniques, the content frequently comes back to the problem of evil, the conflict between reason’s civilizing influence, and mankind’s innate desire for domination.

In Lord of the Flies, which was published in 1954, Golding combined that perception of humanity with his years of experience with schoolboys. An examination of the duality of savagery and civilization in humanity, Golding uses a pristine tropical island as a protected environment in which a group of marooned British schoolboys act out their worst impulses. The boys loyal to the ways of civilization face persecution by the boys indulging in their innate aggression. As such, the novel illustrates the failure of the rationalism espoused by Golding’s father.

Pincher Martin followed in 1956. Like Lord of the Flies, it concerns survival after shipwreck. Navy lieutenant Christopher Martin is thrown from his ship during combat in World War II. He finds a rock to cling to, and the rest of the story is related from this vantage point, detailing his struggle for survival and recounting the details of his life.

Issues of faith are addressed in The Spire (1964) as well. A fourteenth-century Dean of Barchester Cathedral decides that God wants a 400-foot-high spire added to the top of the cathedral, although the cathedral’s foundation is not sufficient to hold the weight of the spire. The novel tells the story of the human costs of the spire’s construction and the lessons that the Dean learns too late.

The Pyramid (1967) provides an examination of English social class within the context of a town ironically named Stilbourne. A primary issue in this story is music, and the novel utilizes the same structure as the musical form sonata.

Golding’s next publication was a collection entitled The Scorpion God: Three Short Novels (1971). Each story explores the negative repercussions of technological progress—an idea that was in sharp contrast to the technology worship of the space age. One of the novellas had been originally published in 1956; Golding then turned the story into a comedic play titled The Brass Butterfly, which was first performed in London in 1958.

Golding’s next novel, Darkness Visible, appeared in 1979. It addresses the interdependence of good and evil, exemplified in the two main characters: Sophy, who plots to kidnap a child for ransom, and Matty, who gives his life to prevent it.

One of Golding’s most ambitious works is The Sea Trilogy, three full-length novels that follow the emotional education and moral growth of an aristocratic young man named Edmund Talbot during an ocean voyage to Australia in 1812. Rites of Passage (1980) shows Talbot’s spiritual growth, Close Quarters (1987) depicts his emotional and aesthetic development, and Fire Down Below (1989) covers his political enlightenment.

Golding’s work is not limited to fiction: He published three collections of essays which are often comic and expand upon or illuminate his novels. The Hot Gates and Other Occasional Pieces was published in 1966; A Moving Target appeared in 1982; and An Egyptian Journal followed in 1985.

His 1980 novel Rites of Passage won the Booker Prize, a prestigious British award. Golding’s greatest honour was being awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize for Literature.

E Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin. Her mother was Irish and her father was an English civil servant who served as a cavalry officer in the World War I. The family moved to London in her childhood and she grew up in the western suburbs of Hammersmith and Chiswich.

During World War II she was an active member of the Communist Party, but soon became disappointed with its ideology and resigned. From 1938 to 1942 she worked at the Treasury as an assistant principal, and then for the United Nations relief organization UNNRA (1944-46) in Austria and Belgium.

In 1956 Murdoch married John Baley, a professor of English at Oxford, who has also published fiction. They lived many years at Steeple Ashton, and then moved into the academic suburb of North Oxford. In 1954 Murdoch made her debut as novelist with Under the Net, which has as its protagonist the Sartrean hero Jack Donague. The book criticizes Sartre’s concern with essences rather than materiality. A Severed Head (1961) exploited Jungian theories of archetypes. It has been criticized for the weighting of its theoretical template over a concern with characterization. The novel was turned into a play with the help of J.B. Priestley. A Severed Head analyses through Freud’s theories about male sexuality and desire, and particularly the fear of castration.

The Bell (1958) is among Murdoch’s most successful novels, depicting an Anglican religious community in Gloucestershire. They have joined forces to create a new and better life, but the old conflict between sex and religion again undermines the pious foundations of the community. The novel presents a series of events, which focus on the replacement bell to be hung in an abbey tower. The difficulty of spiritual life finally culminates in an effort to move the bell along a causeway to the gates of the nunnery – the bell suddenly falls into the water and sinks without a trace.

Often Murdoch employed fantasy and gothic elements to create a twilight-of-the gods atmosphere in which characters are trying to find meaning in their lives. The novels combine realistic characters with extraordinary situations, and many of them have a religious or philosophical theme. In The Time of the Angels(1965) the protagonist is an atheist priest in an inner-city parish who goes in for devil worship. In The Unicorn(1963) characters from the world of convention enter into a medieval world of contingency.

Murdoch’s major work is considered The Sea, The Sea, which won the Booker Prize in 1978. Among her other publications are plays and philosophical and critical studies, including Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992). She was made a dame in 1987. From the mid-1990s Murdoch suffered from Alzheimer disease. She died in Oxford on February 8, 1999. In his memoir Elegy for Iris Bayley gives an account of his wife’s disappearance into Alzheimer’s disease with happier memories of their long, comfortable life together.

F Anthony Burgess

Anthony Burgess is the pen name of the polymath who was born John Burgess Wilson in Manchester, England on 25 February, 1917 to a Catholic family of Irish and Scottish ancestry. His mother, Elizabeth Burgess Wilson, and his only sister, Muriel, died in the influenza epidemic the following year, and the loss of his mother had a profound effect upon Burgess’s life and work.
Burgess was educated at Xaverian College and the University of Manchester, graduating with a degree in English Literature in 1940. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Army Educational Corps from 1940-1946. In 1942 he married his first wife, Llewela (Lynne) Jones, in Bournemouth while he was a sergeant and the musical director of an army dance band.

After the war, Burgess moved with Lynne to Adderbury, in Oxfordshire, and taught t the nearby Banbury Grammar School. While there he wrote his first two novels, A Vision of Battlements, which drew upon his experiences in Gibraltar, and The Worm and the Ring, although neither were published until years later.
In 1954, after the rejection of both a collection of poems and A Vision of Battlements, he and Lynne moved to Kuala Kangsar, Malaya, where Burgess taught as an Education Officer at the Malay College for the English Colonial Service. In 1956, his first novel to be published, Time for a Tiger, appeared under the name of Anthony Burgess. He continued to balance his teaching and writing careers, completing his Malayan Trilogy with the novels The Enemy in the Blanket (1958) and Beds in the East (1959). Lynne and Burgess moved from Malaya to Brunei but in 1959, he collapsed while teaching; he returned to England with a suspected brain tumour. His prolific literary output as a novelist began at this time, as he sought to provide a financial cushion for Lynne after his death; by the end of 1962 he had published seven novels, including The Doctor is Sick, The Worm and the Ring, and A Clockwork Orange, and two translations upon which he had collaborated with Lynne. He also adopted a new disguise, publishing two novels, One Hand Clapping (1962) and Inside Mr. Enderby (1963), under the pseudonym Joseph Kell. In addition, his work as a frequent commentator for the BBC began in 1961. Clearly, Burgess was not dying.
The following decade was prolific, with Burgess publishing another five novels before the decade was out, as well as a number of critical works, including his abridged edition of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. However, in1968, his wife Lynne died of liver failure shortly after Burgess returned from discussing a script for his novel, Nothing Like the Sun, with Warner Brothers in Los Angeles. He later married Liliana (Liana) Macellari, an Italian linguist and translator. He and Liana, together with their son, Paolo Andrea (later known as Andrew), soon left England for Malta, beginning a peripatetic existence that was to last the remainder of Burgess’s life. They lived in various European countries – including Rome and Bracciano, Italy and Lugano, Switzerland – before finally settling in Monaco. Throughout this period Burgess continued his prodigious output as a writer, critic, journalist, broadcaster and composer. Ultimately, he wrote over fifty books, including thirty novels, in addition to his other creative efforts. In the last twenty years of his life he also composed a tremendous amount of music, possibly stimulated in this activity by the commission and subsequent 1975 performance of his Symphony (No. 3) in C by the University of Iowa.
Anthony Burgess returned to London in the early 1990s, shortly before his death of lung cancer on 22 November 1993. His son Andrew died in London in 2002, while Liana Burgess still lives in Monaco.

G Popular Fiction

But the 20th century has also seen an important growth of popular literature. Some of the most popular authors of the century are Agatha Christie, who began writing her famous detective stories in the 20s and wrote over 75 novels most of which were best-sellers until the 1970s, Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, the most famous spy stories, packed with violent action, hairbreadth escapes, international espionage, terror, and intrigue, and John Le Carré, who wrote more realistic spy novels, based on a wide knowledge of international espionage starting with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963).

3.2 Theatre

A Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett was born on Good Friday, April 13, 1906, near Dublin, Ireland. Raised in a middle class, Protestant home, the son of a quantity surveyor and a nurse, he was sent off at the age of 14 to attend the same school which Oscar Wilde had attended. Looking back on his childhood, he once remarked, “I had little talent for happiness.”

Beckett was consistent in his loneliness. The unhappy boy soon grew into an unhappy young man, often so depressed that he stayed in bed until mid afternoon. He was difficult to engage in any lengthy conversation–it took hours and lots of drinks to warm him up–but the women could not resist him. The lonely young poet, however, would not allow anyone to penetrate his solitude. He once remarked, after rejecting advances from James Joyce’s daughter, that he was dead and had no feelings that were human.

In 1928, Samuel Beckett moved to Paris, and the city quickly won his heart. Shortly after he arrived, a mutual friend introduced him to James Joyce, and Beckett quickly became an apostle of the older writer. At the age of 23, he wrote an essay in defence of Joyce’s magnum opus against the public’s lazy demand for easy comprehensibility.

Beckett made his way through Ireland, France, England, and Germany, all the while writing poems and stories and doing odd jobs to get by. Beckett finally settled down in Paris in 1937. During World War II, Beckett stayed in Paris–even after it had become occupied by the Germans. He joined the underground movement and fought for the resistance until 1942 when several members of his group were arrested and he was forced to flee with his French-born wife to the unoccupied zone. In 1945, after it had been liberated from the Germans, he returned to Paris and began his most prolific period as a writer.

In the five years that followed, he wrote Eleutheria, Waiting for Godot, Endgame, the novels Malloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable, and Mercier et Camier, two books of short stories, and a book of criticism.

Samuel Beckett’s first play, Eleutheria, mirrors his own search for freedom, revolving around a young man’s efforts to cut himself loose from his family and social obligations. His first real triumph, however, came on January 5, 1953, when Waiting for Godot premiered at the Théâtre de Babylone. In spite of some expectations to the contrary, the strange little play in which “nothing happens” became an instant success, running for four hundred performances at the Théâtre de Babylone.

Beckett secured his position as a master dramatist on April 3, 1957 when his second masterpiece, Endgame, premiered (in French) at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Although English was his native language, all of Beckett’s major works were originally written in French–a curious phenomenon since Beckett’s mother tongue was the accepted international language of the twentieth century.

Beckett’s dramatic works do not rely on the traditional elements of drama. He trades in plot, characterization, and final solution, which had hitherto been the hallmarks of drama, for a series of concrete stage images. Language is useless, for he creates a mythical universe peopled by lonely creatures who struggle vainly to express the unexpressable. His characters exist in a terrible dreamlike vacuum, overcome by an overwhelming sense of bewilderment and grief, grotesquely attempting some form of communication, then crawling on, endlessly.

Beckett was the first of the absurdists to win international fame. His works have been translated into over twenty languages. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

B Harold Pinter

The son of a Jewish tailor, Harold Pinter was born in East London in 1930. He started writing poetry for little magazines in his teens. As a young man, he studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Central School of Speech and Drama, but soon left to undertake an acting career under the stage name David Baron. He travelled around Ireland in a Shakespearean company and spent years working in provincial repertory before deciding to turn his attention to playwriting.

Pinter started writing plays in 1957. He had mentioned an idea for a play to a friend who worked in the drama department at Bristol University. The friend liked the idea so much that he wrote to Pinter asking for the play. The only problem was that if the university was to perform the play, they would need a script within the week. Pinter wrote back and told his friend to forget the whole thing–then sat down and wrote the play in four days. The product of his labours, a one-act entitled The Room, contained many of the elements that would characterize Pinter’s later works–namely a commonplace situation gradually invested with menace and mystery through the deliberate omission of an explanation or motivation for the action. Later this same year, Pinter would develop his style still further in another one-act, The Dumb Waiter, about two hired killers employed by a mysterious organization to murder an unknown victim. In this second play, Pinter added an element of comedy, provided mostly through the brilliant small-talk behind which the two men hide their growing anxiety. Their discussion over whether it is more proper to say “light the kettle” or “light the gas” is wildly comic and terrifying in its absurdity. The Dumb Waiter was first performed at the Hampstead Theatre Club in London in 1960.

Although written after The Dumb Waiter, Pinter’s first full-length play (The Birthday Party) was produced two years earlier in 1958 at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge. The play centres around Stanley, an apathetic man in his thirties who has found refuge in a dingy seaside boarding house which has apparently had no other visitors for years. But when Goldberg and McCann (characters reminiscent of the hired assassins in The Dumb Waiter) arrive, it soon becomes clear that they are after Stanley. Like Samuel Beckett, Pinter refuses to provide rational explanations for the actions of his characters. Are the two men emissaries of some secret organization Stanley has betrayed? Are they male nurses sent to bring him back to an asylum he has escaped from? The question is never answered. Instead, the two men organize a birthday party for a terrified Stanley who insists that it is not his birthday.

Pinter has gone on to write a number of absurdist masterpieces including The Caretaker, The Homecoming, Betrayal, Old Times, and Ashes to Ashes. He has also composed a number of radio plays and several volumes of poetry. His screenplays include The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Last Tycoon, and The Handmaid’s Tale. He has received numerous awards including the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear, BAFTA awards, the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or and the Commonwealth Award. His sparse style and gift for creating tension and horror through the most economic of means has made him one of the most respected playwrights of our day. He is married to Lady Antonia Fraser.

C John Osborne

John James Osborne (December 12, 1929December 24, 1994) was an English playwright, screenwriter, and critic of The Establishment. Osborne’s landmark play, Look Back in Anger (1956), established him as a leading English dramatist and helped initiate a new era in British theatre emphasizing aggressive social criticism, authentic portrayals of working-class life, and anti-heroic characters. Osborne often is associated with a loosely categorized group of English writers called the “Angry Young Men,” whose literature contributed to the heightened social and political awareness developing in England during the 1950s and 1960s. Osborne’s plays are often dominated by strong, articulate protagonists who express disgust with bourgeois complacency and materialistic social values through outbursts of abusive language.

Look Back in Anger focuses on Jimmy Porter, a twenty-five-year-old university-educated sweetshop owner who shares a cramped attic apartment with his wife, Alison, and his co-worker and friend, Cliff. Embittered and alienated by his inability to advance socially and angered by the apathy he encounters in others, Jimmy strikes back at the world with explosive intensity. His diatribes range in subject from the failings of his marriage to the inequalities of English society. The Entertainer (1957) firmly established Osborne’s importance in post-war British drama. Essentially an in-depth portrait of three generations of the Rice family (who comprise almost the entire cast of the play), The Entertainer demonstrates once again Osborne’s gift for invective and his deep compassion for failures. In addition to being a portrait of three generations of an English middle-class theatrical family, The Entertainer can also be seen as a depiction of the past, present, and future of contemporary England. Principally, however, this play is Osborne’s requiem for the dying music hall and the vital part of English life that it represents. The Entertainer enjoys the distinction in Osborne’s canon of being his first play commissioned by an actor: Laurence Olivier, who eventually played the part of Archie Rice, a seedy, fifth-rate music-hall comedian. Upon reading a portion of the script, Olivier felt an immediate interest in the character. Almost ten years later in an interview with Kenneth Tynan, Olivier described the role of Archie Rice as “the most wonderful part that I’ve ever played” in a modern play.

Often considered to be Osborne’s angriest and most uncompromising work, The World of Paul Slickey (1959) is a biting musical satire of the London press and an attack on individuals who allow themselves to be influenced and manipulated by the mass media. Luther (1961) is a historical and psychological portrait of the leader of the Protestant Reformation. The play chronicles Martin Luther’s years as an Augustinian monk, his confrontations with royal and papal authority, and his later role as husband and father. Luther won both a New York Drama Critics Circle Award and an Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award. Inadmissible Evidence (1964) is regarded by many critics as a culmination of the themes developed in his earlier plays and his finest dramatic achievement. The play concentrates on Bill Maitland, an unscrupulous London lawyer who is haunted by feelings of guilt and self-doubt that eventually lead to his disengagement from society and his nervous breakdown.

D Brian Friel

Born in Omagh, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, Brian  Friel is one of Ireland’s most prominent playwrights.  In addition to his published plays, he has written short stories; screenplays; film, TV and Radio adaptations of his plays; and several pieces of non-fiction on the role of theatre and the artist.

Friel’s plays deal with identity, the notion of truth, and communication, which he explores through the nature of language.  Identity is formed through memory, both public and private, and it is the collective memories of a community which distinguish it from others.  However, communal memory often conflicts with individual experience and several communal memories may exist simultaneously even within an individual. The different associative and emotive memories and experiences of individuals and communities allow for different perspectives and perceptions of reality to exist.  In examining the issue of memory, Friel exposes the falsity in the notion of a single, comprehensive history or truth.  What becomes important is not a factual history or identity but exploring different histories and identities.

Language, for Friel, is closely implicated with identity.  The names of places, for example, contain within them the history and memories, both public and private, associated with them.

Translations was the first play produced by Field Day.  It is set in a rural, Irish-speaking community in County Donegal in 1833. Translations shows the forces of cultural imperialism at work through the colonial project of cartography and the demise of the hedge-schools in favour of the national schools that
use English as a medium of instruction. 

In Making History Peter Lombard, an archbishop and an historian, takes on the task of writing “The History of Hugh O’Neill”; however, as Hugh accuses him, it becomes the history of the person writing it. Peter Lombard mythologizes O’Neill as an Irish hero, distorting or omitting aspects of O’Neill’s life, such as his English wife, Mabel Bagenal, or his early childhood with Sir Henry Sidney in England. 

One of Friel’s most popular plays, and set in 1936, Dancing at Lughnasa is a memory play told by a narrator, Michael, twenty-five years later.  Michael is the son of Chris, the youngest of the five Mundy sisters, Kate, Agnes, Maggie, and Rose.  Living during the oppressive Catholic ethos, the women live repressed lives, unable to express their emotions or sexuality. The dancing in the play represents the breakdown of rational order and the inevitability of change. 

3.3 Poetry

A 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.

B The poets of the Second World War

The poets of the Second World War were very different from those of the First World War. In the years between the wars the world had become a sadder and darker place for many people, and the poets of the Second World War did not go to fight with the same hopes as those of the previous war. Neither did they feel that their job was to inform the people at home, since in this war people who were not fighting knew what the war was like.

Roy Fuller was one of them, and he expressed his envy for the poets of the past who seemed to have a greater choice of moral positions.

Among the poets of this time there is often a sense of tiredness, of things being worn out, and of helplessness in the face of world events in which they had no power to change or influence. So the greatest poems are often those that describe personal experiences rather than world events. One of the best poems of Keith Douglas, for example, describes how he found the picture of a girl and a book with the message Don’t forget me on the body of a dead German soldier.

The language of most poets of the Second World War is often plain and simple, seeming almost dull in a way that reflects their dull acceptance of world events they were powerless to change.

C Dylan Thomas

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born in Swansea, Wales on October 27, 1914. In November 1934 he moved to London and on the 18th December of that year his first book of poetry, Eighteen Poems appeared to critical acclaim. Dylan Thomas had just turned 20 when this volume of poetry was released. He had written nearly 30 poems in late 1933 and early 1934, of which 13 were published in this volume. Between May and October 1934, he completed another five for inclusion in the book. In April of 1936 he met Caitlin MacNamara, and in September his second volume of poetry Twenty-five Poems was released. The Map of Love was published in August 1939 and The World I Breathe was published in December 1939, in the United States.

  In April 1940 Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog was published and in September, Dylan began working for Strand Films which he continued for the duration of World War II.

Deaths and Entrances was published in 1946. In 1952, Collected Poems, 1934-1952 became the last book published in his life time. He also published many short stories, wrote filmscripts, broadcast stories and talks, did a series of lecture tours in the United States and wrote Under Milkwood, the radio play.

His unfinished novel, Adventures in the Skin Trade, was originally rejected by his London publisher for not being “the great, serious autobiographical work to which they had looked forward so long.” The novel itself is the incredibly funny story of a young man, Samuel Bennet, who moves to London, after metaphorically (and nearly literally) burning his bridges behind him. In the few extant chapters, Samuel gets involved in a series of inextricable situations, beginning with getting a finger permanently stuck inside of a Bass Ale bottle. The title, in typically Dylan Thomas fashion refers, of course, to the young man’s trading one life for another, a metaphoric trading of skins.

Dylan Thomas, often described as a “classic Welsh writer”, never actually learned the Welsh language himself. Though he achieved much notoriety during his short life, he received little financial gain. It was only after his death that his work truly began to be appreciated. There is no doubt, however, that he is one of the great English (language) poets of the twentieth century, arguably the greatest poet of our time. Dylan Thomas’ incredible use of metaphor, meter, and a comic wit, allows his work to stand alone, balancing a reckless neo-Romantic sensuality against the more staid Puritanism of his time and culture. Thomas’ lust for life and love of drink may well have contributed to his premature demise, yet his work remains, a testament to both his skill and mastery of The Word.

D The Movement

Phillip Larkin is probably the best-known poet writing in the period after the war and together with other poets such as Donald Davie and D.J. Enright he formed the group of poets known as “the Movement”. Larkin is strongly influence by Hardy and, like him, he looks back to the past with a sense of what has been lost. Larkin represents a group of poets who turned away, in the 1950’s and 60’s, from the influence of Dylan Thomas and the idea that the aim of poetry should be to express high emotion and the deepest feelings and forces of nature. Their subjects tend to be smaller and their language more clearly controlled. In much of this poetry there is a sense that reality is dull and unattractive but that living through a dream is equally impossible. Real happiness seems only to have happened in the past, as in Larkin’s poem on hearing a bird of spring sing outside his window at the end of winter.

E Ted Hughes

Edward James (Ted) Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, in the West Riding district of Yorkshire, on August 17, 1930. His childhood was quiet and rural. When he was seven years old his family moved to the small town of Mexborough in South Yorkshire, and the landscape of the moors of that area informed his poetry throughout his life.

Hughes graduated from Cambridge in 1954. A few years later, in 1956, he co-founded the literary magazine St. Botolph’s Review with a handful of other editors. At the launch party for the magazine, he met Sylvia Plath. A few short months later, on June 16, 1956, they were married. Plath encouraged Hughes to submit his first manuscript, The Hawk in the Rain, to The Poetry Center’s First Publication book contest. The judges, Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, and Stephen Spender, awarded the manuscript first prize, and it was published in England and America in 1957, to much critical praise.

Hughes lived in Massachusetts with Plath and taught at University of Massachusetts Amherst. They returned to England in 1959, and their first child, Freida was born the following year. Their second child, Nicholas, was born two years later.

In 1962, Hughes left Plath for Assia Gutmann Wevill. Less than a year later, Plath committed suicide. Hughes did not write again for years, as he focused all of his energy on editing and promoting Plath’s poems. He was also roundly lambasted by the public, who saw him as responsible for his wife’s suicide. Controversy surrounded his editorial choices regarding Plath’s poems and journals.

In 1965, Wevill gave birth to their only child, Shura. Four years later, like Plath, she also committed suicide, killing Shura as well. The following year, in 1970, Hughes married Carol Orchard, with whom he remained married until his death.

Hughes’s lengthy career included over a dozen books of poetry, translations, non-fiction and children’s books, such as the famous The Iron Man (1968). His books of poems include: Wolfwatching (1990), Flowers and Insects (1986), Selected Poems 1957-1981 (1982), Moortown (1980), Cave Birds (1979), Crow (1971), and Lupercal (1960). His final collection, The Birthday Letters (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998), published the year of his death, documented his relationship with Plath.

Hughes’s work is marked by a mythical framework, using the lyric and dramatic monologue to illustrate intense subject matter. Animals appear frequently throughout his work as deity, metaphor, persona, and icon. Perhaps the most famous of his subjects is “Crow,” an amalgam of god, bird and man, whose existence seems pivotal to the knowledge of good and evil.

Hughes won many of Europe’s highest literary honours, and was appointed Poet Laureate of England in 1984, a post he held until his death. He passed away in October 28, 1998 in Devonshire, England, from cancer.


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. The weak and alcoholic priest tries to fulfil his duties despite the threat of death.

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).

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.

The concern with the absolute values of good and evil and the essential nature of man characterises William Golding. His first novel and still his best known one is Lord of the Flies (1954), which describes a group of English schoolboys wrecked on a desert island, where the effects of civilisation break down and they return to their animal nature. They are then divided into two groups, those who guard the fire, the dreamers and poets, and those who hunt for food, the men of action. The novel shows that the two groups cannot work together for the good of them all, but attack and try to destroy each other.

Iris Murdoch was born in Ireland, but she lived in England from her early childhood. Her novels are admired for their intelligence and wit, along with a rich comic sense and the analysis of the complexities in human relationships. She was mainly a novelist, but she also wrote plays, verse, and works of philosophy and literary criticism. Under the Net (1954), her first novel, shows the struggle between the pressure to tell the truth and the need for imagination to make life bearable. Other novels include The Bell (1958), about a group of people leading a religious life that want to set up a bell to praise God, A Severed Head (1961), about different patterns of love, The Red and the Green (1965), a historical novel about the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

Anthony Burgess is a very prolific novelist and is still publishing new works. He combines linguistic invention and witty erudition with picaresque plots, bizarre stories and sharp social satire. Although his vision of modern society is pessimistic, his fiction is generally comic. Burgess worked for the Ministry of Education and served as education officer in Malaya and Borneo (1954-59), where he began his career as a novelist writing three novels with a Malayan setting. Back in England he became a full-time writer. He wrote The Wanting Seed (1962), an anti-utopian view of an overpopulated world. A Clockwork Orange (1962) made his reputation as a novelist of mordant power. The novel is written in an invented teenage argot. It examines society’s unsuccessful attempt to psychologically “rehabilitate” an incurably violent juvenile delinquent. Other novels include Enderby Outside (1968), part of a series of humorous novels centred on the lyric poet F.X. Enderby, whom many critics have seen as a representation of Burgess himself.

As far as theatre is concerned, drama is characterised by experimentation with forms and the concern with the individual’s search for identity. A famous example of this is the work of Samuel Beckett, who was born in Ireland but spent most of his adult life in France. Like Joyce he is fascinated with words, but unlike him he sees language as a barrier that prevents communication. Waiting for Godot (1954) is one of the most influential plays in English of this century. It shows two tramps waiting for a mysterious character called Godot to give their life some purpose, but he does not come and may not even exist. This play takes away the surface detail from the situations: it is set in no particular place or time to represent something deeper behind the pain, the fear and the humour of the characters. Endgame (1957) also shows characters in a closed situation they continually fight.

The plays of Harold Pinter also have as a central theme the impossibility of communication of characters in a closed situation. They often take place in a room whose safety is compared with the dangers of the outside world. The Birthday Party (1957) presents the feeling of danger caused in a small lodging-house by the arrival of two strangers who come to collect the people living there, a situation never fully explained. The Caretaker (1960) also presents a closed situation, two brothers in a house, and the arrival of a stranger, an old tramp, but in this case the stranger becomes the victim. The strongest impression of the play is the emptiness of the characters’ life. Two other plays by Pinter are The Homecoming (1964) and No Man’s Land (1975).

However, there are also playwrights who wrote plays in the traditional style that try to entertain at the same time that they contain some social or political criticism. This is the case of John Osborne,

who became famous in 1956 when his play Looking Back in Anger presented a new type of hero known as the angry young man very influential on the drama of the next few years. This was the first time that the 20 and 30 year olds who had not actively participated in World War II were presented on stage. The hero is new in the fight against the society he lives in and which makes him feel pressure. Osborne’s later plays such as Luther (1961) and A Patriot for Me (1965) are set in very different times and places, but they still have as their main character a man who cannot fit into the society of his time.

In more recent times we can outline the importance of Irish dramatists, such as Brian Friel, who started to write in the 70’s and dramatises the linguistic, political and human confusion existing in Ireland. For example in his play Translations he reflected the effect on Irish history and culture of the imposition of the English language in the 19th century.

In the 30’s there had been a group of poets led by Auden who were strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot in techniques but who had worked on new themes. They were concerned to be above all contemporary. Their subject matter was the outer world of unemployment and its class conflict. They failed to grow convictions strong enough to survive World War II, which dispersed them as a group and changed their character, since they became disappointed with the possibility a better world.

The language of Dylan Thomas, who started to write already in the 30’s, is completely different: it is full of life, energy and feeling, with great strength and power. He was born and brought up in Wales, and Welsh traditions of the power of the spoken word, especially in matters of religion, are reflected strongly in his poetry. His work praises and delights in natural forces: the life of nature and the countryside, the forces of birth, sex and death, and the powerful feelings that they create. One of his most famous poems was written to his father as he lay dying. He had been very powerful in the expression of his ideas and feelings, and it hurt Thomas to see that the old man could not use that power to fight his coming death.

Besides them there is a young and more adventurous group whose main representative is Ted Hughes. His work was first published in 1957, is also concerned with strong and sometimes violent forces of nature, but he writes with great powers of imagination as if from inside the birds and animals who are the subjects of many of his poems. He uses the qualities connected with them in traditional stories as well as observation of how they act in real life to build up a picture of the essential character of the bird or animal and the pat it plays in the natural world. He has written several times about the hawk, catching the strength and violence of the bird.