The Dichotomy of them and us in Alan Sillitoe’s Fiction

Black and white photograph of a lone runner on a beach
Lone Runner, by Damian Gadal, via Flickr. Reproduced under CC BY 2.0 licence.

Alan Sillitoe depicted working-class life with unerring realism and sympathy, as his characters find themselves neglected, exploited and rejected. In his new article in our Postgraduate English journal, Sercan Bağlama shows how Sillitoe presents British society, as seen through the eyes of his characters, as sharply divided along class lines. 

The aim of this study is to propose a Marxist reading of Sillitoe’s fiction, particularly Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), Key to the Door (1961) and “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” (1959), and to elucidate the metaphors of mental and physical rebellion against the Establishment through the dichotomy of them and us.

Over the course of the study, the domestic, cultural, social and political tendencies of the characters will be reinterpreted with an attempt to critically lay out Sillitoe’s authentic portrayal of the socio-historical reality of class consciousness and his fiction’s emergence as part of the particular and complex historical circumstances pertaining in the UK during the 1950s.

His literary works will be approached in conjunction with other key texts that engage with history and class consciousness, including Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working- Class Life (first published in 1957). In this way, the atomizing and victimizing influences of industrial capitalism in historical actuality will also be investigated through the examination of the ways in which Sillitoe mediates the subjective experiences of the working-class characters in his fiction.

This article is available to download free in issue 35 of our open access Postgraduate English journal, where you’ll also find a complete archive of research dating back to 2000.

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