angry young men

Also found in: Idioms, Wikipedia.

angry young men,

term applied to a group of English writers of the 1950s whose heroes share certain rebellious and critical attitudes toward society. This phrase, which was originally taken from the title of Leslie Allen Paul's autobiography, Angry Young Man (1951), became current with the production of John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger (1956). The word angry is probably inappropriate; dissentient or disgruntled perhaps is more accurate. The group not only expressed discontent with the staid, hypocritical institutions of English society—the so-called Establishment—but betrayed disillusionment with itself and with its own achievements. Included among the angry young men were the playwrights John OsborneOsborne, John
(John James Osborne), 1929–94, English dramatist. He began his theatrical career as an actor and playwright in provincial English repertory theaters.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Arnold WeskerWesker, Arnold,
1932–, English playwright, b. London. At various times he has been a carpenter's mate, a seed sorter, and a pastry cook. His plays Chicken Soup with Barley (1958), Roots (1958), and I'm Talking about Jerusalem
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the novelists Kingsley AmisAmis, Sir Kingsley
, 1922–95, English novelist. He attended St. John's College, Oxford (B.A., 1949) and for some 20 years taught at Oxford, Swansea, and Cambridge and in the United States before he could afford to become a full-time writer.
..... Click the link for more information.
, John BraineBraine, John Gerard,
1922–86, English novelist, b. Bradford, Yorkshire. With his first novel, Room at the Top (1957), Braine established himself as one of England's angry young men.
..... Click the link for more information.
, John WainWain, John,
1925–94, English novelist and critic, b. Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, grad. Oxford (B.A., 1946; M.A., 1950). Originally lumped with England's angry young men after the publication of Hurry on Down (1953), Wain later considerably broadened his scope.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and Alan SillitoeSillitoe, Alan,
1928–2010, English writer, b. Nottingham. The son of an illiterate tannery worker, he grew up in poverty, left school at 14, and was himself a factory worker as a teenager.
..... Click the link for more information.
. In the 1960s these writers turned to more individualized themes and were no longer considered a group.

Angry Young Men


the name used in literary criticism to refer to a group of English writers of the 1950’s. The term, which came from L. A. Paul’s autobiographical book Angry Young Man (1951). became widely used after the 1956 London staging of J. Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger. The passionate misanthropic monologues of this play’s hero epitomize the feelings of the Angry Young Men.

The most typical Angry Young Men were the novelists J. Wain, K. Amis, and J. Braine and the playwright Osborne; however, they did not form a literary school. The group was united by dissatisfaction with the English bourgeoisie and, in particular, with the position of youth in society. They spoke out against social inequality, class arrogance, lies, and hypocrisy. Their hero was usually a young man with a university education, disillusioned with life and dissatisfied with his work and with a society that has no place for him. He manifests his rebellion against the accepted norms of behavior and morals in extravagant pranks, scandalous adultery, and an ostentatious solidarity with the working class.

The Angry Young Men did not advance a positive program, and their criticism bore an individualistic character. Toward the late 1950’s, they abandoned their earlier subjects and heroes.


Ivasheva, V. V. Angliiskaia literatura XX veka. Moscow, 1967.
Gozenpud, A. A. Puti i pereput’ia. Leningrad, 1967.
Shestakov, D. Sovremennaia angliiskaia drama (Osbornovtsy). Moscow, 1968.
[Declaration, by Colin Wilson and others.] Edited by T. Maschler. London, 1957.
Allsop, K. The Angry Decade. London, 1958.
Gindin, J. Postwar British Fiction. Berkeley, Calif., 1962.

Angry Young Men

disillusioned postwar writers of Britain, such as Osborne and Amis. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 37]
References in periodicals archive ?
On the contrary, angry young men can turn into even angrier old men.
The final chapter, Angry Young Men, is an epilogue that many may read as full of anti-American sentiment.
This paper commences with a discussion of Sillitoe's work within the Angry Young Man literary genre before moving on to consider the emergence of Angry Young Men within film, once the novels of Sillitoe and other related writers were translated into screenplays.
After being confronted by a group of over a dozen angry young men and women in his front yard on February 18 and being physically attacked, a North Oakland, California, homeowner shot his attacker.
Rapid population growth has created a vast underemployed proletariat of angry young men who have no chance whatever for what might be thought of as an ordinary family life.
Angry Young Men offers specific, practical advice for parents, teachers, counselors, community leaders, and justice professionals everyone who wants to help at-risk boys become strong, productive, caring, and compassionate men.
Angry young men were politicized, while rebellious young women were sexualized.
The crux of the book, though, is voiced by Colin Wilson: 'What are the angry young men angry about?
The angry young men rebelling, and like all rebellions it was about taking control.
We were the angry young men, we were the ones who were fighting the NFB at every turn, demanding that new directions be taken, that new opportunities be given," says Klenman.
In his approach to the writing of novels, Richler may have been influenced by the cult of the unheroic hero, in the works of the Angry Young Men who were at the height of literary fashion when he was in England at the end of the 1950s.
As long as entire nations of millions of people are shut down in virtual prisons of alienation, severe lack of personal freedoms, and total lack of economic opportunity, there will always be angry young men willing to do desperate things.