Them and Us; an examination of working-class culture, politics and attitudes in selected British twentieth century novels


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


"If only 'them' and 'us' had the same ideas we'd get on like a house on fire, but they don't see eye to eye with us and we don't see eye to eye with them, so that's how it stands and how it will always stand.'1
The thesis seeks to investigate and identify specific instances of them and us in selected British twentieth century working-class novels. The methodology employed is qualitative with a heuristic/psychological underpinning that relies in part on the theories of Clark Moustakas and which then supports a Marxist, feminist aspect centring on reader-response theories. The aims include identifying, defining and deconstructing the nature of the working-class novel having first identified the term ˜working-class' and the reasons for the selection and identification of the novels chosen which may be termed ˜working-class'; it explores the difference between novels perceived to be ˜working-class literature' as opposed to ˜proletarian-writing' and examines specific areas which arise including culture, the System, religion, the nature of authority and attitudes to women and minority groups in conjunction with an examination and identification of what may be termed pervasive ingrained machismo dogmas which may in turn lead to a better understanding of the terms them and us.

The central focus of this thesis is on the texts, the novels themselves, what the author(s) or the narrators are actually saying more than what the critics have to say. Although the nature of ˜class' has been investigated many times the specific identification of the phrase ˜them and us', though in common use, has seldom previously been subject to scrutiny with regard to an investigation of specific literary texts and it is my belief that the term has become accepted as though there was but one definition of the term. Further, the term has come to encompass and to be applied in general to novels in a manner which has then categorised these novels while failing to examine the actual texts in depth; this is something I will examine particularly in section three.

The thesis is divided into ten chapters with further sub-division to three sections. The first section seeks to identify them and us in general terms, by investigating instances of them and us in selected novels of the twentieth century. In section two the focus is upon novels which may be inclined to favour them while the third section conversely examines novels which might lean more towards us.

1 Alan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (London: Harper Perennial, 2007), p.7-8"
Date of Award28 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorMARGARET FORSYTH (Director of Studies), Alyson Brown (Supervisor) & ROBERT SPENCE (Supervisor)


  • socialist
  • feminist
  • proletarian
  • Marx
  • system
  • working-class

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