Life in 1950s Britain

Life after the Second World War, which ended in 1945, was difficult for many people. Rationing did not finish until 1952 and due to the number of buildings that had been destroyed during bomb attacks, there was a real shortage of housing.

Even when things began to improve as the 1950s progressed, life was still difficult for many working class people. This was something Shelagh Delaney was keen to portray in her play. She also wanted to show what life was like for the growing number of teenagers who were rebelling against the old fashioned ways of their parents.

Young people like Jo, for example, were anxious to get a job, earn money of their own and sample some independence. Jo tells her mother that she cannot wait to leave school in order to, Get out of your sight as soon as I can get a bit of money in my pocket.

Whilst many members of the older generation, particularly those of the middle classes, enjoyed the post war boom in consumerism and felt that owning material possessions should be an ideal goal, the younger generation were demanding more.

Playwrights such as John Osborne and Shelagh Delaney wanted to use their plays as a means of depicting the social problems that still existed for the majority of working class people and Delaney in particular was concerned with how young people such as Jo and Geof responded to their problems and difficulties.

It is important to remember that in the 1950s people were generally not open minded about interracial relationships and homosexuality. Many people who were black or who were homosexual faced being bullied and taunted because of the colour of their skin or their sexuality.

Jo’s boyfriend is worried that Jo’s mother will not approve of him because he is black. She’ll see a coloured boy, he tells Jo. In the 1950s, individuals could still be imprisoned for being homosexual and there were no laws in place to prevent people committing racist acts.

There is a hint in A Taste of Honey that Geof is thrown out of his room by his landlady because she discovers he is homosexual. Jo asks him, Come on, the truth. Who did she find you with? Your girl friend? It wasn’t a man, was it? He is also taunted by Helen and Peter because of his sexuality.