Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners is a novel and Shane Meadow’s This is England is a film. Selvon wrote his novel which spans ten years starting around 1945, in the mid-fifties. Meadows wrote and directed the film This is England, which covers a few months in 1983. The film was released in 2006. Set in London, The Lonely Londoners has modernist/postcolonial features. Set in the Midlands, This is England fits social realist genre conventions. Nonetheless, both works center on a male-dominated British subculture in which racism and social struggles such as violence and segregation are the characteristic of non-conventional groups (immigrants and skinheads) in a dynamic London city lifestyle.
The film and the novel have closely related plots. In both stories there are people trying to fit into social groups in order to fit into the larger London lifestyle. Filmmaker Shane Meadows examines his own life as a youth in the UK. He brings out the skinhead culture in London through the story of Shane, a 12-year old boy who in 1983 moved to London to start a new life following the death of his father (Meadows, 2006). He joins a group of skinheads and they become great friends. Combo, a former prisoner and his friend Banjo are violent individuals who express racist and English nationalist views within the group. The novel details the life of Moses Aloetta in the 1950s, a veteran Trinidadian who has spent more than10 years in London (Salvon, 5). He welcomes many Trinidadians in his rented house and he particularly enjoys the company of one Sir Gallahad.
The film This is England brings to light the culture of unique and non-conventional social groups in London. Racism is typical of skinhead culture which was anchored on white-supremacist and anti-immigration views. The skinheads group thrived and had dynamics such as conflicts, splits violence and at times murders (Meadows, 2006). The novel The Lonely Londoners also presents the life another non-conventional social group-the West Indians. The group comprises characters of the “Windrush generation” who are all “coloreds” or non-whites. The story tells of the daily struggles for this group. As such the film and the novel details the lives of two social groups that have to overcome challenges due to race and unfavorable socio-economic dispositions.
The novel and the film both present the challenges of non whites in London. Alloeta gets homesick by the day and his life is as challenging as that of many other immigrants. Many immigrants used to visit Aloetta’s rented room to share stories and it is then that their challenging life in London comes to the fore. Their lives consist of looking for jobs and also involving themselves in various petty pleasures such as prostitution and dating young white women (Salvon, 84). The immigrants enjoy a life of mixed fortunes, because they used to obtain welfare support from the state but the place was also filled with avarice, malice, disgust and hate. This situation can be perfectly summed up by the words ". . . that circus have a magnet for him, that circus represent life, that circus is the beginning and the ending of the world" (Selvon, 90). Similarly, the skinheads in the film also had the challenges of acceptance into the larger society. Milky the black skinhead faces violence from fellow skinheads. This is a representation of the challenges of minority races in a place where there is a very dominant race.
The two stories are also depict the city lifestyle as dangerous and risky to young people, the young man in the novel lived a carefree sexual lifestyle, “ it was the sort of night that if you wasn't making love to a woman you feel like you was the only person in the world like that” (Selvon, 85). In a similar manner, members of the group of skinheads presented in the film also had conflicts among themselves. Seemingly, members of the group used to be jailbirds, as Combo is said to come from prison to rejoin the group.
The racial perspectives of the social groups presented in the novel and the film differ greatly. Whereas the novel presents the challenges of a group of black immigrants from Trinidad, the film presents the lives of a group of white supremacists. The immigrants forming up the focus group in the novel are the minority who are trying to eke out a living in a hostile racial city while in the film the focus group is the one perpetuating racism.
Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners is a novel and Shane Meadow’s This is England is a film. Both the film and the novel have closely related plots. In both stories there are people trying to fit into social groups in order to fit into the dynamic London life. There is racism in all cases with white supremacy being an overriding theme in the stories. In addition the unique social groups (immigrants in the novel and the skinheads in the film) face a challenging social-economic life in London. Both groups also live risky lives characterized by prostitution for the immigrants and violence for the skinheads. The main difference between the two is that while the skinheads led by Combo perpetuated racism and white supremacy; the Trinidadian immigrants were the subjects of racial discrimination. In all, both the film and the novel manage to paint perfect pictures of the socio-economic lifestyles of unique and non-conventional groups in London and other cities.
Salvon, Samuel. Lonely Londoners. S.l.: s.n.], 1956. Print.
This is England. Dir. Shane Meadows. Perf. Thomas Turgoose. Divisa, 2008. HD-DVD.