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Arthur Seaton is a 22-year-old factory worker in Nottingham, a sprawling industrial city in the British Midlands. All week long he works hard at his lathe, asking and expecting nothing more than his weekly pay; but on Saturday evenings he asserts his independence by drinking, brawling, and playing practical jokes at the local pub. Saturday nights he spends with Brenda, the wife of a fellow worker. He is also involved with Doreen, a girl with rigid ideas on sex and marriage. Brenda becomes pregnant, and Arthur takes her to his Aunt Ada in hopes of procuring an abortion, but without success. Arthur dutifully offers to marry Brenda, but she senses that their affair is over and decides to have the baby and accept the consequences. Eventually, her husband, Jack, learns of the affair; and his soldier brother and a friend waylay Arthur at a fair and beat him into senselessness. But this punishment Arthur accepts as part of life, and a week later he returns to his job. His attitude toward marriage has changed, however, and he agrees to marry Doreen and move into a new housing development. He warns her, nevertheless, that he has not yet lost his independence.