Explain the "Angry Young Man Movement" in "Look Back in Anger."

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sure!  After World War II, there was a new phrase that appeared that was originally coined by Leslie Allen Paul:  "angry young men."  Basically, these were English men (usually of the working classes) who wrote for a living; however, their writing had quite a few common traits:  anger, protest, and rebellion of some sort.

Usually disillusioned with British society, Jimmy of Look Back in Anger by John Osborne fits the description of an "angry young man" perfectly.  In fact, anger is the main theme, of course.  Jimmy is continually described as being both "helpless" and "angry."  Jimmy always blames his friends and his society for his own failures.  He feels that, due to his college education, he should have more going for him, but Jimmy doesn't and blames it on everyone but himself.

You see I learnt at an early age what it was to be angry - angry and helpless. And I can never forget it. I knew more about - love... betrayal... and death, when I was ten years old than you will probably ever know in your life.

As a result of his own failures, Jimmy is angry as he sells inexpensive candy at the market.  Another way that Jimmy fits into the "angry young man" category is his hatred of Alison's relatives.  Alison, of course, has upper-class roots.  Anyone in the "angry young man" movement, due to their low social class, would be "required" to dislike anyone of upper-class heritage.

In conclusion, it's important to note that it is class conflict that defines the "Angry Young Man" movement.  Jimmy helps exemplify that movement, therefore, the story Look Back in Anger by John Osborne fits the bill perfectly.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The movement referred to as the "Angry Young Men" was an important part of the British literary scene immediately following World War II, and generally refers to playwrights and fiction; it overlaps with two poetic movements known as "The Movement" and "The Group."

The "Angries", as they were sometimes called, were often from lower middle class or working class families, and often through the medium of grammar schools had managed to attain places in universities which were dominated by social elites. The works of this movement are often characterized by class conflict, with the protagonists no longer fitting in with the environment from which they originated but also not being accepted by the middle and upper classes where they fit educationally. On a literary level, these post-war writers tended to avoid the high modernism and internationalism of the first half of the century and the apocalyptic and dramatic tone of the war poets, and instead write technically conservative realistic portraits of characters experiencing some form of displacement in social class.

Look Back in Anger by John Osborne fits all these generic characteristics, in terms of bother literary technique and theme, especially the protagonist, Jimmy, who is too educated, clever, and creative to be happy with working in a shop, but cannot find work suited to his abilities.

kc4u | Student

The phrase "angry young men", taken from the title of Leslie Allen Paul's autobiography, Angry Young Man(1951) is applied to a group of English writers of the 1950s of the 1950s whose works are characterized by vigorous social protest, scorn and disaffection and whose heroes share certain rebellious and critical attitudes toward society.The Angry Young Men were a new breed of intellectuals who were mostly of working class or lower middle-class background.This term obtained currency with the production of John Osborne's play, Look Back in Anger (1956). The group not only expressed discontent with the 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 Osborne and Arnold Wesker and the novelists Kingsley Amis, John Braine, John Wain, and Alan Sillitoe. One of a group of English writers protest.

The trend that was evident in John Wain’s novel Hurry on Down(1953) became more prominent in Kingsley Amis's novel Lucky Jim (1954), and was finally crystallized in 1956 in Osborne's play Look Back in Anger, which became the representative work of the movement.


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Look Back in Anger

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