Can you explain the sense of alienation in "Look Back in Anger"?

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Jimmy Porter feels alienated from both his wife and society in general.  He is a struggling middle class working man who is bored and confined by his monotonous life.  His wife Alison has come to accept life, silently bearing any and all burdens.

Jimmy feels resentful of Alison's aloofness and indifferent demeanor and strikes out at her to get a reaction. 

Jimmy is an angry man who feels that his opportunities in life were shaped by his middle class upbringing.  Alison's brother Nigel has a university degree and is a member of Parliament.  Jimmy hates him for his connection to the world.  A connection that he knows that he will never have. 

Jimmy is a character who contemplates the world beyond the dimensions of his own existence.  He cannot find anyone to talk to about the injustices or curiosities he feels about life. 

Part of Jimmy's alienation is from a general feeling in Great Britain in the 1950s when the ordinary British citizen felt passed over by a government who had promised prosperity for everyone.  Instead, following WWII, in which London was destroyed, the British people struggle with new threats and a country put back together with a socialist system in place that is designed to keep everyone equal, except the very rich who remain the upper class, high above the ordinary citizen.  Jimmy resents all of this and knows that it will never change. 

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Check out the eNotes discussion of themes at the link below. See also the Salem Press discussion of the play (also linked below), which includes this comment:

The play is generally classified as a protest play, one that voices the anger of the working class at having willingly fought Great Britain’s wars only to return to a caste-conscious society that denied them opportunity, advancement, and even an acknowledgment of their dignity. Although the classless society that Osborne advocated could easily find room for weaker souls like Cliff or the suggestible Alison, it would have no place, however, for a Jimmy Porter who would refuse or be unable to suppress his insistent self for the common good.

Before the two world wars, the "common" people of Britain, and the western world for that matter, pretty much went along with the class-conscience social system. However, war was an equalizer. All men fought side-by-side. All women had to deal with rationing and hardship. After the war, however, society went back to the old ways. Even though Jimmy is college-educated, his degree isn't from one of the prestigious schools, which alienates him from the educated people. Yet his education sets him apart from other working-class people.

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ilesmia's profile pic

ilesmia | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

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Jimmy is a product of a Marxist's view of society.

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