Discuss Look Back in Anger as a play that focuses on the predicament of the post-world war youth at the levels of class and gender.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Look Back in Anger was the first play in England that revealed the churning emotionalism seething through Post-World War II England. It had gender manifestations (violence and unrestraint versus repression and unrestraint) and class manifestations (structural divisions, economic restrictions, psychological questioning). It also had a personal psychological basis in that people were forced to witness suffering that seemed to have no rational cause, like when Jimmy at ten years old watched his father's death from wounds gained in the Spanish Civil War. This personal psychological component led to a reactionary surmise, needed to justify the pain, that claimed humanity and individuality depended on the such depth of feeling. The personal psychological agony engendered a logical fallacy psychologically asserting that pain, loss of faith, angst, etc. equated to truth in the human condition and was therefore of paramount importance to each individual and a requisite for each individual to be human or, in fact, an individual. This personal psychological condition that equates, in the case of this play, pain with being human is what John Osborne created as the overriding character quality in Jimmy, which is what makes Jimmy the "angry young man."

In terms of gender manifestations of the post-World War II predicament of angry youth, Osborne demonstrated in Jimmy's character that in the young men of England, it took an expressive route of violent feelings, abandonment of religion and lack of moral restraint. These are all demonstrated in Jimmy's verbal assaults and eventual relationship with Helena. In women, as demonstrated by Alison and Helena, the predicament manifested itself in continued acquiescence to the subordinate role of repression, which was hone to perfection during the misguided Victorian era and willingly reinstated for the good of the country in both England and the U.S. after World War II, and in the abandonment of religious precepts and moral restraint. To illustrate, Alison irons while Jimmy explodes with political and social musings of the most volatile and negative kind. Alison's listens passively as Jimmy degenerates her and her family. Alison quietly walks out. Helena takes over the ironing and listening.

In terms of class manifestations of the predicament of angry youth, the upper classes demonstrated it by acting out against the lower classes in several ways. One was by encouraging division through social structure, for example, in such physical and social structures as the new "red-brick" and "white-tile" universities for lower class individuals, which made education available but of lessened worth as Jimmy's employment as a candy shop proprietor shows. Another was by implementing economic restraints through such things as price controls that limited economic upward mobility. The predicament was also manifest along class lines through psychological uncertainty as members of upper and lower classes sought to find their identity and national consciousness in a post-world war reality, as is illustrated by Alison's father Colonel Redfern as well as by Jimmy.

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