Look Back in Anger is a pivotal work in the kitchen sink realism movement of the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, young British playwrights were reacting to a theatrical tradition they viewed as largely out of touch with everyday life. Works in the kitchen sink mode tend to focus on ordinary subjects, class conflict, and taboo subject matter. Being an early work in the kitchen sink drama cycle, Look Back in Anger lacks some of the sophistication and more precise socio-political messaging of the plays that followed in its wake, but it is still a strong example of its type.
As with most kitchen sink dramas, Look Back in Anger's main characters are not glamorous or larger than life. Instead, they are rather squalid, ordinary people, stuck in a situation they find constricting. Even the first scene, featuring Jimmy, Alison, and their friend Cliff doing mundane activities on a Sunday afternoon, such as reading the paper and ironing, emphasizes the everyday nature of the characters, even if the antipathy between them is extreme.
Class conflict also plays a major role in the story, particularly in the tempestuous marriage between Jimmy and Alison. Jimmy is a working-class man who feels the British class system has cheated him out of opportunities (though he is intelligent and educated, Jimmy is stuck working a confectionary stand) and he resents his upper-class wife because he feels she can never understand his rage and pain. In a more conventional play, Alison's pregnancy might bring the two together, but instead, it is her miscarriage that leads to their uneasy and arguably grotesque reconciliation at the finale.
Later kitchen sink dramas would prove more socially committed and provocative than Look Back in Anger. A Taste of Honey goes into far more taboo territory with its discussion of interracial relationships and homosexuality, and Look Back in Anger's playwright John Osbourne would further display a traditional British culture in decline in The Entertainer. However, Look Back in Anger paved the way for these later developments, and so it remains an iconic entry in the kitchen sink drama's history.