Examine how Osborne’s Look Back in Anger is a representative play of the "Angry Young Men" Generation.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "Angry Young Men" generation was defined with a spirit of "Damn you, England."  It was a statement that sought to actively construct a dissenting stance against conformist affirmations of the social good.  This generation is a significant part of Jimmy's characterization in Look Back in Anger.  

Jimmy's entire premise is rooted in seeing “the wrong people go hungry, the wrong people be loved, the wrong people dying."  This hypocrisy leaves itself imprinted on Jimmy's sense of self.  Jimmy was part of the new generation educated at the "red brick university," reflecting , "an era of affluence was predicted, and a meritocracy that would supersede the reign of old school ties." Yet, Jimmy's job at the candy stall and his own observation that his education far surpasses his occupation is another example of the hypocrisy against which he rails.  Jimmy recognizes that the power structure does not relinquish power so easily.  His life is a result of the collision between promises and reality, and indicative of his anger towards England.

Osborne felt that Jimmy was "a disconcerting mixture of sincerity and cheerful malice, of tenderness and freebooting cruelty; restless, importunate, full of pride, a combination which alienates the sensitive and insensitive alike."  This collision of different values in a challenging mixture reflects the generation of "Angry Young Men."  Jimmy is angry over the "injustice" that he sees as "perfect."  Social injustice that few wish to acknowledge exists at the heart of Jimmy's being.  The anger he feels is the convergent result of different emotions and ideas.  The drama is representative of the "Angry Young Men" movement because it speaks to the frustrations regarding living in the modern world.  It speaks to the personal and social alienation of people who were promised equality and opportunity only to find the same doors closed in their faces.  It is in this reality in which the play is representative of its generation.

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Look Back in Anger

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