How is the theme of Look Back in Anger relevant to present times as well?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one way in which we can find the theme of Osborne's work relevant to modern times is because there is not merely one theme that applies, but multiple themes from the work that have relevance. The theme of alienation and loneliness is as applicable today as in contemporary England in the 1950s.  Jimmy's fundamental loneliness and alienation from the social order is reflected in the modern setting.   Jimmy feels alienated because the promises and possibilities that were assured were never delivered, something applicable in the condition of globalization.  The promises of the modern vision of globalization is increased wealth and increased empowerment over one's sense of being in the world.  Yet, the reality that confronts many, as it did for Jimmy, is that there is an extremely concentrated portion of the wealthy experiences the promises and possibilities of the social order while others are excluded from it.  The same conditions of alienation and loneliness that Jimmy experiences can be found in the modern setting.

Such a reality helps to foster another theme from the work that resonates in the modern setting.  The anger fueled by resentment is something that Jimmy experiences in an intense manner.  He feels anger at being on the outside and looking in and feels resentment towards the establishment that has effectively closed someone like him from the center, pushing him to the margins.  This same condition can be seen today.  One can almost imagine conversations around the modern dinner table about how challenging bill payments are, the difficulty of the mortgage on the house, and the expenses that pile up while executives at defunct financial institutions receive "golden parachute" bonuses that are worth billions.  In this context, Jimmy's anger and resentment can be felt in the modern condition.  Jimmy rails against English society, while the modern version rails against an economic system that rewards the very wealthy and seemingly punishes the middle class.

The theme of marital challenge is something that Osborne's drama develops into its own condition.  The marriage that Alison and Jimmy share is one in which there is emotional cruelty, domestic pain, and a sense of the shrieking nothingness that seems to be intrinsic to the modern setting.  Their marriage is far from blissful.  It is challenging.  It is painful.  It is filled with anything but a fairy tale condition of being.  This is applicable to the modern setting.  Modern marriage is one beset with struggles.  Jimmy and Alison endure separation, but eventually reconcile.  Their marriage is one in which love and loyalty meet challenge and emotional discord quite often.  In depicting such an open and blunt construction of marriage, Osborne's work has modern application.  Modern marriage, with the reality of divorce, counseling, and a sense of challenge within it, seems to echo much of the relationship that Jimmy and Alison share.