Look Back in Anger by John Osborne

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Discuss the impact of World War II on the minds of people with reference to the play Look Back in Anger.

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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The effects of World War II are apparent on the characters in Look Back in Anger. Jimmy Porter is a cynical character who voices the feeling of the age. He tries to remind his friend Cliff Lewis that he shouldn't be smoking because Cliff has ulcers, but Cliff chooses not to listen to him. In response, Jimmy says that he has given up trying to help others. Instead, he says he'll be like other people with "no beliefs, no convictions and no enthusiasm." Jimmy feels the cynicism of the English after World War II, as they endured bombing, death, and privation during the war.

After World War II, many English people were also cynical because they had expected a change in the rigid class structure of the time. Instead, the class structure remained in place. Jimmy feels this acutely, as he is educated but works in a candy stall because he is from the lower class. Jimmy gives voice to the widespread cynicism and weariness of the English after the war.

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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John Osborne's famous play Look Back in Anger sets in a time period in the history of England during the post-World War II when the social, political, economic and cultural glory of England was rocked.

Jimmy Porter, the protagonist of the play, embodies the voice and reaction of the young, middleclass/working class people of Britain at that time, who were angry, disappointed, puzzled and frustrated by this change that also brought with it a decline in opportunities, and an atmosphere of boredom and disgust.

Through Jimmy’s character, Osborne expresses the decline in enthusiasm, motivation, action, idealism and heroism in the people of lower and middle class, post-World War Britain. For such a generation, grandeur of the past had gone, the present was in a state of dark and the future was uncertain. They felt alienated, helpless and purposeless, which also rendered identity crises.

Also, we see Alison's father, Colonel Redfern, who represents the rich class, older generation in the play, too, overwhelmed by this loss of power, seemingly unable to get over the past and accept the reality. 

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