Look Back in Anger

by John Osborne

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What is a summary of the play Look Back in Anger? What are the themes?

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John Osborne's three-act play, Look Back in Anger, established him as the "Angry Young Man" of the mid-1950s British theatre. The play features candy peddler Jimmy Porter, himself quite an angry young man. The entire play is set in an attic apartment in which Jimmy and his wife, Alison, live, along with his business partner, Cliff Lewis. Jimmy rants and complains about virtually everything--from the French influences in the newspaper to Alison's complacency to their fading youth. When Jimmy accidentally causes Alison to be burned by an iron, she kicks him out and then reveals to Cliff that she is pregnant, but is afraid to tell Jimmy. Jimmy and Alison make up, but she still does not tell him about their unborn child. An actress friend, Helena, arrives to stay with Jimmy and Alison while she is performing nearby, and she begins an affair with Jimmy. Helena eventually tells Jimmy that she has always loved him, but Alison suddenly appears, and it is revealed that she has had a miscarriage. Helena has second thoughts and decides to leave. Alison tells Jimmy that she is also leaving, but the two make up and will apparently return to their roles as husband and wife.

As the title implies, anger is one of the main themes of the play. Jimmy is "angry and helpless," blaming friends and society for what he sees as a number of failures. Although a college grad, Jimmy feels alienated from society, reduced to selling candy at a local market. Class conflict is another theme, best exemplified by Jimmy's hatred of Alison's family, who has upper-class roots.

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