Look Back in Anger by John Osborne

Start Your Free Trial

What is the significance of the title of Look Back in Anger?

Expert Answers info

Colin Cavendish-Jones, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Lawyer

bookM.A. from Oxford University

bookPh.D. from St. Andrews University


calendarEducator since 2019

write750 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger introduced at least two new phrases to the English language. One is "kitchen sink drama," a play which explores the mundane realities of working-class life. The other is "angry young man," an expression which is self-explanatory.

The play's protagonist, Jimmy Porter, is the original and quintessential angry young man. He is intended as the voice of his generation: too young to have fought in the war, too well-educated for the simple work and tedious life he has to endure, aimless and discontented, chafing under the restraints of an outdated social system. He looks back in anger at the ineluctable forces that have landed him in this position, but wherever he looks, he is certain to be angry.

Anger is Osborne's subject. It is only fitting that it should be the stated theme of his best-known play. There are obvious parallels between John Osborne and Jimmy Porter, in terms of background, education, temperament and the targets of their wrath. When Osborne died, the Daily Telegraph's obituarist noted:

As Osborne's tirades poured forth, and as he continued to create characters eaten up by disillusion, the suspicion grew that the real object of his scorn and contempt was himself. As early as 1959 the theatre critic Harold Hobson noted: "Osborne has been his own worst enemy. Self-loathing appears to be a driving force of his art. He should control it: he is not as bad as he thinks."

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
emsteph eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write835 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

The title forecasts the general emotional tone of the play: angry. Look Back in Anger is all about the protagonist's fury at the outmoded social system which holds him back. Jimmy Porter is dissatisfied with his station in life. He feels he's being wasted running a candy shop rather than pursuing anything grand or worthwhile. He feels because he's come into his prime during the postwar era, he's missed out on the "glory days" of Edwardian England when there were "good, brave causes" to fight for.

This play sparked the archetype of the angry young man, dissatisfied with the world his forebears have left him. The 1950s and 1960s saw young people rebelling against their parents' values on a massive scale, both in the UK and abroad. Hence, Look Back in Anger's title captures the dissatisfaction and fury of this generation as a whole.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

ashmit | Student

Look back in anger is a suitable title for the play.It has two part-look back and- in anger.certainly there is enough anger in the play.Its hero JimmyPorter,is an angry youngman.As one critic puts it he is furious with life.The title of the play is apt and appropriate.It is significant and suggestive.It hints the theme of the play .the story of the play moves around the play.In the play Osborne has depicted the mood of despair ,anger,and frustration of the postwar generation.It is study of class conflict and frustration caused by it.The title of the play indicate it.Seeing the title reader comes to know what the play is about.

rinarai06 | Student

The title of John Osborne's play "Look Back in Anger" is very much with the flow of the theme of the play. The entire play experiences the tremors of Jimmy's violently angry tirades directed at his fellow inhabitants in the play. Jimmy's anger is one of the predominant theme of the play affecting all those characters related to him. Another recurrant motive is Looking Back as most of the charcters including Alison, Helena and Coln Redfern reassess the past as they remember it. Unlike Jimmy who isnt able to transcend bygone sufferings, the others acknowledge their previous mistakes and express regret or repentance.

Hence the title not only signifies the emotional and psychological condition of the characters, it also stands representative for that age of the disgruntled young men of England without employment, oppurtunity and hope. The people found anger and directionless disillusionment following their every step. 

 

Unlock This Answer Now