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

The title of John Obsborne's play Look Back in Anger highlights both the extreme anger of the play's protagonist, Jimmy Porter, and his tendency to focus on the past rather than living in the present or looking ahead to the future.

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The title of Osborne's play speaks of the attitude of the protagonist , Jimmy Porter, who's full of anger due to the experiences of the past. A highly intelligent man with a university education, Jimmy is reduced to operating a sweet stall in the market. Filled with burning rage at...

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The title of Osborne's play speaks of the attitude of the protagonist, Jimmy Porter, who's full of anger due to the experiences of the past. A highly intelligent man with a university education, Jimmy is reduced to operating a sweet stall in the market. Filled with burning rage at his lowly situation in life, he lashes out at a society that he blames for his many misfortunes.

This society, despite being prosperous, is nonetheless deeply class-conscious. And in this class-conscious society, educated people from the working and lower-middle classes feel that there's no place for them, that all the best opportunities have been reserved for their alleged social betters.

Under such conditions, it's no wonder that Jimmy and many others like him "look back in anger" at everything they've experienced in life in a society whose upper echelons insist on looking down on them despite their obvious intelligence.

As Jimmy can't do much to change society, he takes out his anger on his wife, Alison, who comes from an upper-middle-class background. At times, Alison represents to Jimmy just about everything he detests about 1950s British society. To a large extent, this accounts for the viciousness of the verbal abuse he regularly dishes out to his put-upon, longsuffering wife.

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Anger stands at the center of John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger. The protagonist, Jimmy Porter, is always angry. In the first scene, Jimmy rails at everything in his life. He rails at his upper-class wife, Alison, and the world that she comes from. He shouts and swears and insults, wishing that Alison might suffer so that she can really feel something. He hollers that he is more alive than she is.

Jimmy's anger continues as the play progresses and Helena comes to stay with the couple and with Jimmy's friend, Cliff. Alison tells Helena how Jimmy's anger against her social class has held her hostage and how it was actually his rage that led to their marriage, as he was determined to defy her parents. Jimmy now rages at Helena as well as at Alison, for he feels that Helena has come to take Alison away from him. He shouts that he knows more about life than either of them; after all, he has seen his father die.

Alison finally leaves Jimmy, and this makes him more furious than ever. He develops a relationship with Helena, but this, too, is based on anger. Eventually, Jimmy and Alison end up back together, but again, anger stands at the heart of their lives.

Jimmy also continually looks back both at England's past and at his own past. He rails against England's lost power and against the upper-class system that is not fading fast enough for his taste. He also remembers the trials of his own life and how they have made him the angry young man he now is.

Indeed, Looking Back in Anger is the perfect title for this play, for Jimmy can neither look forward nor let go of his rage.

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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.

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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."

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