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for the simple work and tedious life he has to endure, aimless and discontented, chafing under the restraints of an outdated social system.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."