What is the significance of the title, "Look Back In Anger"?
The title refers to the characters' attitudes towards their lives in general, but Jimmy's in particular. There is a sense that life is passing them by, that they are growing older without things getting better, that their relationships had possibilities at the beginning that they don't have now, and so on. All of these generate a generalize resentment/anger in the play.
There are also a number of socially oriented comments that indicate a kind of generalized historical anger, often about change. For example, early in the play Jimmy mentions reviews that are half written in French (in an English paper). This change makes him feel stupid. Alison's parents were very angry at her marriage, and the couple often took pleasure in crossing social lines.
But again, it is Jimmy specifically whose past is most marked by anger. In Act II he talks about watching his father die, and he says, "You see, I learnt at an early age what it was to be angry—angry and helpless. And I can never forget it."
This past anger is shaping his life, and their lives.
The title of Osborne's Look Back in Anger relates to the theme of Anger & the character of the protagonist, Jimmy Porter, who represents the Angry Young Men of 1950s.
The title has in it a suggestion of retrospection--looking back, and also a suggestion as regards the appropriate mood for the said looking back--anger. Jimmy, a graduate from a 'red-brick university', runs a sweetstall with the help of his friend, Cliff Lewis. Jimmy, Cliff, and Jimmy's wife Alison live in a one-room apartment in Midlands. Jimmy is an angry young man of the post-war generation, dissatisfied with almost everything and everybody. Osborne's play in three acts is filled with Jimmy's angry tirades as he launches offensive against his wife and her parents, brother, and friends, against Cliff, against the Church, the Newspapers, and what not.
Jimmy's anger is rooted in his looking back into the past, into the Edwardian England. This nostalgia and a strong dislike for the England that never changes, of course, for the better make Jimmy cynical, loud, offensive, and even abusive in his language, tone and gestures.
This title, "Look Back in Anger" is a play, which tells us about a complex love triangle which involves an intelligent but disaffected young man, Jimmy Porter, the main protagonist in the whole story, his upper class, impassive wife, Alison and her best friend, Helena, which furthers complicate the entire story. Jimmy Porter, the main character, shows a thought-provoking character with immense psychological complexity and interest, dominating the whole play completely with his fueled power of his anger and his language.
"Anger" is the right word to describe his character as he hated a lot of people, including Helena and his wife, Alison, Alison's mother, brother and a whole lot bunch of friends and always vent his anger and ire on them, sometimes hurling nasty and disturbing insults towards them. He hated them due to their social ranking in the power hierarchy, her social standing and is well brought-up "upbringing".
"Looking back" is what makes Jimmy so furious and frustrated when he looks back to the past during the Spanish Civil War at World War Two, which he witnessed the horrors and psychological scarring of war. When he was ten years old, he watched his idealist father died due to complications of his wounds for a year during his fight for democracy, so he lashes out his anger on everyone due to his helplessness and his vulnerability.
He also hates the class system in the country, where the built-in preferential for those of the rich and the famous and the top of the world, the higher-ranking people to those people at the lower end which were excluded from all power and privileges and have no say in anything, that makes Jimmy's existence on earth seems not worthwhile and meaningless.
He also hates his loved ones as they didn't want to fully commit to love and refuses to have strong feelings with him, preferring to have it "low-key" relationship, and also at the society which doesn't fulfill promises of windows of opportunity and good fortunes, all the white-lies bastards that Jimmy hate for deceiving the gullible and innocent victims of outrage brainwashing and deception. He also deplored the higher social ranking people in the social and power structure who sits smugly in their sits and whom do not leave a helping hand or a guiding light to the less fortunate and those below them and prefers to be self-centered, caring for their own welfare and not of others.
'Look Back in Anger' reads like a piece of exhortation or command. The protagonist, Jimmy Porter, and / or the dramatist make(s) the same, may be, directed to himself and / or to the audience. 'Anger' seems to be the very humor of the young Osborne protagonist,venting his ire towards his uper-class wife, Alison, her mother, brother and friends, his friend and business-partner, Cliff Lewis, the politics and society, the men and manners of his post-War generation, the posh news-papers, the Church, the women, and even to himself. Jimmy is angrily opposed to the moral-religious codes of his day. Bitter, sardonic, volatile anger constitutes Jimmy's idiom in the play. Anger seems to be the very stance of the protagonist waging war against the lack of enthusiasm and responsiveness.
Jimmy is angry for some personal reasons like his sense being 'less than Alison', his failure to get a job inspite of having received university education, his failure to motivate his wife, Alison, to enthusiasm, to step out of her small domestic space defined by her ironing board. Alison remains calm, not responding to the lived realities of life, and that makes Jimmy restless and aggressive.
The act of looking back refers to Jimmy's nostalgic, paradoxical relationship with the Edwardian England, his sad reminiscences of the friends, old and gone. Jimmy continually remembers his past and looking back feels angry and anguished and disillusioned.
The essential point about Jimmy's character and his role in the play is his involvement with the past.He is angry when he looks back to the past as he belongs to the post war (second world war) generation.It is a frustrated generation as the bad political circumstances affect the social life in England.He also rejects his past due to social and psychological problems such as belonging to a law class, being inferior to his wife,and hating his mother for her betrayal to his father.He looks back in anger to the past which deprives him from any possibility of the future.