Write a note on the themes of anger and frustration in Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While different characters embrace anger and frustration in Osborne's work, no character embodies it more than Jimmy.  His entire being is the result of anger and frustration.  One aspect of Jimmy's experiences with anger and frustration is rooted at his perceptions of the world around him.  Socially, Jimmy feels anger and frustration because of the hypocrisy he believes intrinsic to the world.  Jimmy feels that the England he sees around him is vapid and empty, representative of a hollow world that lacks passion and intensity:  "I suppose people of our generation aren't able to die for good causes any longer. We had all that done for us, in the thirties and the forties, when we were still kids. ...There aren't any good, brave causes left." When Jimmy says, "if you’ve no world of your own, it’s rather pleasant to regret the passing of someone else’s," it is reflective of the lack of faith he has in the world.  Part of Jimmy's anger is rooted in the perception of the emptiness in the world around him.

Jimmy's frustration and anger are also internal realities. He feels that the world around him does not validate his talent.  While he has finished university, it was not undertaken at a "prestigious" institution, and thus he has to run the candy stall when he feels worthy of much more.  He also experienced an imprint of pain that will never leave him in terms of seeing his father die at a young age.  For Jimmy, such an experience contributed to a feeling of estrangement, fueling his anger and frustration:  "You see I learnt at an early age what it was to be angry - angry and helpless. And I can never forget it. I knew more about - love... betrayal... and death, when I was ten years old than you will probably ever know in your life.”  Such an experience is what makes Jimmy is a crusader for the experience of "real" suffering and has nothing but disdain for those who lack that authentic expressions of feeling. This is part of the reason for his savage cruelty to Alison, “Lady Pusillanimous" who is a  “monument to non-attachment."  Jimmy believes that the only way individuals can experience real feelings that are not contrived and controlled by society is through undergoing painfully transformative experiences.  Breaking free of the socially controlled world and tapping into the painful reservoir of human emotions is something that Jimmy validates.  In the world around him of what he perceives to be self- serving phoniness and inauthenticity, this becomes a challenge that he feels must be overcome:  

One day, when I'm no longer spending my days running a sweet-stall, I may write a book about us all. It's all here. Written in flames a mile high. And it won't be recollected in tranquillity either, picking daffodils with Auntie Wordsworth. It'll be recollected in fire, and blood. My blood.

Jimmy's anger and frustration is evident in his reactions to a world in which "picking daffodils with Auntie Wordsworth" is more validated than his own voice.

Jimmy's anger and frustration comes from a place within that expresses challenges with the world around and within him.  Jimmy's claim that he is not a "gentleman" is indicative of his desire to find a realm different than the condition in which he lives.  This becomes his primary motivation in the drama and reflects the anger and frustration in his characterization.

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