A Better Class of Person Form and Content

John Osborne

Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Along with Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, and David Hare, John Osborne is one of the most influential English playwrights of the period following World War II. With Look Back in Anger (1956), he is credited with revolutionizing the English theater. Jimmy Porter, the play’s antihero, spews out an endless torrent of venom against his wife, her family and friends, and society in general. The success of Look Back in Anger is said to have rudely awakened a somnolent British stage dominated by tepid drawing-room dramas and paved the way for a new realism and a series of working-class protagonists in English plays, novels, and films. Osborne is often described as the leader of the “angry young men” who created these works. His other major plays include The Entertainer (1957), dealing with the life of Archie Rice, a failing music-hall comedian; Luther (1961), a biographical treatment of Martin Luther, a different variety of angry young man; and Inadmissible Evidence (1964), a portrait of self-destructive attorney Bill Maitland. Osborne has also written plays for television and won an Academy Award for his screenplay for Tom Jones (1963), based on Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel. His career has been the most controversial of any playwright of his generation, primarily because of the vituperation expressed by his characters.

A Better Class of Person explains the sources of much of Osborne’s anger....

(The entire section is 485 words.)