John Osborne

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What makes the title "Look Back in Anger" by Osborne apt?

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The writer of Look Back in Anger, John Osborne, was labelled by the press as one of the "Angry Young Men," a new generation of writers challenging the staid cultural life of 1950s Britain. After the turmoil of World War II, Britain was settling into a period of relative prosperity and social stability. Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963, famously said that the British people had "never had it so good."

In cultural terms, however, there was a profound dissatisfaction with the way things were going. Certain aspects of British culture, most notably the theater, appeared stuck in the past. The most popular playwright at the time was Terence Rattigan, renowned for his well-constructed plays that dealt with often controversial themes, but with great subtlety and understatement.

There's nothing remotely understated about Look Back in Anger. It has a lot to say about contemporary Britain, and in its lead character, Jimmy Porter, says it loudly and often. Porter is one of a new generation of university graduates, a generation angry at what it sees as the political stagnation and cultural sterility of Britain in the 1950s. Through Jimmy, the play provides a platform for the articulation of its frustrations at what it sees as a betrayal of the hope and optimism of the immediate post-war years. Thus Jimmy, as a representative of this disillusioned young generation, looks back at the unfulfilled promise of post-war life, reflected in his own drifting and nihilistic existence. He feels suitably angry at the life he leads and the country in which he leads it.

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