Look Back in Anger Questions and Answers

John Osborne

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting Look Back in Anger questions.

How does the play deal with masculinity?

The characterization of Jimmy represents one of the most distinctly modern visions of masculinity. The "angry young man" is how Jimmy responds to life and how life responds to him. He is a man who is disenfranchised, the perpetual outsider to a world that is denying him a change. This is not the man of Homer's Hector, or Cervantes' Quixote, or even Joyce's Stephen Dedalus. Rather, Jimmy is the modern man who feels challenged at every turn. He recognizes that he is "better" than his job at the candy stall, and yet he cannot find his "foot in the door" for advancement. He recognizes what he sees as phoniness and inauthenticity around him and yet there is little he can do to change it. He believes that he could do better, while he is unable to really demonstrate anything to show this. He rails on about the need to view consciousness in a more "real" light, but he himself is unable to turn that high powered precision lens of criticism upon his own being. Jimmy is angry, and yet there is not a direct target of his anger.

In many respects, Jimmy represents the male who has been emasculated in different forms by the world around him. The vision of the triumphant, alpha male is not reinforced in this drama. Cliff and Colonel Redfern both represent men who are stunted by the world in which they live. The drama depicts masculinity in the modern setting as being poised between the past constructions of what was and a new world of what is. The result is men trying to find a path that is not illuminated for them. In large part, Jimmy's anger is directed at this vision of reality. Jimmy's struggle with the world in which he lives is reflective of what it means to be a man in the modern setting. It is a condition where the questions are many, the answers are few, and the only constant is insecurity amidst a world that constantly preaches that there is nothing about which to be insecure.