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Look Back in Anger - Introduction, Character List, Summary

Look Back in Anger

John Osborne

Look Back in Anger - Summary


Look Back in Anger is taken into account one among the foremost important plays within the modern British theater. It was the first well-known example of "Kitchen Sink drama," (Kitchen sink realism (or kitchen sink drama) is a British cultural movement that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s in theatre, art, novels, film, and TV. plays, whose protagonists usually might be described as "angry young men" who were disillusioned with modern society.) a method of theater that explored the emotion and drama beneath the surface of ordinary domestic life. Jimmy Porter, the play's main character, became the model for the "Angry Young Man," a nickname given to a whole generation of artists and dealing class young men in post-World War II British society.

Osborne wrote the play in just a couple of weeks in May of 1955. The play was first rejected by many of the agents and theater companies that Osborne approached about producing it. George Divine, the creative producer for the struggling Royal Court Theater, decided to gamble on the play and staged its first production. The play opened on May 8, 1956. It received mixed reviews from English theater critics, yet it won a rave review from the days. This established the play's notoriety and helped it eventually build an audience.

The two iconic motifs of the play are the aforementioned concepts of the Angry Young Man and therefore the Kitchen Sink drama. The Angry Young Man motif came to be related to a gaggle of young writers and artists -- Osborne and Kingsley Amis being foremost amongst them -- that the cultural public believed to personify an anger, boredom, and frustration with British cultural life that a lot of labor families felt during this time.

The idea of the sink drama was also a revelation for British theater. The stylings of most British theater before reminisce in Anger favored Victorian dramas and comedies or stagings of classical plays. In a general sense, the Victorian plays dealt mostly with polite themes from the late 19th and early 20th century upper upper class . In contrast, Osborne's play depicted the raw emotions and living conditions of the working class. This sort of theater was given the name "Kitchen Sink" due to its specialise in the inside domestic and emotional lives of ordinary people. In the case of reminisce in Anger, the kitchen is literally a neighborhood of the set.

The cultural backdrop to the play is the rise and fall of the British Empire. The beginning of the 20 th century saw the height of power and influence of British colonialism. By the 1950's, two World Wars, which devastated the British economy, and the rise of the United States as the new world military and political power meant that the British Empire had entered a steep decline. Jimmy Porter is representative of a whole culture that remained nostalgic for this past glory. He idealizes the worthy causes of the past even while he mocks those who cannot understand why the times have changed as much as they have.

Look Back in Anger is a play that appeared during a time of crucial transition from Britain's Victorian past into the fashionable twentieth century. Jimmy's rage and anger is his expression of pent-up emotion and his need for life during a world that has become listless and uninteresting. That anger became a logo of the rebellion against the political and social malaise of British culture. His anger is destructive to those around him and therefore the psychological violence of the play received an excellent deal of criticism. Critics today agree, however, that the play is central to an understanding of British life within the twentieth century and, thus, an important piece of literature within the British canon.


Look Back in Anger - Character

Character List

Jimmy Porter

Jimmy Porter is the play's main character. He is the "Angry Young Man" who expresses his frustration for the shortage of feelings in his placid domestic life. Jimmy are often understood as both a hero for his unfiltered expressions of emotion and frustration during a culture that propagated unemotional resignation. He also can be considered a villain for the ways during which his anger proves to be destructive to those in his life.

Cliff Lewis

Cliff may be a friend to both Jimmy and Alison. Cliff lives with them in their attic apartment. He is a labor Welsh man and Jimmy makes bound to often means that he's "common" and uneducated. Cliff believes this is often the rationale that Jimmy keeps him as a lover. He is quite keen on Alison and that they have a weird physically affectionate relationship throughout the play.

Alison Porter

Alison Porter is Jimmy's wife. She comes from Britain's upper crust , but married into Jimmy's labor lifestyle. The audience learns within the first act that she is pregnant with Jimmy's child. Jimmy's destructive anger causes her great strain and she or he eventually leaves him. Her child miscarries and she or he comes back to Jimmy to point out him that she has undergone great suffering.

Helena Charles

Helena Charles is Alison's best friend. She lives with them in their apartment while visiting for work. Helena is from an upper class family. She is liable for getting Alison to go away Jimmy. She and Jimmy then begin an affair. Her sense of morality leads her to leave. She can be considered the play's moral compass.

Colonel Redfern

Colonel Redfern is Alison's father. He represents Britain's great Edwardian past. He was a leader in India for several years before returning together with his family to England. He is critical of Jimmy and Alison's relationship, but accepts that he's responsible for several of their problems due to his meddling in their affairs.

Look Back in Anger -Summary


Look Back in Anger begins in the attic flat apartment of Jimmy Porter and Alison Porter. The setting is mid-1950's small town England. Jimmy and Alison share their apartment with Cliff Lewis, a young labor man who is best friends with Jimmy. Cliff and Jimmy both come from a labor background, though Jimmy has had more education than Cliff. They are in business together running a sweet-stall. Alison comes from a more prominent family and it's clear from the start that Jimmy resents this fact.

The first act opens on a Sunday in April. Jimmy and Cliff are reading the Sunday papers while Alison is ironing in a corner of the room. Jimmy is a hot tempered young man and he begins to undertake and provoke both Cliff and Alison. He is antagonistic towards Cliff's labor background and makes fun of him for his low intelligence. Cliff is good natured and takes the antagonism. Jimmy attempts to impress his wife, Alison, by making fun of her family and her well-heeled life before she married him. Jimmy also seems to display nostalgia for England's powerful past. He notes that the world has entered a "dreary" American age, a fact he begrudgingly accepts. Alison tires of Jimmy's rants and begs for peace. This makes Jimmy more fevered in his insults. Cliff attempts to keep peace between the two and these results in a playful scuffle between the two. Their wrestling finishes up running into Alison, causing her to subside. Jimmy pities the incident, but Alison makes him leave the space.

After Jimmy leaves, Alison confides to Cliff that she is pregnant with Jimmy's child, though she has not yet told Jimmy. Cliff advises her to inform him, but when Cliff goes out and Jimmy re-enters the room, the two instead fall into an intimate game. Jimmy impersonates a stuffed bear and Alison impersonates a toy squirrel. Cliff returns to inform Alison that her old friend, Helena Charles, has called her on the phone. Alison leaves to take the call and returns with the news that Helena is coming to remain for a visit. Jimmy doesn't like Helena and goes into a rage during which he wishes that Alison would suffer so as to understand what it means to be a true person. He curses her and wishes that she could have a child only to observe it die.

Two weeks later, Helena has arrived and Alison discusses her relationship with Jimmy. She tells of how they met and how, in their younger days, they used to crash parties with their friend Hugh Tanner. Jimmy maintains affection for Hugh's mother, though his relationship with Hugh was strained when Hugh left to travel the world and Jimmy stayed to be with Alison. Jimmy seems to regret that he could not leave, but he is also angry at Hugh for abandoning his mother. Helena inquires about Alison's affectionate relationship with Cliff and Alison tells her that they are strictly friends.

Cliff and Jimmy return to the flat and Helena tells them that she and Alison are leaving for church. Jimmy goes into an anti-religious rant and finishes up insulting Alison's family once more. Helena becomes angry and Jimmy dares her to slap him on the face, warning her that he will slap her back. He tells her of how he watched his father die as a young man. His father had been injured fighting in the Spanish war and had returned to England only to die shortly after. Alison and Helena begin to leave for church and Jimmy feels betrayed by his wife.

A phone call comes in for Jimmy and he leaves the room. Helena tells Alison that she has called Alison's father to come get her and take her faraway from this abusive home. Alison relents and says that she will go when her father picks her up the next day. When Jimmy returns, he tells Alison that Mrs. Tanner, Hugh's mother, has become sick and is going to die. Jimmy decides to visit her and he demands that Alison make a choice of whether to go with Helena or with him. Alison picks up her things and leaves for church and Jimmy collapses on the bed, heartbroken by his wife's decision.

The next evening Alison is packing and talking with her father, Colonel Redfern. The Colonel is a soft spoken man who realizes that he does not quite understand the love that exists between Jimmy and Alison. He admits that the actions of him and his wife are partly responsible for his or her split. The Colonel was an officer in the British military and served in India and he is nostalgic for his time there. He considers his service to be some of the best years of his life. Alison observes that her father is hurt because the present is not the past and that Jimmy is hurt because he feels the present is merely the past. Alison begins to pack her toy squirrel, but then she decides not to do so.

Helena and Cliff soon enter the scene. Alison leaves a letter for Jimmy explaining why she has left and she gives it to Cliff. After Alison leaves, Cliff becomes angry and gives the letter to Helena, blaming her for the situation. Jimmy returns, bewildered that he was almost hit by Colonel Redfern's car and that Cliff pretended not to see him when he was walking by on the street. He reads Alison's letter and becomes very angry. Helena tells him that Alison is pregnant, but Jimmy tells her that he does not care. He insults Helena and she slaps him, and then passionately kisses him.

Several months pass and the third act opens with Jimmy and Cliff once again reading the Sunday papers while Helena stands in the corner ironing. Jimmy and Cliff still engage in their angry banter and Helena's religious tendencies have taken the brunt of Jimmy's punishment. Jimmy and Cliff perform scenes from musicals and comedy shows but when Helena leaves, Cliff notes that things do not feel the same with her here. Cliff then tells Jimmy that he wants to move out of the apartment. Jimmy takes the news calmly and tells him that he has been a loyal friend and is worth more than any woman. When Helena returns, the three decide to leave. Alison suddenly enters.

Alison and Helena talk while Jimmy leaves the space. He begins to loudly play his trumpet. Alison has lost her baby and looks sick. Helena tells Alison that she should be angry with her for what she has done, but Alison is merely grieved by the loss of her baby. Helena is driven to distraction by Jimmy's trumpet playing and demands that he come into the room. When he comes back in, he laments the fact that Alison has lost the baby but shrugs it off. Helena then tells Jimmy and Alison that her sense of morality -- right and wrong -- has not diminished which she knows she must leave. Alison attempts to persuade her to stay, telling her that Jimmy will be alone if she leaves.

When Helena leaves, Jimmy attempts to once more become angry but Alison tells him that she has now gone through the emotional and physical suffering that he has always wanted her to feel. He realizes that she has suffered greatly, has become like him, and becomes softer and tenderer towards her. The play ends with Jimmy and Alison embracing, yet again playing their game of bear and squirrel.


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