John Osborne (1929-1994)
Look Back in Anger (1956)
This play, composed of three acts, narrates the story of Jimmy Porter, a frustrated snobbish young man who lives in a small apartment with his wife Alison, daughter of a retired imperial colonel, and his uneducated friend Cliff. Jimmy is highly frustrated and is incapable of showing any kind of tenderness. Allison is pregnant but unable to tell her husband, and for this reason, she decides, thanks to her friend Helena, to leave him, only to come back after a miscarriage.
Jimmy Porter is the embodiment of the frustrated British youth of the ‘50s, who is young enough to not have fought in the war, but also old enough to have benefited of the Educational Act of 1944. His anger comes from his father’s premature death, his mother’s middle-class behaviour, and his incapability of finding a purpose. He senses his personal failure, which he reflects in his relationships with others, but mostly with his wife, who he wants to possess but at the same time fears.
Alison is, on the other hand, a strong person, who decided to bear with her husband’s rudeness by choice. Her friend Helena is from the upper class, is straightforward, and never pretends to like Jimmy’s behaviour.
The language is the most innovative aspect of the play; it is colloquial and no more attached to theatrical conventions. The play is thus addressed to everybody, reflects the disorder and the frustrations of the young of the Fifties, and grouped some play writers named as “Angry Young Men”.