Themes of The Play Look Back in Anger

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Theme of Anger

      Critic George E. Wellworth is of the opinion that Look Back in Anger represents the theme of author’s dissatisfaction with the society, just like the novels of young writers as John Wain, Kringsley Amis and John Braine. Through the character of Jimmy Porter, the youth of the Postwar Britain lashes out at the society, individuals and institutions. He is the representative of the post-war youth who looked around the world and found nothing right in it. Jimmy as the “angry young man” is believed to symbolize the fury of the youth of his time who felt betrayed, sold out and irrevocably ruined by its elders. Jimmy’s anger is born out of frustration because he feels that society has been pretty unfair to him. He is a university graduate who is running a sweet stall with his uneducated friend and partner Cliff. He is capable of suffering for others, on behalf of others and living in other people’s life. He experienced the bitterness, disillusionment of his dying father at a very young age. He was the only one in the family who seemed to care about the dying father. He is distressed to learn about Mrs. Tanner’s illness, the news that hardly affects others.

Theme of Class Struggle

      Class struggle or Class consciousness is also a dominating theme in the play. Jimmy’s anger is directed towards the member of the upper class to which his wife belongs. He wages a constant battle against the upper class and treats his wife as a “hostage”. Through Jimmy, the underprivileged British youth responds to the structure and spirit of the Welfare state. By bullying his wife he wants to take revenge on the upper middle class which he detests. He wanted the “hostess” to submit to his class culture and to do so he expects her to disown her past through a purgatory of suffering and humiliation.

      Jimmy regards himself as the representative of the “working class”. On behalf of the working class, he declares a war on the upper middle class. The target of his attack is Alison’s mother who represents the upper middle class. He seems to take pleasure on attacking Alison’s mother in the harshest possible language. Jimmy together with Hugh raids the houses of Alison’s friends and relatives in an attempt to humiliate Alison and which they consider to be a war tactic. He is inspiring in his attack on his wife’s family, and Helena too becomes the target of his vicious attack some time. His grudges against the upper class come from his feeling of being deprived of h suitable job in spite of being highly educated. The intellectual genius in him rebels against what he feels in a social injustice.

Love and Sex Theme

      The actual action of the play is centered around Jimmy’s relationship with his wife Alison. In spite of Jimmy’s scathing attack on his wife bullying her, trying to inflict pain on her by his constant tirade against her family one thing is evident that they are both deeply in love with each other, a fact that hardly can be denied. The bears-and-squirrels game symbolizes their deep love for each other. Deeply in love the couple is perpetually wounding each other’s ego and eventually provoked by Helena, the wife feels she can bear no more and leaves her husband. Her place in the house is taken over by Helena. Jimmy has an overpowering and indeed childish need for love. He was involved with a woman old enough to be his mother when he was just eighteen years old. She was his mistress. When Alison is gone, Helena fulfills his need of a woman and on Helena’s desertion, he turns back to Alison. Beneath his crude and rough behavior, there lies a very soft and sensitive person who feels lost without love. After Helena’s desertion, he is anguished. He looks lost and the fear of loneliness haunts him. So in an attempt to escape loneliness, he turns to his wife complaining about her callousness.

Theme of Feelings

      The play Look Back in Anger is not about anger only but about feeling and about despair. Though it is about any of these themes but is essentially a dramatization of these concerns. Osborne himself claims that he wanted to make people feel “I want to make people feel, to give them lessons in feeling. They can think afterward”, he says.

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