The concept of the ‘angry young man’ in John Osborne’s play “Look Back in Anger” (1956) represents a significant cultural and literary figure in post-war Britain. The protagonist, Jimmy Porter, embodies this archetype, characterized by his deep dissatisfaction with society and his own circumstances, intense emotional expression, and a tendency to challenge the status quo.
Disillusionment with Society: Jimmy Porter is disillusioned with the British class system and the lack of opportunities for the working class. He feels betrayed by a society that seems to have forgotten the sacrifices of his generation during the war. This disillusionment fuels his anger, which he often expresses through bitter, articulate tirades against the establishment.
Intense Emotional Volatility: Jimmy is notable for his emotional intensity. He experiences and expresses a wide range of emotions, from deep love to intense anger and bitterness. His emotional volatility is a key aspect of his character and drives much of the play’s action and dialogue.
Rejection of Traditional Values: As an ‘angry young man’, Jimmy rejects the traditional values and norms of British society, which he views as outdated and restrictive. He is particularly critical of the complacency and hypocrisy he perceives in the older generation and the establishment.
Intellectual and Articulate: Despite his working-class background, Jimmy is highly intelligent and articulate. He uses his wit and command of language as tools to express his frustration and to critique the society he feels alienated from.
Complex Relationships: Jimmy’s anger also permeates his personal relationships, particularly with his wife, Alison. His interactions with her oscillate between tenderness and cruelty, revealing the complexity and depth of his character.
A Symbol of a Generation: Jimmy Porter came to symbolize a generation of young men in post-war Britain who were frustrated with the rigid class structures and the lack of significant social change after the war. The ‘angry young man’ became a symbol of youthful rebellion and a voice for those disillusioned with the status quo.
In summary, the ‘angry young man’ in “Look Back in Anger” is a complex character who expresses deep-seated dissatisfaction with society, challenges traditional values, and embodies the emotional and intellectual struggles of a generation. Jimmy Porter’s character marked a shift in British theatre and became an iconic figure representing the voice of dissent and disillusionment in post-war Britain.