Talking Points in John Osborne’s LOOK BACK IN ANGER


John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger is one of the two texts under the Non-African Drama category recommended for 2021-2025 Harmonised SSCE (WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, etc) Syllabus.

▪️ What is John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger all about? Look Back in Anger is all about a complicated man (Jimmy) who always insults his wife at every slightest provocation. His wife, we learnt, married him in rebellion against her upbringing. Frustrated beyond limit, Alison has no choice than to leave her husband. They would later reconcile after Alison’s loss of their baby, playing their old game of bears and squirrels.

▪️ What factors influence Jimmy’s anger? Class disparity, troubled childhood and social imbalance all contribute to Jimmy’s anger. Jimmy Porter is from the lower class but hates the higher class because of his not being able to be like them or enjoy their privileges. Coincidentally, he married a girl from the upper class (Alison that is) and it is only logical that he would unleash his hatred, anger and frustration on Alison who in this context is an effigy of the higher class he hates. Besides, he has been through a lot. He lost his father when he was five. The latter died in his arms. Despite having a university degree, he still could not find his way into the upper class. Instead, he finds himself working in a small candy stall. These, to a large extent, make for his anger in the play.


▪️ What are the names of the characters in the play? Jimmy Porter, Alison Porter, Helena Charles, Colonel Redfern, Cliff Lewis, Negel, Hugh Tanner, Landlady, Mrs Redfern, Madeline.

▪️ Who is Jimmy Porter? Jimmy Porter is Alison’s husband. Jimmy is a chronic talker and takes to insulting others. He characterises the typical overeducated but underemployed worker. He lives in attic flat with his wife, Alison and his business partner, Cliff Lewis with whom he runs a candy stall in an outdoor market. He is a tall, thin young man of about twenty-five years old who is proud, ruthless, arrogant, rude and verbally abusive but highly educated. Jimmy Porter is the protagonist of the play. Life has been cruel to him right from childhood. He becomes angry when his wife left him when he needed her the most. He later forgives her when she returned with the news of their lost baby and he looked back from his anger.

▪️ Who is Colonel Redfern? Colonel Redfern is Alison’s father.

▪️ Who is Webster? Webster is Jimmy’s friend while they were in school.

▪️ Who is Hugh Tanner? Hugh Tanner is Jimmy’s childhood friend. He accepted Jimmy and Alison into his apartment during their first month of marriage. He left for China to pursue his writing career, thereby abandoning his mother. However, Jimmy thinks Hugh betrayed him by leaving.

▪️ Who is Cliff Lewis? Cliff Lewis is Jimmy Porter’s best friend and business partner. Together with Jimmy, he runs a candy stall in an outdoor market. In the course of the play, he becomes a mutual friend to Jimmy and Alison.

▪️ Who is Helena? Helene is Alison’s friend and confidante.

▪️ Who is Madeline? Madeline is Jimmy Porter’s first love. She is about ten years older than Jimmy.

▪️ What are the themes in Look Back in Anger? Theme of anger and hatred, theme of love and innocence, theme of apathy and passiveness, theme of betrayal, theme of gender inequality, theme of social equality, theme of alienation, theme of class disparity, etc.

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