Artifact: Look Back In Anger
By: John Osborne
Look Back in Anger is a play written by John Osborne. It takes place in small town England in the 1950’s. The story follows the young married couple, Jimmy and Alison Porter as they go through life and deal with life’s struggles. The story gives a very real feeling to how we handle our relationships as human beings and how we deal with the feelings and situations we find ourselves in in life. Particularly the situations and feelings we have about our pasts. John Osborne provides a glimpse into two subjects that we all deal with as human beings but are not necessarily conscious of it. The two themes are truly “growing up”, and confronting life. By showing us these themes, Look Back In Anger allows us to learn a little bit about our human nature, and hopefully lets the audience examine themselves to the extent of the themes in their lives.
The two characters that show us the most about truly growing up in this show are Jimmy and Alison. Both characters through the course of the play come to terms with their adulthood and ultimately the loss of their childhood. In the show the characters deal with losing a parent, emotional and physical abuse from a loved one, marrying too early, and holding onto anger and sadness for long periods of time (holding a grudge). Not only does this theme create a great sense of drama for the show, but Osborne also allows us to see a side of ourselves through Jimmy and Alison. That side is the side of anger and sadness that we package on as we go through life (getting farther away from childhood). We pile these things on in order to protect ourselves from more pain (what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger mentality). When in reality, the farther we get away from our childhood nature and the innocence that comes with that, the colder we get. Osborne does a beautiful job of showing us this through the characters of Jimmy and Alison.
The second theme that allows us (the audience) to really examine ourselves is the theme of confronting life (reality). It is something we all must do. At some point or another in all of our lives there is a turning point to where we ultimately have to confront reality and deal with it (this happens many times, but the point always comes). In Look Back in Anger, the character of Jimmy Porter is the true accent of this theme. Jimmy is confronted with many real and serious hardships that he must deal with through the course of the show (his wife being pregnant, his past, losing his father at a young age, growing up without proper leadership, World War 2 ending). In the beginning of the show Jimmy handles these things poorly by avoiding them and “looking back in anger” and because of that he ultimately loses his wife, his friends, and his happiness. But in the third act of the show there is a turning point in Jimmy, he realizes that there is a greater purpose to life. He learns to deal with the hardships, deal with the problems, and ultimately face life. Osborne teaches us this lesson in Look Back in Anger through the character of Jimmy. We all have hardships, tough times, and things to deal with. But that is exactly what we must do, deal with them. Face life head on and let go of the past.
This show is a magnificent piece of literature from author John Osborne with many great themes and things to discuss other than mere two that I brought up in this artifact. Ultimately the play teaches us that holding on to the past in a negative way is going to create exactly that, negativity. We must learn to deal with life, grow up in a healthy way, and deal with the hardships and problems that we are presented with. Cry when it’s felt, fight when needed, and love always.