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Look Back in Anger (Plays, Penguin) Paperback – November 18, 1982

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Product Details

  • Series: Plays, Penguin
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (November 18, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140481753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140481754
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Play in three acts by John Osborne, performed in 1956 and published in 1957. A published description of Osborne as an "angry young man" was extended to apply to an entire generation of disaffected young British writers who identified with the lower classes and viewed the upper classes and the established political institutions with disdain. Although the form of the play was not revolutionary, its content was unexpected. On stage for the first time were the 20- to 30-year-olds of Great Britain who had not participated in World War II and who found its aftermath lacking in promise. The hero, Jimmy Porter, has reached an uncomfortably marginal position on the border of the middle class, from which he can see the traditional possessors of privilege holding the better jobs and threatening his upward climb. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

About the Author

John Osborne was born in London in 1929. Before becoming a playwright he worked as a journalist, assistant stage manager and repertory theatre actor. Seeing an advertisement for new plays in The Stage in 1956, Osborne submitted Look Back in Anger. Not only was the play produced, but it was to become considered as the turning point in post-war British theatre. Osborne's protagonist, Jimmy Porter, captured the rebelliousness of an entire post-war generation of 'angry young men'. His other plays include The Entertainer (1957), Luther (1961), Inadmissible Evidence (1964), and A Patriot for Me (1966). He also wrote two volumes of autobiography, A Better Class of Person (1981) and Almost a Gentleman (1991) published together as Looking Back: Never Explain, Never Apologise. His last play, Deja Vu (1991), returns to the characters of Look Back in Anger, over thirty years later. Both Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer were adapted for film, and in 1963 Osborne won an Academy Award for his screenplay for Tom Jones. John Osborne died on 24 December 1994. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Too bad the war couldn't have been prolonged for her entertainment.
David Schweizer
Jimmy is the sort of unsolicited adversary who is at his best, his most inspired, his most whole, and his most creative when he's angriest.
not a natural
How is it that such a person has not one but two women fall in love with him and leave all for his sake?
MOTU Review

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
You'll never meet a more unique character than Jimmy Porter, a 20-something British Archie Bunker. He's filled with rage at the absence of ... something ... and spews forth venom, sarcasm and utter misery relentlessly. Sounds horrible, right? Well, it's fascinating. I couldn't put it down, and I'd like to see the current revival of the play in NYC. I've seen a few people like Jimmy Porter, people who have so much potential, energy and creativity, yet for one reason or another it's all squandered. They fail to surround themselves with people of equal passion, and the result is that they hurt the ones around them, who are more at peace with themselves. The question is, how does someone so young get this way?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Clark Gable on November 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
Writer John Osborne presents in Look Back in Anger an antithesis to the `drawing room dramas' of the period by writers such as Noel Coward which were popular in the 1950's. These dramas often featured polished and wealthy characters from the middle and upper classes, at their leisure within their homes and drawing rooms. Such plays fuelled what one newspaper reviewer from `The Express' termed as the `Illusion of Comfort' which pervaded the 50's.

After reading or watching Osborne's play no one can argue that he was under such an `illusion'. The play can be seen as a reaction both against the `drawing room' dramas and the general society which they represent. Rather than a drawing room with wealthy characters, Osborne selected as his setting a cramped and dismal one attic apartment and filled it with rough down and out lower class characters that were in so0me cases seen as uncivil for the theatre. Their language was coarse, their setting was harsh but worst of all to the original audience of this play (which no doubt had drawing rooms of their own) these characters presented to them a world which was uncomfortably realistic. It is this realism which may account for the fact that many viewers initially did not like Osborne's play as they did not like the world that it presented.

Jimmy Porter, the eternally angry young man who believes that he has life potential beyond being a sweets salesman is frustrated by the notion that he is never given the opportunity by society to fulfill this potential, he can never pull himself up from his social position, he is effectively `stuck.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on July 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Look Back in Anger", first performed at London's Royal Court Theatre in 1956, is often cited as marking a theatrical revolution. The British theatre of the early fifties, dominated by playwrights like Noel Coward and Terence Rattigan, was widely regarded as genteel, well-mannered and middle-class. John Osborne's play can be seen as a deliberate reaction against those values. Its plot is conventional enough. It centres around the stormy marriage of a young couple, Jimmy and Alison Porter, who separate after a series of quarrels. Unknown to Jimmy, Alison is pregnant at the time, and he starts a relationship with her best friend Helena, an actress. Six months later Alison, having lost her baby, returns, and Helena ends her affair with Jimmy so as to allow the couple to be reunited.

What was shocking about the play was its social setting and the attitudes displayed by the characters, especially Jimmy. He is from a working-class family and, although he has a university degree, has turned his back on the sort of well-paid white-collar job that such an educational background would normally have led to in the fifties, working as a trader in the local market, running a sweet stall with his friend Cliff. He and Alison, with Cliff as a lodger, live in a dingy bed-sit in a large Midlands town. Alison herself is from the wealthy upper middle classes (her father is a retired Indian Army officer) and her family resent her marriage to Jimmy.

It was in the late fifties that the term "Angry Young Man" was coined by the critics to describe not only writers such as Osborne, Kingsley Amis and John Braine, but also their characters such as Jimmy Porter and Amis's Lucky Jim, who were seen as the mouthpieces of their creators.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Schweizer VINE VOICE on July 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
Osborne, the great so-called radical, grew to be a reactionary, full of ideas about 'England' and her past glories. He aged into the image of what his protagonist Jimmy Porter ranted against. Should we be surprised, or was Jimmy Porter headed in this direction? Everyone, according to Jimmy, is a fake, but who would embody the real thing if he were to come along? When were things better, if today is so bloody awful? Playwright David Hare created a female version of this type of nasty negativity in his play "Plenty," about the sour ex-spy who couldn't adjust to post war life, also known as peace time. She had had the time of her life passing messages and getting knocked up on quick overnights to France. Too bad the war couldn't have been prolonged for her entertainment. Jimmy and Hare's Susan deserve each other. Most American parents have met this sort. At about 13 most kids get grouchy and start hating everything and everybody. It was brilliant of Osborne to have introduced the middle-aged tantrum-thrower to the theater, it must have been thrilling theater back in the day, but does it hold up? After five decades this sort of dim-witted, passive disgruntlement grows terribly stale. As for theater, my sense is that Noel Coward will fair better in the history books and, more importantly, on the stage. In fact, the sort of theater Osborne criticized has come back strong. The fact is that by growing into a caricature of himself, he only proved how witless and vapid his stage character has always been. He was a paralyzed blow-hard, a wind bag.
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