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Look Back in Anger

jimmy alison play background

a play by John Osborne, produced in 1956, published in 1957. The plot concerns Jimmy and Alison Porter, he of working-class origins, she from an upper-middle-class background, who share a room as uncomfortable as their marriage is turbulent. The arrival of Alison's old friend Helena enrages Jimmy and, after he has left to attend the deathbed of the mother of one of his own friends, she allows her father, a retired colonel, to take her back to the parental home. There she loses the child she was expecting, while Jimmy launches into an unexpected affair with Helena. This ends with Alison's return and a tentative resumption of the marriage. The play has a plot in many respects conventional, but it was nevertheless felt to mark a significant break with the drama fashionable in the 1950s. That was partly because of its drably realistic setting but mainly because of the forceful impression made by Jimmy, an anti-hero from an unprivileged background given to blistering denunciations of the social status quo. He became known as the archetypal ‘Angry Young Man’ and the play itself an important contribution to kitchen sink drama.

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