Look Back in Anger English Summary

Key Facts:

1. Writer: John Osborne (1929-94).

2. Original Title: Look Back in Anger.

3. Genre: Dark Comedy/Tragicomedy.

4. Published date: 1956.

5. Number of acts: Thee.

6. Setting: Time Setting: 1950s England.

                   Place Setting: A one-room attic apartment in the Midlands of England.

7. Themes: 

  • Class and Education
  • Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency
  • Disillusionment and Nostalgia
  • Love and Innocence
  • Gender


1. Jimmy: Protagonist and angry young man.

2. Alison Porter: Wife of Jimmy. She is an upper-class lady.

3. Cliff Lewis: Friend of both Jimmy and Alison.

4. Helena Charles: Alison’s best friend.

5. Colonel Redfern: Alison’s father.

English Summary

  • So we can know the complete summary very easily through 5 points.

1. Jimmy and Alison’s fight

“Look Back In Anger” opens in Jimmy Porter and Alison Porter’s apartment. It is set in a small town in England in the mid to late 1950s. After the Second World War, people had no work to do. Jimmy and Alison are accompanied by Jimmy’s best friend Cliff Lewis. Cliff Lewis is a working-class man. Both Jimmy and Cliff Lewis come from working-class backgrounds, but Jimmy is more educated than Cliff Lewis. Together they run a sweet shop. Alison’s family and social status is quite well. But from the beginning of the play, it is seen that Jimmy is very upset about this.

The first act of the play begins on a Sunday in April. Jimmy and Cliff Lewis are reading the Sunday paper and Alison is ironing the clothes. Jimmy is a very hot-tempered person. He is always angry. That is why he is called “Angry Young Man”. He tells Alison and Cliff Lewis all sorts of unpleasant things. He dislikes Cliff Lewis’s working-class background and makes fun of his low intelligence. Cliff Lewis is a quiet man. He doesn’t mind Jimmy’s words. Jimmy also pokes fun at his wife Alison’s family and Alison’s comfortable life before marriage, while Jimmy’s reminiscing about powerful England is seen. He notes that the world has now entered a gloomy American era. Jimmy has a hard time accepting this. Alison gets annoyed with Jimmy’s babbling and asks Jimmy to stop. Jimmy began to speak more loudly and insultingly. Cliff Lewis starts a friendly scuffle with Jimmy trying to control the situation. In their scuffle, Alison is knocked over and Alison falls. Jimmy apologizes for the incident but Alison kicks him out of the room.

This is where Alison gets hurt. Cliff Lewis comforts her and eventually,  they kiss. Alison tells Cliff Lewis she is pregnant (by Jimmy) after Jimmy leaves. But she hasn’t told Jimmy yet. Cliff Lewis tells her to speak to Jimmy. At that time Jimmy comes and doesn’t say anything seeing them in this state. Now Cliff Lewis goes out of the room and Jimmy enters the room. Without telling Jimmy, the two start playing a game. The name of this game is Bear and Squirrel. Jimmy plays a toy bear and Alison plays a toy squirrel. Cliff Lewis returns and tells Alison that her old best friend Helena Charles has called. Alison goes to talk and comes back saying Helena is visiting them. Jimmy doesn’t like Helena at all and becomes angry when he hears her coming. He angrily says that he wants Alison to suffer and realize what real human suffering is like. He says even if Alison’s child dies, she will understand Jimmy’s pain.

2. Arrival of Helena

Two weeks later, Helena comes over and Alison talks to Helena about Jimmy and her relationship. She tells how they met and how they used to annoy everyone by going to various parties with their friend Hugh Tanner in the earlier days. Hugh and Jimmy are not on good terms now, but Jimmy still loves Hugh’s mother. Hugh and Jimmy’s relationship becomes hostile when Hugh leaves to travel the world and Jimmy stays with Alison. Jimmy feels bad for not being able to go with Hugh. Again, Hugh leaves his mother alone, so Jimmy is also angry. When Helena asks Alison about the relationship between Alison and Cliff Lewis, Alison says they only have a friendly relationship. Nothing more.

When Cliff Lewis and Jimmy return, Helena tells them that she and Alison are going to church. Jimmy starts talking profanity and makes fun of Alison’s family again. Helena gets angry and has an altercation with Jimmy. Jimmy says he watched his father die in front of his eyes when he was a child. Jimmy’s father was wounded fighting in the Spanish Civil War and returned to England and died a few days later. Now when Helena and Alison arrive at the church, Jimmy begins to think that he has been cheated on by his wife.

 A phone call comes in for Jimmy and Jimmy walks out. Helena tells Alison that she called Alison’s father and told him to get Alison out of there. Alison agrees and says that she will leave the next day when her father comes to pick her up. Meanwhile, Jimmy arrives and informs that Hugh’s mother is very ill and will die at any moment. Jimmy wants to visit her. He tells Alison will Alison go with her, or Helena to church? Alison packs her things and goes to the church with Helena. Jimmy’s heart breaks at his decision and he sits down on the bed dejectedly.

3. Alison and Jimmy’s temporary separation

The next afternoon Alison is packing and is talking to Colonel Red Fern through a phone call. The Colonel is a calm person. He realizes that he doesn’t understand the kind of love between Jimmy and Alison. He admits his and his wife’s behavior is largely responsible for the separation between his child Alison and her husband Jimmy. The colonel was a British Army officer in India and has a kind of nostalgia for bygone times. Alison finds her father troubled by the past. So if she leaves, Jimmy will suffer too. And that’s what she wants. Alison initially wants to take her toy wooden cat, but later changes her mind and leaves with the squirrel.

Cliff Lewis and Helena are shown this time. Alison gives a letter to Cliff Lewis to give to Jimmy, writing down why Allison is leaving. Cliff Lewis gets angry after Alison leaves and blames Helena for the situation. And left with the letter in his hand. Jimmy comes back and is a bit shocked. He narrowly collided with the Colonel’s car on the road. And after meeting Cliff Lewis, he doesn’t speak to him. He then reads Alison’s letter and is furious. Helena says Alison is pregnant. Jimmy replies that it doesn’t matter to him. This time Jimmy insults Helena and Helena slaps him and then passionately kisses him.

4. Jimmy and Helena stay together

The third act opens a few months later, with Jimmy and Cliff Lewis reading the Sunday paper as before and Helena ironing clothes in the corner of the room. Jimmy and Cliff Lewis are still at loggerheads and Helena’s religious affairs are harshly criticized by Jimmy. Jimmy and Cliff Lewis perform scenes from musicals and comedy shows but Cliff Lewis says he wants to leave. Jimmy takes it easy, telling Cliff Lewis that he is his good friend and  Jimmy valued him more than any other girl. The three plan to go out when Helena returns.

5. Alison’s return

This time Alison returns again. Alison and Helena start talking and Jimmy leaves the room. Jimmy started playing the trumpet loudly. Alison’s baby is dead and she looks sick. Helena tells Alison that Alison should be angry at what she did to her. But in Alison’s mind, the pain of losing a child exists. Helena is disturbed by Jimmy’s trumpet playing and asks Jimmy to come to their room. When he comes into the room and hears that Alison’s baby has died, he is devastated. But quickly fixes itself. Helena now tells Jimmy and Alison that she still has morals and that she should get out of here now. Meanwhile, Alison tries to convince Helena to stay.

But Helena leaves. Jimmy tries to make Alison angry again like before. But Alison tells her that Jimmy wanted Alison to suffer. And she suffered a lot both physically and mentally after losing her child. Now, Jimmy can understand her pain. He thinks he and Alison are the same now. He begins to treat Alison softly. At the end of the play, Jimmy and Alison hug each other and start playing their old Bear and Squirrel game.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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