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Deferred Dreams in Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger”

Look Back in Anger is a play that reflects on life in Great Britain before the start of the Second World War and the after the Second World War. It demonstrates the position of Great Britain in the world in terms of power before and after World War II. Initially, the U.K was incomplete dominance amongst the best superpowers, but after world war II, things changed; she was no longer a superpower. Instead, she found herself between two superpowers: The United States of America and The United Soviet Union. The Second World War had adverse effects on Britain, which also adversely affected the lives of its citizen. The results that were affected by Great Britain after the Second World War included the following:

  • India declared independent

With the vital forces in India and a weakening Britain, India declared itself independent since Great Britain didn’t have enough troops and resources to run and lead India. It meant that those Britain soldiers in India went back to Britain, and this included colonel Redfern.

  • Destruction of infrastructure

After the Second World War, many Britain infrastructure had been vandalized, including buildings and roads, which meant that the economic activities were highly affected and couldn’t run smoothly as before. The only solution they had was borrowing money from The United States of America since they had already surpassed the expected budget during that financial year.

  • The emergency of social classes of living

Social stratification emerged where people were grouped according to their class. We had the first class, which comprised the rich and primarily those who were n the government. We had the working class, which consisted of employees, and finally, we had the poor class; this class consisted of a group of people who were not employed and struggled to earn a living.

Looking in the context of Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, The above effects of World War II contributed highly to either completely shut down the dreams at either government level, group level or at an individual level. People, organizations and the government deferred their respective objectives in various ways, including the following:

  • Colonel Redfern

He had hoped for more considering the number of years he had served in the military on behalf of the government, but rather the dreams he had come to an end when India declared itself as an independent government and the British army had to go back home. No one recognized him anymore, he was even annoyed by the way the government had changed, and according to him, the light stopped shining the moment India declared its independence.

  • Alison

She truly loved Jimmy and had hoped for a bright future together with him, though since she came from a first-class social living set up, she couldn’t get the life she had desired for the main reasoning being jimmy hated everyone in the government and those from the first class. Jimmy continuously constantly abused and mocked her. She was also subjected to heavy home chores, which rendered her tired. Her dream about raising a family together with Jimmy was also deferred when she got pregnant, and her father took her away and later lost the baby. The kind of relationship her parents and siblings had with jimmy couldn’t yield the dream of having a happy family, especially the hate and despise that existed between her mother and jimmy was unbearable.

  • Helena

She was the one who masterminded the departure of Alison back to her parents and later on moved in with Jimmy. It was a clear indication that her dream was living together with Jimmy though the goal was deferred when Alison returned and she had to leave. For a short period, she stayed with Jimmy; Jimmy couldn’t be happy too, so the dream of having a comfortable home with him never came to be since jimmy had negative feelings towards anybody close to him, even his friend.

  • Britain’s culture

Before world war II, Great Britain had its own culture and operated in its way, and the dream was to maintain this culture for the wellbeing of the people of Britain. However, after WW II, this could not be achieved because many things started being done in American ways with the significant debt they owed to America. The English culture was lost, and a new era of Americanization emerged, which mainly targeted the youth as the primary consumers.

  • Jimmy

Jimmy is the main character of the play, and we can see several of his dreams being deferred. He was a graduate of a University in Britain. Given that he was a graduate, he would have expected his life is not his current life. We are introduced to his bed-sitter house, which is located in areas occupied mainly by the poor (middle), and he lives in that small room with his friend (Lewis) and wife (Alison). Despite how educated he is, he can afford to live a luxury life with expensive items; instead, the type of furniture can’t be compared to his education level. They said his house had a heavy chest of drawers below his bed covered with a lot of books, below his wardrobe he has a gas stove beside it he has a wooden fluid cupboard on top of a small portable radio.

The fact that Jimmy is educated, he has not even secured a job and instead, he operates a sweet stall which his friend helps in operation. He feels that the government has deprived him of showing what he can offer through the possibilities already preserved to the upper class. Looking at an example of Nigel, a brother to Alison was running for a seat position in the parliament. Jimmy feels that such places are preserved for people from the upper class keeping in mind Jimmy was a son of a colonel.

People from different social classes find it hard to marry and have a better family. The dreams Jimmy might have hard towards Alison are deferred. Alison’s parents especially don’t like Jimmy for the simple reason that he is from a poor side. When Alison’s pregnancy is realized, Alison’s father takes her home for fear of the treatment she might get from Jimmy and the environment in which she will take her child.


The outcome of the Second World War greatly affected Britain, which later narrowed down to individual goals and dreams. The rise of social stratification meant that the poor continued to be poor, and the rich continued to be rich. Those from the poor class, even though educated, could not climb the ladder upwards regardless of the efforts they put in. It should not be the case, though, and the government should ensure it provides a stable environment where everyone can achieve their goals and not always defer them.



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