(Re)Discovering Identity and Narcissism in the Angry Young Man

Aaron Kharkamni
English and Foreign Languages University


Self-perception is defined by how an individual commits to and identifies with a particular group; the absence of a mature identity related to the self, which stems from a personal as well as a collective socio-cultural level, leads to a crisis producing doubt about one’s social function and often a sense of loss to one’s personality. Jimmy Porter, the protagonist of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, was born in an era of lost identity and purpose in the English consciousness caused by the post-war situation during the 1950s. He portrays the youth of the time who felt that life was meaningless; this void and lack of identity is perhaps the most fundamental aspect when studying Jimmy. The Eriksonian concept of “identity crisis” attempts to warrant that Jimmy, along with an entire generation born before the Second World War felt a lack of purpose and meaning. This paper aims to investigate Jimmy’s behavioural patterns in an attempt to study his personality and establish whether he is an individual suffering from a pathological case of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) caused by the trauma of the identity crisis he faces on a personal and collective level. Collective memories, which are individually held memories, help shape personal identity. Investigations explicate those individuals with a deficit in self-narrative create gaps and discontinuities in self-perception and behaviour. The inability to construct a coherent self-narrative and a painful experience of meaninglessness, chaos, and emptiness may manifest in individuals with PDs (personality disorders). 

Keywords: Look Back in Anger, Angry Young Man, Jimmy Porter, Identity, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.