Look Back in Anger was a strongly autobiographical piece based on Osborne's unhappy marriage to actress Pamela Lane and their life in cramped accommodation in Derby. While Osborne aspired towards a career in theatre, Lane was more practical and materialistic, not taking Osborne's ambitions seriously while cuckolding him with a local dentist. It also draws from Osborne's earlier life; for example, the wrenching speech of witnessing a loved one's death was a replay of the death of his father, Thomas.
What it is best remembered for, though, are Jimmy's tirades. Some of these are directed against generalised British middle-class smugness in the post-atomic world. Many are directed against the female characters, a very distinct echo of Osborne's uneasiness with women, including his mother, Nellie Beatrice, whom he describes in his autobiography A Better Class of Person as "hypocritical, self-absorbed, calculating and indifferent". Madeline, the lost love Jimmy pines for, is based on Stella Linden, the older rep-company actress who first encouraged Osborne to write. After the first production in London, Osborne began a relationship with Mary Ure, who played Alison; he divorced his wife Pamela Lane to marry Ure in 1957.