Colonel Redfern: Character Analysis in Look Back in Anger

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His Recollections of His Past Life

      Col. Redfern is Alison’s father. According to Jimmy’s description, he is a man who can never forget his past life and still casts “well-fed glances back to the Edwardian twilight from his comfortable, disenfranchised wilderness,” He was the commander of Maharajah’s army in an Indian state till 1947, the time of India’s political liberation from the British. He had been happy and proud to be in a privileged position in the rank of an army officer, and repented at having to depart from India after its independence. Ever since his departure of the Oriental Country, he has been ruminating over the past, much to the amusement of Jimmy. In Act II he says “...I had the Maharajah’s army to command—that was my world and I loved it, all of it. At that time it looked like going on forever when I think of it now, it seems like a dream. If only it could go on forever. Those long cool evening up in the hills, everything purple and golden. Your mother and I were so happy then. It seemed as though we had everything we could even want.” He becomes quite nostalgic when he speaks about his past life of comfort and privilege in India. His regret having to leave India where he had commanded awe and respect is apparent, “ seems like a dream. If only it could go on forever”.

      It was as if his life almost came to an end on the day of his departure from India: “I think the last day the sun shone was when the dirty little train steamed out of the crowded, suffocating Indian station, and the battalion bond playing for all it was worth, I know in my year it was all over then.” He openly regrets at having to leave the place where he and his wife were blissfully happy. His constant reference to the past, more particularly about his wife in India makes him the butt of Jinmy’s ridicule.

A Comic Portrayal of The Colonel

      In the stage direction a mocking description is given of Col. Redfern: “Brought up to command respect, he is often slightly withdrawn and uneasy now that he finds himself in a world where his authority has lately become less and less unquestionable. His wife would relish the Present situation, but he is only disturbed and bewildered by it”. Most of the time he is seen ruminating over the past, his life in India. Jimmy makes a mocking and sarcastic reference to the Colonel’s life in India when the world looked “pretty tempting” to him. Jimmy cynically describes him as “just one of those sturdy old plants left over from the Edwardian Wilderness that can’t understand why the sun isn’t shining anymore”. Although Jimmy is being satirical in his comments, yet the truth in this cannot be denied. The Colonel himself nearly admits when he says that Jimmy has “quite a turn of phase.”

His Repentance For Opposing Alison’s Marriage With Jimmy

      Col. Redfern vehemently opposed Alison’s marital alliance with Jimmy just like his wife. But later on repents and feels sorry about it. His views regarding Jimmy undergoes a lot of change and he admits to Alison that Jimmy had a certain amount of right on this sides. He modestly admits that he and his wife were to be blamed for the unhappiness in Jimmy and Alison’s marital life. He now feels that his wife’s action in engaging private detectives to inquire into Jimmy’s activities was too much. He believes that it would have been better and more dignified if he and his wife had not tried to interfere in the matter. He earns our admiration and respect by his confession.

His Anxiety For His Daughter

      Although the author gives a comic touch to the character of Col. Redfern, yet the fact that he is a man of common sense cannot be overlooked. He makes a correct appraisal of his daughter when he says that she likes “to sit on the fence because it is comfortable and more peaceful”. Like Jimmy he also senses that she has never given herself to her husband with the honesty which she knows he demands and needs. Further, when Alison says that perhaps Jimmy had married her with a motive of revenge, he replies; “I always believed that people married each other because they were in love. That always seemed a good enough reason to me. But apparently, that’s, too simple for young people now a days. They have to talk about challenges and revenge. I just can’t believe that love between men and women is really like that”. He shows his concern for his daughter by rushing to her place as soon as he receives Helena’s telegram; he also requests her to give her decision to leave Jimmy a serious thought. He reminds with the authority of a father; “This is a big step you’re taking. You’ve made up your mind to come back with me? Is that really what you want?”. On Alison’s insistence to go back, he says no more about it.

Col. Redfern As An Affectionate Father And A Dutiful Husband

      Col. Redfern is a dutiful man as regards his family members. He loses no time and immediately rushes to Alison’s place as soon as he receives Helena’s telegram because he and his wife were most concerned about Alison’s welfare. After sorting out the things he is in a hurry to get back to his wife because he wants to relieve her of the anxiety she must be feeling. He says to Alison, “we may as well get along. Your mother will be worried, I know. I promised her I’d ring her when I got here she’s not very well”. He also appreciated Helena’s action in having sent the telegram on Alison’s behalf.

A Pathetic Figure And His Nostalgic Temperament

      On the whole, the Colonel can be regarded as a pathetic figure with a comic as well as pathetic. He is a devoted family man, his duty and devotion towards his family members and concern for their welfare is really admirable. His common sense and impartial attitude while making an assessment of the present situation raise him in our esteem. He is really a likable person with his rather old ideas about life, love fidelity. Although briefly drown he comes out alive with life and it would be wrong to put him aside as a negligible character.


      He is an animated figure. The playwright John Osborne has portrayed a life-like picture of the Colonel, his living in the past, his affection and affinity for his daughter. Though he is described in a mocking tone, and presented in a comic light, he wins our admiration and respect by his impartial and correct assessment of situation, by his common sense.

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