The Failure of A Marriage in Look Back in Anger

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Jimmy Bullies His Wife

      When the play first opens we are introduced to the occupants of a flat, Jimmy Porter, his wife and Cliff a friend of Jimmy. In the very opening scene, we get an idea about Jimmy’s angry temperament. He is a dissatisfied man who keeps complaining about everything. He reads the newspaper, complains that the book reviews are all same. He criticizes the Sunday paper saying that it makes the reader ignorant. He criticizes his wife saying that whenever he tries to talk to her she goes to sleep. When Cliff tries to prevent him saying his attacks makes it difficult for Alison to think, Jimmy mockingly says that Alison has not had a thought in her head for years. The constant nagging and bullying on the part of Jimmy the husband indicated a communication gap, a lack of compatibility between the couple.

Jimmy’s Contempt for Alison’s Family

      From Jimmy’s speech condemning Alison’s parents, her brother we can get a fair idea about his disgust, his hatred for his wife’s family. In a rhetorical speech he condemns Alison’s mother. He calls her an old bitch and venomously wishes her death. His anger against his mother-in-law is the result of her opposition and vehement attempt to stop his and Alison’s marriage. He calls all her relatives militants like her parents, arrogant, and malicious, or vague. His contempt for Alison’s family members has its roots in the disparity between his low working-class background and his wife’s upper-class background. Denied a suitable job in spite of his university education and superior intellectual accomplishments, he has come to feel that is because of his humble background that the upper class has prevented from making full use of his academic attainments. He bullies his wife, treats her like a hostess and tries to get back to the upper-class people against whom he was waging a battle. Alison’s statement in Act II Sc. II to her father that Jimmy had married her to take revenge on the upper class is not without truth. He seems to take pleasure in bullying his wife and constantly provokes her to retaliate. He is offended by the silent posture that Alison had adopted as a defense tactic.

Jimmy’s Contempt for Middle-Class Virtues and Ethics

      Jimmy and Alison despite the wide gulf between their origin and background and opposition from Alisons’ parents married. They fell in love and got married despite all odds. Alison’s first, disillusionment occurred immediately after her marriage. As a strong believer in middle-class morality she did not share any physical relationship with anyone and kept her virginity intact. As Alison tells Cliff, actually tainted me with virginity. He was quite angry about it, as if I had deceived him in some strange way. He seemed to think that an untouched woman would defile him”. Jimmy opposed the middle-class belief and morality. He is a non-believer in religion and hated the Church going Helena. On learning that Alison is going to the Church with Helena, he is enraged. He accuses his wife of being feeble and betting Helena influence her actions.

A Strained Marital Relationship

      The bears-and-squirrels game that Jimmy and Alison play symbolizes a deep love that the couple shares. The bitterness and cynicism disappears from Jimmy while playing the game and he refers to Alison as “a grey-eyed beautiful squirrel”. For some time they escape from the world of realities and shower their love for each other. But the moment they return to the real world the same routine continues. Though they live under the same roof as husband and wife, a sense of compatibility is missing in their relationship. Jimmy harasses his wife by constantly bullying her making offensive remarks on her and her family members. Alison on the other hand fails to understand her husband’s problem. Her inability to feel the problem he feels further enrages him. So much is the lack of understanding between them that Alison tells Cliff about her pregnancy, but is reluctant to reveal it to Jimmy her husband, the one that should have known first. She is unsure about his reaction. She fears that he might suspect her motive. Jimmy unaware of Alison’s pregnancy viciously condemn her and wished that she should have a child that dies so that she will understand what “suffering” is all about. The decision to leave Jimmy was not entirely Alison’s own. Provoked by Helena, Alison, though somewhat unwillingly decides to walk out on Jimmy. She does not confront Jimmy directly and tell him about her decision as suggested by Cliff, but goes away in his absence and simply writes a note. Alison never stages any protests against her husband’s attack, except on a few occasions in which she tries to stop him, she never makes any deliberate effort to change her husband’s offensive manner.

An Analysis of A Perverse Marriage

      In the play, Look Back in Anger the playwright Osborne has analyzed a perverse marriage very accurately. Jimmy Porter’s problem is not the vicious injustice and hypocrisy of the social order; it is his suppressed awareness of the insoluble psychological paradox caused by his desperate, over-riding need to possess a woman’s complete unquestioning love and his simultaneous constitutional inability to get along with anyone. His bitter outbursts are the result of his wife’s failure to rise to the standard of devotion that he expects from her though he is aware of the fact that complete devotion is impossible. His biting sarcasm is in a way directed against himself in the manner of a guilt-ridden hero, who tortures others by torturing himself. He needs absolute devotion from his wife, but too proud to ask for it he demands complete allegiance from his wife who comes from the upper class against whom he wages a battle as a socialist. He wanted Alison to completely alienate herself from her background and submit herself totally to the working class customs and ideals of her husband. Her inability to adapt herself to Jimmy’s culture and her links with her family infuriates him. His dilemma is perfectly presented in Alison’s description of his reaction to her virginity: he taunted Alison with virginity and was quite angry about it, “he seemed to think an untouched woman would defile him.” Being a virgin, she is pulling him down into an observance of social convention. She is as per her middle-class expectation. Jimmy is not pleased as it is a middle-class convention. Alison rightly tells Helena that what Jimmy really wants is "something quite different from us. What it is exactly I don’t know—a kind of cross between a mother and a Greek courtesan, a hench woman, a mixture of Cleopatra and Boswell”. Jimmy’s tragedy is that he will never find this ideal and he knows it quite well. He spends the rest of his life bathed in self-pity, ranting impolitely about the misfortunes he himself has created.

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