Jimmy's Anger in The Play Look Back in Anger

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      Look Back in Anger had a tremendous impact on audience when it was first produced. One reason for the huge success of the play was the immediacy of the subject matter. Osborne displayed his feeling for the contemporary idiom and by his sharp comments on matters ranging from “posh” Sunday newspapers and “white tile” universities to the bishops and the hydrogen bomb.

Class Distinction

      Jimmy the dissatisfied youth representative of the post-war British youth lashes out at the world with contempt. Most of his so-called tirades against the world are triggered by the debased modern values, but the action of the play is only very indirectly influenced by such social questions as the class system. There’s no doubt that Jimmy detests the upper class to which his wife belongs and does not spare anyone from the upper class from his harsh criticism. In fact he bullies his wife constantly by condemning his wife’s family in strongest possible language. Alison seems right when she says that Jimmy regards her as a “hostage” of the upper class against which he is waging a war. Her description of Jimmy’s invasion of the upper-class world as a part of the class-war he is waging is nothing but true. But his attack on the upper class or his class-war is triggered more by his personal interest rather than his interest in a social issue. Denied of a suitable job, in spite of his academic achievement Jimmy has come to feel that the upper class has deprived him of his dues because of his low origin. He holds the upper classes of the society responsible for his inability to utilize his intellectual capabilities. Moreover, Alison’s parent’s opposition to his marriage further infuriates him. The social disparity between Jimmy and Alison creates tension in their marital life.

Dissatisfaction With Life in General

      We get a fair idea about Jimmy’s temperament when the play first opens. The very first speech that he utters is marked by irritation. He starts with a speech complaining about Sundays. He says that the routine life of Sunday depresses him. “Our youth is slipping away” he complains. He is discontented with the Sunday newspapers, discontented with his wife Alison and even his friend Cliff does not offer him any relief. He complains that the Sunday newspapers make one feel ignorant. He accuses his wife of not paying any attention to his talk.

      He complains that Alison hardly listens to him but goes to sleep when he begins to speak. He snubs Cliff as too ignorant to understand what the newspapers have to say. He makes fun of the Bishop of Bromley and a woman who in her religious fervor got herself badly injured in a rally. He remarks sarcastically that those who sacrifice whether of their careers, their belief or their sexual pleasures never wanted those things in the first place.

Lack of Imaginative Response

      Jimmy is annoyed and infuriated by the lack of imaginative response he encounters everywhere. He asks Cliff and Alison: “Did you read Priestby’s piece this week?”. Without waiting for their answer he goes on to say that its meaningless to ask them such a question because he knows that they haven’t. He adds that both Cliff and Alison are incapable of raising, themselves out of their “delicious sloth”. He accuses them of not showing any enthusiasm and says that they will drive him mad by their apathy and ignorance. Annoyed with Cliff and Alison’s lack of enthusiasm he sarcastically proposes to them: “Let’s pretend that we’re human beings, and that we’re actually alive. Just for a while what do you say? Let’s pretend we’re human. Oh, brother, its such a long time since I was with anyone who got enthusiastic about anything.”

Jimmy’s Sufferings

      Jimmy’s anger has deep roots. He is the kind of person for whom the miseries of the world are his misery and will not let him rest. He is capable of living other people’s life, suffering on behalf of others. He encountered the bitter experience of losing his father at a very tender age. At the age of ten, he had suffered at the bedside of his dying father. He was the only one in the family who seemed to care about the dying man. He recalls that experience with great bitterness. Everytime he sat on the edge of his father’s bed, to listen to his talk, he had to fight his tears back. At the end of the twelve months ordeal he had become a “veteran”. He tells Helena that at the early age of the more about love betrayal and death that she would know all her life. He also suffers an account of Hugh’s mother. He is distressed to learn about her illness and immediately plans to go to London to visit her.

Lack of Compatibility Between Jimmy and his Wife

      Although Jimmy and Alison had a love-marriage, their marital life was marked by the lack of essential compatibility between the couple. Alison is an embodiment of the values of the upper class which her husband defies. Basically quiet and well-bred, she refuses to “stoop” to Jimmy’s level, to retaliate against Jimmy’s provocations. Jimmy wants her to adopt his working-class culture discarding her upper-class culture completely. Her refusal to do so and her correspondence with her family despite his resentment is considered as an act of defiance by Jimmy. Her inability to cut off completely from her background infuriates Jimmy and is the cause of tension in their married life. Alison’s silence in the face of his vicious attack makes him mad with rage. Alison’s, his indifference makes communication between herself and Jimmy impossible. He sarcastically calls her as “monument to non-attachment”. Offended by his inability to provoke her to retaliate to his attack he remarks: “That girl there can twist your arms off with her silence”. They are both defeated by an incompatibility that is too deep-rooted to be cured by sexual harmony

Jimmy’s Deep-Rooted Need

      Jimmy seeks from his women much more than he could ever hope to get from them. It is his overriding to need to possess a woman’s complete love and his inability to do so which disappoints him. His inability to get what he seeks infuriates him and he turns on his woman with savage resentment. When he first fell in love with Alison, he was attracted by what seemed her “wonderful relaxation of spirit”. Soon after their marriage, he discovers that he had a false notion about her.

Regret Over a World Which is No More

      Jimmy laments in Act III Sc. I, “There aren’t any good, brave causes left.” He says that there is not a single cause that is worth a sacrifice. There is also a wistful note in Jimmy’s attacks on people who have escaped “the pain of being alive” by living in dreams or in the past.

      He mocks at Colonel Redfern, Alison’s father for his nostalgic reference to his past life in India.

Sexual Passion Offers no Solution for Jimmy Anger

      Sexual passion offers Jimmy a temporary relief but does not cure his trouble. He alternates between sexual yearning and sexual disgust in a way that is different to understand. In the first act after Cliff goes out for a while, Jimmy and Alison share a rare moment of tenderness. They play the game of bears-and-squirrels that symbolizing their uncomplicated love for each other. They forget the bitterness and the tension of their marital life.

      Jimmy lovingly calls Alison as a “beautiful grey-eyed squirrel” and she responds by calling him “a jolly super bear”. So overjoyed was Alison that she was about to reveal her pregnancy when Cliff comes in and the situation changes. A little after this tender scene Jimmy becomes the rude boor who makes an insulting comment on his wife by saying that she has the passion of a python and devours him like an over-sized rabbit while they make love.

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