Look Back in Anger: Play Act 1 - Summary & Analysis

Also Read

Summary

ACT - I

Occupants in the Flat

      It is chilly April evening when the play opens. In a one room flat a large midland town, three persons, Jimmy Porter, his wife Alison, and Cliff Lewis, their mutual friend are present when the curtain goes up. Jimmy and Cliff are busy reading newspapers seated in chairs. A heap of other newspapers and magazines are lying around them. Alison is busy ironing clothes on an ironing board. All three of them are almost of the same age, about twenty-five.

Jimmy’s Complain About Newspapers

      The silence is broken by Jimmy who complains that the book reviews carried on by the newspapers have no variety. The books that are being reviewed are different no doubt, but the reviews are all the same. He has just completed reading three who columns on the English novel. He complains that instead of imparting knowledge, the Sunday papers make one feel ignorant. He asks Cliff about his opinion, if he agrees with Jimmy. When Cliff gives a negative reply, Jimmy calls him an ignorant peasant. Alison who has been ironing all the time and did not pay any attention to their talk now asks about the topic of discussion. When Jimmy repeats his statement, she says that she has not yet gone through this Sunday’s papers. Jimmy complains somewhat irritatingly that his wife hardly pays any attention to what he says. He says that when he begins to talk his wife begins to yawn. When Cliff tries to prevent his criticism of Alison, Jimmy repeats that Alison always feels sleepy when he talks. Cliff once again asks Jimmy to stop bothering his wife, then Jimmy snatches away the paper from his hand. Cliff now says that he wants to be left alone as he is reading the paper in order “to better himself’’. When Cliff says that Jimmy’s criticism, his sarcastic remarks make it difficult for Alison to think, Jimmy humiliatingly remarks that Alison has not had a thought in her head for years.

Cliff Calls Jimmy a Glutton

      When Jimmy says that he is getting hungry, Cliff calls him a glutton, who will set up some kind of record for eating. Calling him a food main Cliff warns that he might be caught stealing vegetables and get arrested. Jimmy hence forth says that he eats in order to live. To Cliff’s comment that his eating has not helped him to put a little more weight, Jimmy replies that people like him do not get fat because they just burn up everything in their bodies. Then Jimmy asks for some more tea and Cliff points out that he has drank most of the tea while he and Alison have taken only one cup each.

Jimmy’s Criticism of the Newspapers and Some News Items

      Jimmy expresses his wish to read the newspaper, the one that Cliff has been reading. According to him, there are only two “posh” papers on Sunday the one that Jimmy himself reading and other being the one in Cliff’s hand. Cliff says that he was just reading a statement by the Bishop of Bromely in which the Bishop has made a moving appeal to all the Christians to do everything they can to assist in the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. To this Jimmy ironically says that he would like to send a subscription to the Bishop. Then Jimmy also reads the same article and finds that the Bishop is upset because someone has accused him of being partial to the poor. Jimmy cynically suggests that probably all this stuff has been written by Alison’s father under the name plume of the Bishop of Bromely—suspecting that Alison might be hurt, Cliff urges her not to take any notice of Jimmy’s comments as Jimmy is deliberately trying to be offensive. Another news item catches Jimmy’s attention. This news is about a woman who had gone to a mass-meeting of a certain American evangelist and who, in an effort to get near the evangelists was seriously injured while trying to go past the large crowd. Nobody had taken any notice of her yelling and groaning in pain. The crowd was noisily shouting slogans to show their support to the evangelist. Jimmy was moved by the touching incident of the women and narrated this to Alison and Cliff in order to evoke some response. But both of them show indifference, he feels disappointed and ironically says that there must be something wrong with himself.

Jimmy’s Weariness with Routine Life and Depression

      Alison continues her ceaseless ironing and Jimmy becomes impatient. He complains about his feeling of boredom and depression on Sundays. He complains about the monotony of Sundays. The routine remains the same every Sunday: reading the papers, drinking tea, and ironing. Their youth is slipping away in this manner. Since neither Cliff nor Alison responds, he angrily shouts: “Damn you, damn both of you, damn them all.” Then Cliff proposes to go the picture to which Alison refuses while Jimmy opines that he would not like his equipment of a film being ruined by the kind of crowd that visits a cinema on Sunday nights. Continuing his grumble he says that he is merely wasting money on Sunday papers because nobody reads them except he himself. Jimmy accuses Cliff and Alison of being lazy and says that neither of them can come out of their slothfulness. He further complains that the two of them are driving him mad by their indifference and passivity. They lack ordinary human enthusiasm and he goes on to say that they are not even human being who can be considered to be alive. He laments that it has been long since he has met anyone who showed any enthusiasm about anything.

Alison is Capable of Promptly Getting Used to Things

      Cliff asks Jimmy as to what Mr. Priestly has said in his article this week. Jimmy replies that nothing is unusual. He has said what he has said before, the same things. Jimmy compares Mr. Priestly to Alison’s father who according to him keeps casting his glance back to the Edwardian times. He then suddenly asks what Cliff has done to his new trousers. Alison asks him to take off his trousers so that she can press them. Cliff complies to her suggestion. When Jimmy asks for some more matches in order to light his pipe, Cliff objects saying that the whole place is already stinking with the smell of the pipe. Cliff smokes cigarettes only. On Alison’s saying that she has got used to the smell of Jimmy’s pipe, Jimmy remarks that she is great one for getting used to things. He further says that if she were to die and wake up in a paradise, she would get used to the new place within five minutes.

Jimmy’s Complain with the Routine

      Jimmy’s advice to Cliff not to smoke cigarettes as they cause ulcers goes unheeded much to his annoyance. Jimmy promises that he will never make any effort to stop him and adds that he is sick of doing things for people without any return for them. He complains that nobody thinks and nobody cares. That nobody has any beliefs or convictions or enthusiasm. It is just another Sunday evening with the same routine. He then thinks of listening to a musical concert on the radio by Vaughan Williams.

Jimmy’s Sarcastic Comments on Alison’s Father

      The musical program on the radio is truly English. Jimmy appreciates it in the view of the criticism made by someone that the English people get their cooking from Paris, their politics from Moscow, and their morals from Port Said. He then again refers to Alison’s father, saying that he can understand how that man must have felt on his return from India after spending so many years there. He says that Alison’s father must have been very happy in imperialist India on homemade cakes, bright ideas, bright uniforms, the long days in the sun, small books of poetry, and so on. It must be a romantic life indeed though quite phoney (not genuine). He says that the regret of Alison’s father on saying adieu was fully justified. Jimmy himself regrets the passing away of that life and says that if one has no world of his own its pleasant to regret the passing of someone else.

Jimmy Praises Webster and Madeline and Criticises Nigel

      On leaving that Webster, Alison’s friend might drop in that evening, Jimmy wishes that he would not, because he was in no mood to tolerate him despite his great liking for the fellow. In Jimmy’s opinion, Webster has got bite, edge and dive. He feels exhilarated in his company. Though Webster does not like Jimmy, he gives him (Jimmy) something which he fails to get from most people. Alison then sarcastically comments that perhaps Jimmy felt equally exhilarated in the company of his ex-mistress Madeline. She further says that he owes everything to her. Jimmy replies that she had more animation in her little finger than both Alison and Cliff have in their whole bodies. Praising her he says that her curiosity about people and things were so delightful that with her he-felt awake and watched. Jimmy quietly recollects and continues with his talk that just to be with Madeline was an adventure. Even common things like sitting on the top of a gas was as exciting as setting out for an adventurous journey with Ulysses calling Webster a ‘sort of female Emily Bronte’, Jimmy says that he is the only friend of Alison who is worth anything. Webster not only has guts, but is sensitive as well, a mere combination which none of Alison’s friends has got. At this point, Alison pleads to him not to continue his verbal assault on her friends. Even Cliff joins in to support her and asks him to let Alison iron his trousers. Jimmy mockingly says that he can do nothing to provoke his wife. Even if he falls dead would not be enough to provoke her. Showering his verbal abuse he says that her friends are all either militants like her parents or all vague. Alison is somewhere in the middle of this two extremes. Cliff tries to stop Jimmy from attacking Alison’s friends and relations, but Jimmy turns his assault to Nigel, Alison’s brother. He describes Nigel as “the straight-backed, chinless wonder from Sandhurst.” Jimmy recalls the only occasion that he met Nigel when he challenged Jimmy for a fight after Jimmy called his mother an evil-minded lady. Jimmy had not accepted the challenge as Nigel was too strong for him. Jimmy wastes a lot of energy and uses his whole stock of strong vocabulary to attack Nigel. Calling him the “Platitude from Outer says”, he says that one that he would end up in the cabinet. He further says that Nigel and his friends have been fooling everybody for a long times with their vague knowledge. Nigel lacks the propei’s knowledge of life and ordinary human being and does not have any conscience at all.

Jimmy’s Cruel Attack on his Wife

      In spite of the harsh criticism of her family members Alison does not retaliate, instead, she fully concentrated on ber ironing. Cliff also remains silent and stares at the floor. A sense of triumph overcomes him, but disappointed that he has failed to provoke her to lash out at him. He makes another attempt to test Alison’s patience by rhetorically condemning her family members once again. He says that Alison’s parents are full of spite. “Sycophantic, phlegmatic and pusillanimous”—these are the words he uses to express his bitterness against Alison and her brother. Cliff in an effort to change the topic reminds him of a music concert on the radio, but in vain. But Jimmy continues and asks Cliff if he knew the meaning of “pusillanimous”. Cliff replies in negative and Jimmy admits that even he did not know but now has discovered that this word sums up the nature of his wife. He refers to Alison as “a monument to non-attachment” and describes her as “Lady Pusillanimous” and himself as the sixties. He says in a cynical manner that “Lady Pusillanimous” and her husband's sixties are on their way to the games. Poor Old Sixties! He says in a tone of self-pity. Not satisfied he carries on his rhetoric fury if he were to be put in a Hollywood film, his character would be so unimpressive that the producers would make some poor British actor to play his part. Cliff looks troubled by Jimmy’s mockery of Alison, which Alison closes her eyes in dismay and helplessness. Jimmy resumes his attack and says that lady Pusillanimous has been promised a brighter world than her husband can offer. He asks Alison in the same tone of mockery if she would accompany him to the arena to offer themselves to the fierce and hungry lions. Now slightly provoked Alison retaliates in desperation that if Jimmy does not stop his talk, she will go mad. Jimmy however seems pleased as he succeeded in provoking his wife and was not ready to relent. He says that she certainly should go mad. In order to provoke her more, he picks up a dictionary and reads out the meaning of the word, “wanting of firmness of mind, of small courage, having a little mind, mean spirited, cowardly and timid.” He says that the description really suits his wife. Alison stops herself from reacting to these remarks as she is quite used to these “carefully rehearsed attacks.”. She carries on with her ironing, while Jimmy switches on the radio to listen to the program by Vaughan Williams.

      In the meantime Alison completes ironing Cliff’s trousers and. hands them to him. Cliff shows his gratitude by putting his arms around her waist and kissing her affectionately. They both then light their cigarettes and Alison returns to resume her work at the ironing board. Jimmy’s objection to Alison’s ceaseless ironing saying that it disturbs his enjoyment of the radio program. Alison assures that she will finish with her ironing very soon. Jimmy turns off the radio and complains that everyone is making noises and he is unable to hear the concert. Annoyed with his continuous gumball Alison tells Jimmy not to behave like a child. Jimmy retaliates immediately calling her clumsy. He taunts her saying that she is so clumsy that she jumps on the bed as if she was stamping on someone face and draws the curtain with a great clattering sound. Her way of doing things is so noisy that it can be compared with the launching of a battleship. He then generalizes and says that all women are noisy. They kick the floor instead of simply walking on it and in equally violent way they sit down at their dressing table night after night he has observed his wife behaving in the noisy manner while sitting before her bedroom mirror. He compares Alison’s behavior with the bad table manners of ‘dirty old Arab In his words, a clumsy and noisy woman is basically insensitive. He then recalls staying in a flat above which a couple of girls lived. They were so noisy that their day-to-day activities were like an assault on his sensibilities. They turned a deaf ear to his requests and pleadings and continued with their war like activities, ultimately he had to shift. He ironically says that those girls must be married by now and they must be a source of great torment to their husbands.

Alison Gets Hurt

      At that time the Church bells start ringing and Jimmy gets irritated by the sound and shouts “stop ringing the bells!. Theirs somebody going crazy in here!”. His target now shifts to Miss. Dury, the landlady of the flat, who according to him must have gone to the Church and must be swinging on these bloody bells. Cliff tries to calm him down by offering to take him for a drink but he declines. Then Cliff playfully catches hold of Jimmy and asks him to apologize for being so nasty to everyone. Jimmy struggles with Cliff and they both fall down to the floor. Though this is routine for the men, Alison gets to the point of breaking down. She shouts that the house is becoming more like a zoo every day. Jimmy and Cliff continue their mock wrestling and in the process hit the iron board and strike against Alison. Alison cries out in pain as her arm comes into contact with the hot iron. Alison hits out at the men for her pain. Cliff rushes to the bathroom to get soap to soothe her burning sensation. Cliff returns and applies the soap to her burnt arms. Jimmy leaves the room and goes to Cliff’s room where he lies down in the bed reading. Alison thanks Cliff and he kisses her head affectionately. He tells Alison that he is so fond of Jimmy and her that he would not be able to live away from them. Alison pessimistically states that the feeling of love has deserted her long time back and says that she can hardly remember what it was like to feel young. Jimmy has told her the same thing the other day about himself Cliff says that he does not know how long he can go on watching Alison and Jimmy tearing each other apart.

Alison Confides in Cliff

      Cliff puts a bandage over Alison’s wounded arms. Alison now hesitatingly reveals to Cliff that she is pregnant. She confessed that it came quite as a shock to her after three years of their married life to have ultimately been caught. She said that looking at their financial position and the small accommodation, it had been out of question and Jimmy always resented it. She says that Jimmy is totally unaware of it and will most probably resent it, and it was already too late to go for an abortion. Cliff assures her that everything would be fine and urges her to tell him because after all, Jimmy loves her. Alison thinks that Jimmy will suspect her motive at once if she tells him about her pregnancy. He may not react immediately but when he watches her growing bigger and bigger she would not dare to look at him. She tells Cliff that Jimmy has got his private morality which according to her mother is “loose”. Surprisingly Jimmy got quite upset on learning that she was a virgin till her marriage with him. He actually used to taunt her with her virginity. He seemed quite angry as if she had in some strange way deceived him. Alison asked Cliff if Jimmy was right in his view about everything. Cliff replies that Jimmy and he think the same about a lot of things because they both belong to the working class. Jimmy’s mother had some rich relatives whom Jimmy despised as he hated Alison’s relatives. He further says that Jimmy gets along with him only because he is very common, “common as dirt”. When Alison asks him again if she should tell Jimmy about her pregnant state, he replies in affirmative. Jimmy returns the room. Cliff has just kissed Alison to show his affection. Jumping to Jimmy Cliff asks him if she is not beautiful and adds that he cannot understand why she married a man like Jimmy. At this Jimmy asks Alison if she would have been better of as Cliff’s wife to which Cliff replies that she is not her type. Cliff suggests that they should go to bed and have done with it. Alison says that Jimmy really means it. Jimmy points out that Alison and Cliff looks pretty silly slobbering over each other. He says that Alison’s parents opposed her marriage to Jimmy and if they saw all this going on with Cliff will definitely collapse or perhaps send for the police.

A Moment of Tenderness between Jimmy and Alison

      Cliff goes out to get some cigarettes. Jimmy and Alison are alone in the room. Jimmy’s mood now suddenly changes. He takes hold of her bandaged arm and injuries and asks her how she is feeling and apologizes saying that fooling about can get a bit dangerous sometimes. He gets somewhat emotional and goes on to tell how much he loves and wants her. He affectionately puts his face against her belly and she strikes his head. He raises his head and they kiss passionately. Jimmy then asks her what did Cliff mean by urging her not to forget. She replies that he wanted her not to forget to tell Jimmy what she had been planning to. Jimmy kisses her passionately and asks her if she is fond of Cliff. Alison replies in affirmative. Jimmy says sadly that he is the only friend left. He recalls that he had in school. Who had gone out of his life. He speaks affectionately about Hugh’s mother who has been a good friend to him. The elderly woman had established him in his sweet stall. She has promised to let Jimmy buy the sweet stall when he will have enough money for it. Jimmy then asked Alison why she did not like the lady. Alarmed that it might take a higher turn, Alison requested him to change the subject. Jimmy lovingly calls her “a very beautiful great-eyed squirrel.” Alison also reciprocates with affection and calls him “a jolly super bear”. Jimmy remarks that bears and squirrels are marvelous to which Alison adds that not only marvelous but beautiful as well. Alison feels happy and began to make the kind of sounds and movements that squirrels make when they are happy. At this moment she gets ready to reveal her pregnancy to Jimmy, just then Cliff returns and informs her that there is a phone call for her downstairs. The name of the caller is Helena. Jimmy apprehends that it must be Helena Charles and Cliff confirms. Alison goes to receive the call.

Helena Charles, Jimmy’s Sworn Enemy

      Jimmy tells Cliff that Helena is one of Alison’s friends and one of his “natural enemies”. Jimmy wonders what Helena wants from Alison. He concludes that it can not be for something pleasant. He then says that he is no longer interested in any women because he had plenty of love affairs and did not desire any sensual love. He takes out a letter from Alison’s handbag and tells Cliff that this is what happening behind his back. Alison corresponds with her mother where his name is never mentioned as if it were a dirty word. Alison returns and gives the news that Helena is coming to stay with to which Jimmy objects. He sarcastically asks Alison if she had told Helena to bring her armor as she is going to need it to defend herself from Jimmy’s attack.

Jimmy’s Insulting Remarks on his Wife’s Passion

      Alison vehemently reacts to her husband’s harsh criticism of Helena. Jimmy turns to his wife now and causes her saying that he wished something terrible would happen to her which will wake her up from her beautiful sleep. He wished if she would have a child that dies, this kind of experience would make her more of a human being. Continuing his scathing attack he goes on to describe her sexual passion in the most insulting manner. He says that she has the passion of a python and devours him whole as if she were an oversized python during their love-making. Alison is hurt but remains silent.

Critical Analysis

ACT - I

Introduction

      In the act all the main characters are introduced though we meet only three physically and at the same time get acquainted with the situation of the Porter’s flat. The most dominating character is Jimmy Porter, a keenly dissatisfied man, who gives vent to his anger by constantly lashing out at people or things. Throughout this act we find Jimmy making scathing remarks, criticizing his friends and in-laws and denouncing his wife.

Jimmy: The Angry Young Man

      Jimmy is introduced to us as a tall, thin young man of about twenty-five. He is addicted to smoking a pipe. He is a disturbing mixture of sincerity and cheerful malice. He is restless and proud. From his scathing attack on everything under the sun, it seems that he is a man disillusioned with life.

      When the play opens Jimmy and Cliff are reading the Sunday newspaper. He makes a lot of fuss about the news items. After reading a news item by the Bishop of Brambly he makes fun of him.

      Jimmy’s dissatisfaction with things and persons becomes more evident when he starts talking. He snubs Cliff as an ignorant man at the slightest excuse. He is annoyed at Alisons’s ceaseless ironing. He loses his coolness at the ringing of the Church bell. The slightest sound or careless answer is enough to provoke him. He grumbles over the sameness and routine activity of the Sunday. He is fed up with everything and anything. He accuses Alison and Cliff of having no enthusiasm, for being dull and sarcastically asks them to play a game and behave like human beings for sometime. He hits out at everybody by his civet comments and does not spare even his wife from his attack. He behaves in a sadistic manner. He curses his wife, “if only something—something would happen to you and wake you out of your beauty sleep. If you could have child, and it would die”. From this it can be assumed that like a sadist he takes pleasure in inflicting pain on others. His constant provocation of his wife to the point of break down and retaliation proves that he is a sadist. His verbal assault on Alison’s family more particularly on Alison’s mother seems to be out of his hatred against the middle class.

Jimmy’s Mocking Comments on his Wife

      Though marked by sarcasm and bitterness most of Jinimy’s comments are witty. We cannot help but marvel at his rhetorical speeches used to condemn other though pity’s the target of his attack. He reserves his harsher possible words to condemn Alison and her family. He tries to provoke his wife early the act by criticizing her for remaining silent. He asks her “you can talk, can’t you? You can express an opinion. Or does the white women's Burden make it impossible to think?”. Failing to get a response from his wife in spite of his brutal assault he says to Cliff, “Nothing I could do would provoke her. Not even if I were to drop dead”. He crudely refers to Alison as “this monument to non-attachment” and calls her “Lady Pusillanimous”. Not satisfied with simply this he goes a step further to torment his wife. He picks up a dictionary and reads put the meaning “Pusillanimous Adjectives. Wanting of firmness of mind, of small courage, having a little mind, mean spirited, cowardly, timid of mind”, and as if pleased with himself blurt out, “That’s my wife! That’s her isn’t it?” he takes pleasure in making cruel comments on his wife. He criticizes her for her noisiness, her constant ironing of clothes etc.

Jimmy’s Attack on Alison’s Family

      Jimmy is more hostile in his opinion about Alison’s family. He makes the most scathing remarks on his in-laws more particularly his mother-in-law, i.e. Alison’s, mother. He speaks about them in most insulting manner without showing the least concern for Alison’s feelings. He refers to her parents as militants, arrogant and full of malice. He sarcastically says the Bishop of Brambly is actually her father writing offending articles under an assumed name. He cruelly condemns his wife for corresponding with her family in spite of his disapproval. “Letters from her mother, litters in which I’m not mentioned at all because my name is a dirty word”. His remarks about brother Nigel is equally venomous. He calls him “the straight backed childless word from Sadhurst”. Calling him “The Platitude from outer space”, he mocks at Nigel’s vague knowledge: “Nigel is just about as vague as you can get without being actually visible”. Carrying on his rhetoric condemnation Jimmy says that Nigel should get a medal for vaguery because Nigel’s knowledge of life and ordinary human beings is very lazy. Jimmy’s whole speech condemning Nigel is a master piece of irony, sarcasm and invective. Although we do not approve of his strong criticism of others; yet we marvel at his eloquence and choice of words.

Jimmy’s Hatred for Helena

      Helena Charles is another character who arouses Jimmy’s wrath. The mere mention of her name is enough to anger him. He calls her “That bitch” without the slightest hesitation and courtesy. The news that she is coming to stay with them throws him into a fit of anger. He considers her as one of his “natural enemies” and sarcastically asks his wife to tell Helena to bring her armor because she will need it to protect herself against Jimmy’s harsh attacks.

His Praise for Webster and Madeline

      The only people who are lucky enough to be spared of Jimmy’s sharp tongue are—Webster, Alison’s friend and Madeline, his ex-mistress. Webster, says Jimmy speaks the same language as himself though in a different dialect. He gives due credit to Webster for possessing qualities as dive and enthusiasm. He tells Alison that Webster is the only friend of her who is worth something. Madeline, his mistress when he was only eighteen also interestingly escapes his harsh language. Jimmy says that she had more life in her little finger than both Alison and Cliff put together. Praising her lively disposition and enthusiasm he says “with her, it was simply the delight of being awake and watching”.

Jimmy’s Love for his Wife

      In spite of being cruel in his condemnation, of Alison Jimmy has genuine care for his wife. In his mock fight with Cliff, Alison accidentally burns her arm by the hot iron. His most immediate reaction is a “Darling, I’m sorry”. The ever condemning sadist husband almost immediately apologizes and reasserts his genuine regret. “I’m sorry, believe me. You think I did it not on pur—”. When Cliff goes out liming the two alone we see a tender and passionate moment between the couple. He tells her that there is hardly a moment when he is not watching and wanting her. Even after four years of their married life, he can not stop sweating when he sees her doing some ordinary work like ironing.

      He says that even her trivial actions have become indispensable to him. He becomes quite sentimental and puts his face against her belly and she strikes his head kissing him passionately at this crucial moment.

Jimmy’s Condensation of Alison, his Wife

      At the end of this Act Jimmy condemns his wife in the most cruel and hostile manner. He says that Alison has got much to learn and that he only hopes that she will learn it one day. He contemptuously wishes that something terrible would happen to her which would wake her up to the shocking reality from her “beauty sleep”. If she could have a child that dies, only that would make her sensitive and more human. He humiliates her in front of Cliff saying that she has the passion of a python and that she devours him as if he was an over sized rabbit. In the terrifying speech where he wished her to have child that dies, possesses tragic irony because subsequently, she loses her child in a miscarriage.

Alison: A Tolerant Wife

      The first act gives us a good purview of the important characters. We learn a good deal about Alison. We are amazed by the most sticking quality of her personality—her power of tolerance. She hardly loses her coolness in spite of Jimmy’s extremely offensive and abusive manner of criticism. She hardly retaliates to Jimmy’s scathing comments on her and her family members. Throughout the act she displays a remarkable spirit of forbearance and tolerance. Jimmy’s deliberate attempt to provoke her to retaliate, hit back fails as she silently continues her work turning a deaf ear to him. Angered more by bor silence he blurts out, “Don’t think I could provoke her. Nothing I could do would provoke her.' Not even if I were to drop dead”. She does sometimes become desperate, yet like any other woman, she does not fly into a fit of rage. She is so used to Jimmy’s well-rehearsed attacks that she carries on with her ironing. Sometimes Jimmy’s criticism becomes too unbearable for her and she breaks her silence. “God helps me, if he doesn’t stop, I’ll go out of my mind in a minute”. In Jimmy’s absence, she confides in Cliff that she cannot take any more of Jimmy and she feels rather sick. Her married life with Jimmy is in jeopardy and she is disillusioned with life.

Alison’s Attachment to her Parents and with Cliff

      Jimmy’s accusation and reference to Alison as “this movement to non-attachment” is ironical in view of the fact that she was deeply attached to her family members. Alison still keeps in touch with her parents through regular correspondence despite Jimmy’s opposition. Her attachment with her family member is one of the causes of Jimmy’s irked and he torturously condemns her for it. Alison is quite attached to Cliff also. She has a deep affection for him and openly displays it. She has great faith in him and confines in him about her greatest fears and secrets. When Jimmy hurts an abusive remark at his wife, Cliff immediately comes to her rescue: “leave the poor girl alone. She’s busy”. His concern for Alison is quite evident. Their mutual affection is often expressed in caresses. Cliff shares an affectionate, rather than passionate relationship with Alison, of a gentle caring friend rather than a lover. He is her confidant, a person with whom she shares many of her secrets and problems. Alison unhesitatingly confides in him the secrets she treads to reveal to her husband. This attitude of Alison regarding the two men makes their contrast more apparent.

The Contrast between Jimmy and Cliff

      “If Jimmy alienates love, Cliff seems to exact it------he is a soothing, natural counterpoint to Jimmy”. Nothing contrasts the two characters more perfectly than this. Cliff’s behavior, his talk, his conduct emphasizes the contrast between him and Jimmy. While Jimmy with his crude offensive manner constantly torments his wife, Cliff serves as a balm, an antidote to Alison’s pain and suffering; making life tolerable for her in Jimmy’s one room apartment. He is a fool to Jimmy, bringing out his distinctive qualities by sheer contrast. Although he is no match to the rhetorical outburst of Jimmy, yet in his own simple and uncomplicated way he tries to oppose his (Jimmy) attack on Alison at the very beginning.

Previous Post Next Post

Search Your Questions