Look Back in Anger: A Single Man Play

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Jimmy’s Anger

      Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger bullies the world in general and his women in particular for not “caring”. He demands and advocates the attitude of “caring”, the denial of which upsets and disturbs him. It becomes obvious when he recalls about his dying father: “You see, I was the only one who cared”. Jimmy’s anger is vital to the economy of the play. His anger is the motivating force which moves the action in the play. Jimmy’s anger is the dominating force that drives the play and makes the action move.

Jimmy in Relation to the Contemporary Society

      Jimmy is a neurotic and his world is a private one and his language too is private and the writer makes use of it at risk. This has an obvious relevance to the question of Jimmy’s anger. If Look Back in Anger is considered to be a study in sado-masochism, then the play would lose much of its significance. In that case, no comments made by Jimmy on his contemporary society could be taken seriously. His tirades would become meaningless, his witty comments, his great rhetoric would simply be dismissed as the utterance of a hysteric. Under this case, the play would be reduced to a mere case history. To consider the play seriously is to take Jimmy’s views and comments seriously i.e. taking Jimmy seriously in his dramatic context. To succeed, the play must counterpart Jimmy against contemporary English society which must be realized on the stage by Alison, Cliff, Helena and Col. Redfern.

The Hero Dominates Over Other Characters

      The other characters assume a passive role compared to Jimmy. Even Jimmy’s wife Alison is included among the supporting characters. In bullying her, Jimmy seems to get an easy revenge on the middle class whom he holds in contempt. Jimmy searches for someone who could counter his verbal attack. Cliff as an uneducated ignorant person fails to match Jimmy’s rhetoric. Alison on the other hand assumes the role of a passive sufferer who silently bears her husband’s tantrums. Jimmy is unsatisfied, he would have been satisfied bad Alison had been able to hit pirn back with equal vehemence. He constantly provokes her by his scathing remark and her failure to retaliate infuriates him further and he says about Alison thus: “that girl can twist your arm off with her silence”. Helena is the only character who satisfies Jimmy’s thirst for retaliation. Jimmy is relieved in a way to find someone who matches his fighting spirit. When Helena bluntly tells him; "I think you’re a very tiresome young man”, he is delighted and roars up with laughter. In spite of her guts and sharp tongue. Helena even fails to counter Jimmy in his rhetorical tirade. Helena is tougher than Alison and typical of her class. But she is too much of a type to balance Jimmy. So Jimmy naturally dominated the whole play overshadowing and dwindling the other characters to minor supporting characters.

A One Man Play

      Jimmy has been endowed with so much thought, experience, energy, wit and intelligence that he overshadows the other characters of the play. The supporting characters are too feeble to support Jimmy and his anger. Thus we are left with Jimmy’s all-powerful but directionless energy. Jimmy claims to be more experienced than others. He tells Helena and others: “I knew more about-love.....betrayal.....and death, when I was ten years old then you will probably ever know all your life”. When Helena decided to break off with Jimmy, her declaration that she cannot be happy when she is hurting someone else, provokes Jimmy’s speech, “They all want to escape from the pain of being alive....”. So much attention, energy and thought have been invested in while sketching the character of Jimmy that he becomes the all-pervading figure in the play. Jimmy is the reason, both for the play’s tremendous initial impact as well as for its ultimate failure. Though it is considered to be a naturalist play it is actually a shallow slice-of-naturalism that is presented in the play. The content of the play is reduced to Jimmy’s “views” which are too indiscriminate to be taken seriously in themselves. Too much concentration on one character has resulted in the failure of the play as a drama.

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