Jimmy Porter: Character Analysis in Look Back in Anger

Also Read

Jimmy Porter’s External Appearance

      Jimmy Porter, the central character of the play Look Back in Anger, is a tall, thin young man twenty five year of age as described by the author. Inspite of being a good eater he does not put on weight, the reason according to him is “People like me don’t get fat.....we just burn everything up”.

Jimmy’s Habits and Views

      Jimmy’s personality is confusing; a blending blend of sincerity and cheerful malice, of tenderness and cruelty. He is restless, annoyingly persistent, arrogant and cynical, all combined, he would alienate the sensitive and the insensitive. He is in the habit of playing on the trumpet much to the annoyance of others. Playing on the trumpet is one of his hobbies. At one time he even organized a jazz band. Though none, (Alison, Cliff or Helena) approves his playing the trumpet, yet he is quite enthusiastic and opines that “Anyone who doesn’t like real jazz, hasn’t any feeling for music or people”. His other interest is listening to a musical concert on the radio. Being a university graduate, he tried his luck at various occupations before starting the sweet-stall, the source of his livelihood now.

Reason for his Angry Disposition

      The author has projected Jimmy as an “angry young man”, a skeptical man with a cynical outlook who finds fault with everything. Throughout the play we find him getting irritated with things and people and cursing them all the time. He is cynical about everything and seems keenly dissatisfied with life in general. Although no specific reason has been cited for his angry temperament, yet from his condemning speeches in which he attacks persons, institutions we can come to our own conclusion. One of the chief reason of his anger seems to be the inequality that exists between his working-class origin and his wife’s upper-middle-class background. He is disturbed by the disparity and strongly disapproves the class distinctions.

      Another reason for his discontentment is his dissatisfaction with his routine life. He complains about the monotonous life he leads without any excitement or variety. He is annoyed at the sameness of events and rituals. He hates Sundays and grumbles that the same rituals are followed one after another like reading the papers, drinking tea, ironing without any change or newness. He complains that his youth is slipping away doing these trivial things. Another reason for Jimmy’s bitterness is that he finds least enthusiasm in Alison or Cliff about anything. He is disappointed by their lack of enthusiasm regarding anything in life. He sarcastically laments, “Oh heavens, how I long for a little ordinary human enthusiasm. Just enthusiasm—that’s all”. Continuing his complain he says to Cliff, “I’ve an idea why don’t we have a little game?

      Let's pretend that we’re human beings, and that we’re actually alive”. A little later he again complains, “Nobody thinks, nobody cares. No beliefs, no convictions and not enthusiasm. Just another Sunday evening”. He is annoyed and irritated by the indifferent nature and passive attitude of Alison and Cliff. One of his personal experience of childhood also accounts for his angry disposition. He was only ten when he lost his father. He watched his father dying over a period of one year. His father’s death produced a deep impact on him. But he was hurt to see that no one else in the family really seemed to care for the dying man. He used to sit by his father’s side hours after an hour and listens to him talking which he hardly could understand at such a tender age. Jimmy tells Helena that he had learned very early what it was to be “angry and helpless”. He takes pride in telling Helena about his exposure to the adult emotions at a tender age. (In this connection he says to Helena), “I knew more about love.....betrayal and death when I was ten years than you will probably ever know all your life.” All these combine together to make him an ‘angry young man’. He is frustrated and bitter because he feels ill-treated. He feels the society is callous and has not given him what he deserves. He does not derive any comfort or consolation from his life partner. He does not even let his wife escape his bitter criticism next to anger, his most dominant feeling is self-pity.

Jimmy’s Attitude Towards His Wife

      Jimmy as a person is so finicky that even his wife is not spared from his harsh criticism. He finds fault or to be more precise deliberately tries to find fault with everything she says or does. He criticizes her for ironing the clothes endlessly, for being noisy. Sometimes he becomes so harsh in his criticism that he ends up making cruel comments on his wife. For instance, he refers to his wife as “This monument of non-attachment”. He addresses her as “Lady Pusillanimous: which means a cowardly or a timid woman. He is so anguished that he takes pleasure in ridiculing his wife for everything and anything. He would criticize her for not mentioning his name in her letter to her mother etc.

      In other words, he feels so bitter about Alison’s attitude towards himself that he does not hesitate to curse her in most abusive language, “If only something-something would happen to you, and wake you out of your beauty sleep! If you could have a child, and it would die”. Subsequently, Alison loses her child through a miscarriage and Jimmy’s curse is fulfilled. He does not hesitate to describe her sexual passion in front of their friends and lower her self-estimation. He describes her passion in the following words: “She has the passion of a python. She devours me whole every time, as if I were some over-large rabbit”. Later in the play he is angered by the fact that Alison has been influenced by Helena and does not lose time to insult her and give vent to his anger. He calls her “Judas” and “Phlegm”. Yet as she does not respond and remains silent, he retorts saying that she can “twist your arm with her silence”. He goes on to say that one of them either he or his wife is stupid or mad. He says “One of us is crazy. One of us is mean and stupid and crazy. Which is it? Is it me? Is it me, standing here like a hysterical girl, hardly able to get my words out? Or is it her?” In a mood of fury he scornfully prophesizes: “Perhaps, one day, you may want to come back. I shall wait for that day. I want to stand up in your tears, and splash about in them, and sing, I want; to be there when you grovel”. Ironically even this wish of Jimmy is fulfilled because Alison does one day grovel to him.

His Hatred for His Wife’s Family

      Even Alisons’s family members do not escape the glaring criticism of Jimmy. He takes pleasure in criticizing them in the harshest term, more particularly his mother-in-law, i.e. Alison’s mother. He describes Alison’s father as a man who can never forget his past life and one who is still casting “well-fed glances back to the Edwardian twilight from his comfortable, disenfranchised wilderness”. He makes fun of Col. Redfern for ruminating upon his past life in imperialist India. He mocks at Alison’s father thus: “I think I can understand how her daddy must have felt when he came back from India, after all those years away. The old Edwardian brigade to make their brief little world look pretty tempting. All homemade cakes and croget, bright ideas, knight uniforms......what a romantic picture phony too, of course”. He makes nasty comments regarding Alison’s brother Nigel. He sarcastically remarks that Nigel is as vague as he can get without being actually invisible. He mercilessly condemns him for his upper-middle-class upbringing and public school education. In a rhetorical speech he shows his disapproval of his brother-in-law; “And nothing is vaguer about Nigel than his knowledge of life and ordinary human beings are so hazy, he really deserves some sort of decoration for it”. Jimmy concludes his speech describing both Nigel and Alison with the following words of contempt, “Sycophantic, phlegmatic and pusillanimous”. Still harsher words springs from his heart for his target of criticism—Alison’s mother. He makes fun of her for going against her daughter’s wish to marry Jimmy. He mocked at Alison’s mother for locking up her daughter in her eight-bedroomed house to keep her away from Jimmy. His contempt for the elderly lady is evident when he says: “There is no limit to what the middle aged mummy will do in the holy crusade against ruffians like me”. According to him a woman like her would stop at nothing, cheat, lie, bully, blackmail to protect her children from men like him. He mockingly says that Alison’s mother would “bellow like a rhinoceros in labor”. In his contempt, he goes on comparing the mother anything that comes to his mind. He says that she is “as rough as a night in a Bombay brothel, and as tough as a matelat’s arm”. He laughs at the old lady for having thought of him to be a criminal for keeping long hair.

      According to him she even hired detectives to keep an eye over him in case he turns out to be a criminal. Jimmy wages a verbal battle against Alison’s mother calling her an “old bitch” and unscrupulously expressing his desire -to see her dead. In a strongly worded denunciation, he says that when the old woman dies the worms in her grave will suffer from bellyache or indigestion after eating her flesh. In a very unpalatable language, he states. “She will pass away, my friends, leaving a trail of worms gasping for laxative behind her—from purgatives to purgatory”. Judging by his constant harsh criticism with an effort to hurt the feelings of others, we find him akin to a sadist.

Jimmy In Alison’s Eyes

      To analyze Jimmy’s character the opinion of Alison is also important. She loves her husband, yet she has not been able to adapt herself with his views and lifestyle over the last four years of their married life. The cause of her unhappiness in the beginning was that she had to put up with Jimmy’s poverty as well as with the crude manners of his friend Hugh Tanner. Both Jimmy and Tanner visited peoples’ home uninvited for food and drinks much to the embarrassment of Alison. Subsequently, Alison found herself and her family to be the bull’s eye of Jimmy’s verbal attacks. She is so uncertain of Jimmy’s moods that she is reluctant and hesitates to reveal her pregnancy to him. When Cliff suggests that she should, she fears that he might suspect her motive. She is apprehensive that he might make love to her that night after learning about her pregnancy, but would feel as if he had been tricked in the morning and as if she were trying to kill him in the worst possible way. She says in this context, “He’d watch me growing bigger everyday, and I wouldn’t dare to look at him”. She reveals her feeling to her father that Jimmy had married her most probably with a motive of revenge. “Some people do actually marry for revenge. People like Jimmy, anyway”, Alison confides in her lather. “Or perhaps Jimmy should have been another Shelly”, she adds. Jimmy, according to her, has got a sort of genius for love and friendship—on his own terms. Alison seems right in thinking that Jimmy offers his love and friendship to others on his own terms.

      This becomes evident towards the end of Act II, Jimmy says to Helena who has just said she loves him: “Either you are with me or against me.” This reveals his egotism. He is so self-centered that he has no consideration for the views and opinions of others. This aspect of Jimmy’s character is ascertained when Alison tells Helena that he expects other to be unconditionally and unquestionably loyal to him. Jimmy expects others to be loyal to him and in addition respects the view and opinions of his friends and relation. Alison confides in Helena that she has not been able to bring herself to feel the way he does about things. “I can’t believe that he’s right somehow”, she says. Alison calls Jimmy a “spiritual barbarian” who had turned her world upside down by his challenges.

Jimmy’s Affection For His Wife

      In spite of his constant downpour of criticism on Alison and finding fault with her all the time, one thing is clear that he loves his wife. The fact is that he loves his wife in his own way. In Act I, there is a scene between the couple where lovingly refers to their favorite game of Bears and Squirrels. Here we see a very tender-hearted Jimmy kissing his wife passionately. His love for his wife is evident when he says: “There’s hardly a moment when I’ am not—watching and wanting you. I’ve got to hit out somehow. Nearly four years of being in the same room with you, night and day, and still can’t stop my sweat-breaking out when I see you doing—something as ordinary as leaving over an ironing board”. One thing is clear that Jimmy is so fond of his wife that it pains him to see his dear spouse performing such ordinary works like ironing clothes. He reveals that even her minute details have become indispensable to him. While saying all these to his wife he becomes so passionate that he wanted to take Alison to bed right at that time to which Alison did not agree as she anticipated that Cliff might come back at any moment. Later in the play Alison explains to Helena the meaning and significance of the “bears-and-squirrels” game. According to Alison this game represents an imaginary world in which Jimmy and she imagines themselves to be animals, “little furry features with little furry brains. Full of dumb, uncomplicated affection for each other.” Towards the end of the play, after their, long estrangement, when a reconciliation takes place between the duo, Jimmy’s heart softens and melts towards her and once again revives the “bears-and-squirrels” game with her.

His Disapproval of Helena

      While making the right assessment of Jimmy’s character one important thing that should not be missed out is—his attitude towards Helena, his mistress and Alison’s friend. In the beginning of the play we find that the very mention of Helena is enough to make him furious and irritated. He refers to her as a ‘bitch’ and regards her as his natural enemy. When he learns that she is coming to stay with them he asks his wife sarcastically if she is bringing her armor to defend herself against his attacks. He does not conceal his disapproval or rather hatred for Helena. Later in the play we find him scolding his wife for going to Church under Helena’s influence. He bursts out: “Are you going to let yourself be taken in by this saint in Dior’s Clothing? I’ll tell you the simple truth about her. She is a cow. I wouldn’t mind that so much, but she seems to have become a sacred cow as well!” After this mocking comment on Helena, he makes a long speech in which he ridicules her. He calls her an expert in the new economics, i.e.. “the Economics of the Supernatural”. According to him he is never short of abusive words in his attack against Helena. He describes her as one of those mysterious share pushers who are behind the spreading of rumours about the transfer of power. He comments that Helena is the kind of person who spends most of her time “looking forward satisfied ridiculing Helena. “She prefers to be cut off from all the conveniences we’ve fought to get for centuries. She’d rather go down to the ecstatic little shed at the bottom of the garden to relieve her sense of guilt. Our Helena is full of ecstatic wind.” He seems to take pleasure in making offensive remark and hurting others. When Helena retorts that she might slap him for his offensive remark, he warns her that he will hit back and says: “I’ve no public school scruples about hitting girls. If you slap my face by God, I will lay you out!”. Jimmy’s insulting attitude continues till one day when irritated with his verbal abuse Helena slaps him and then abruptly kisses him passionately. At that point of time Alison already having left, a love affair develops between the two. Jimmy accepts her as his mistress and gets along well with her for the several months of their togetherness. At the end, of Act III scene I, we find them together in a jolly mood, both fondling and caressing each other. Gradually with the passage of time they have become steady lovers, and they both promise to be loyal to each other. It comes no less a shock to Jimmy when Helena towards the end of the next scene, announces her decision to leave him. Helena’s decision elicits from Jimmy one of his strongly worded speeches in which he accuses that they all want to escape the pain of being alive and from the experience of love. He says that it is not easy to continue loving someone because love demands courage and strength, it demands muscle and guts: and Helena lacks both. He hits back at Helena saying that she cannot live like a real human being because she wants to live like a saint. According to him, one can either live a life of the senses as a human being or a spiritual life like the saints not both together. Jimmy takes Helena’s leaving him as an act of desertion and disloyalty, and also as an act showing her preference for spirituality.

His Criticism On Various Aspects Of Life

      Apart from his personal criticism of individuals, we also find him criticizing various aspect of social life. He condemns the Bishop of Bromley for his apparent support to the hydrogen bomb and criticizes the Bishop for discriminating between the rich and the poor. He criticizes the so-called “posh” newspapers which belongs to the conservative and liberal party. Even religion, its practices and beliefs does not escape his sharp tongue. He speaks bitterly about the rituals of the Church and gets irritated when Alison visits the Church under Helena’s influence. He is critical of those who invoke the Coptic Goddess of fertility at midnight. He condemns the way people slaughter animals to make sacrifices to the Gods. In his characteristic cynical manner, he says that people who sacrifice anything such as their careers or their beliefs or their sexual pleasures do so because they never really wanted these things in the first place. Jimmy is of the opinion that our admiration for these people are misplaced. Not satisfied with attacking individuals and institutions, he complains about the monotonous and routine life that he has to lead, especially the Sunday routine. He grumbles about Sunday thus: “God, how I hate Sundays! It’s always so depressing, always the same. We never seem to get any further, do we? Always the same ritual—reading the papers, drinking tea, ironing. A few more hours, and another week gone. Our youth is slipping away”. In a bitter attack he accuses women of being noisy in their day-to-day work and activities. He farther accuses women of seeking news blood and cynically wonders why women want “to bleed men to death”. He comments that men are helpless in this regard and have no alternative but to “let themselves be butchered by the women.” He laughs at the people who goes to the cinema and ruin the enjoyment of the film by their silly comments. He is so annoyed with everything that he says he is even fed up with sex, routine sex, and says that he would like to try homosexuality for a change. Thus he emulates the example of the French writer Andre Gide. He composes a cynical song about booze and whoring. Even news items and news-reports does not escape his scrutiny. One of the newspaper published the absurd story about Shakespeare, that he changed his sex while writing the play, The Tempest. He criticizes persons who become cabinet ministers by giving example of Alison’s brother who is not only a politician but a candidate for government ministership as well. He seems dissatisfied with everything and anything. He is disgusted with people, his personal life and life as a whole. He resents the way things are happening and gives expression to his feeling of self-pity because he believes that he is the victim of the society and especially of the middle classes.

His Preference For Certain Persons

      Although it seems unlikely that a hard critic like Jimmy would let anyone escape his malicious attack there are a few about whom he has a favorable opinion. Alison’s friend Webster, Madeline, Jimmy’s ex-mistress Cliff and their friend, they are the only exceptions to Jimmy’s criticism. Jimmy likes Webster because in his words Webster has got “bite, edge and drive”. In Webster’s company, he feels exhilarated. According to Jimmy, his former mistress Madeline was really alive. He praises Madeline in Cliff and Alison’s presence”. She had more animation in her little finger than you two put together. Her curiosity about things, and about people was staggering.....Just to be with her was an adventure. Even to sit on the top of a bus with her was like setting out with Ulysses”.

      As for Cliff, Jimmy regards him to be a loyal and generous friend, a man with a big heart. He therefore feels genuinely sad when Cliff decides to leave him to get married and settle down. Jimmy strongly advocates the value of solidarity which is a working-class virtue. He is happy to find this virtue while regrets that his wife lacks the same. Jimmy also values the quality of loyalty or fidelity which is allied to solidarity. Cliff possesses this quality which is absent in both Alison and Helena. He demands this quality from Helena, which is evident when he says to her: “Either you’re with me or against me.”

Jimmy’s Brilliant and Ready Wit—Although Cynical

      In spite of his anger, resentment, cynicism, aggressiveness, Jimmy should be given due credit for possessing a brilliant and ready wit. Most of his criticisms are marked by witty remarks. Much of his wit is displayed by him at the cost of his poor wife Alison. In the beginning of the play, Alison remains silent as a matter of habit he growls: “You can talk, can’t you? You can express an opinion or does the white woman’s burden make it impossible to think?” When she makes an excuse for not answering he sarcastically remarks: “You bet you weren’t listening. Old Porter talks and everyone turns over and goes to sleep. And Mrs. Porter gets’ em all going with the first yawn.” A little later, when Cliff says that Jimmy is not allowing her to think, he replies cynically: “She hasn’t had a thought for years.” That Jimmy has a brilliant wit becomes more evident in his remark about Helena. For instance, when one day he asks Alison where she is going, he gets the reply that she is going out with Helena. Then Jimmy wittily comments: “That’s not a direction—that’s an affliction. I didn’t ask you what was the matter with you. I asked you where you were going”. When Helena persuades Alison successfully to go to the Church with her Jimmy says to Alison with reference to Helena: “You’ve let this genuflecting sin jobber win you over, haven’t you?” Jimmy never seems to be out of stock for words. The right word always seems to be at the tip of his tongue while ridiculing or making an intelligent comment. When he learns about Cliff’s desire to get married and settle down, he wittily says: “Can’t think who’d be stupid enough to team themselves up with you though.” This is Jimmy’s way of saying that no woman would like to marry Cliff. Then in the same joking manner says that Cliff will get married to some respectable little modern who will rule the household by sending him to work. In spite of being cynical and a die-hard critic we must acknowledge the fact that even Jimmy is capable on rare occasions, of enjoying real fun without any tinge of bitterness or malice in it. This side of his character is discovered in Act III Sc. I where he joins Cliff to sing a humorous song and acts like a comic character on the stage.

Jimmy As A Hard Hearted Person

      By his constant criticism and resentment, Jimmy gives us the impression of a man who lacks genuine feeling, a callous or a hard-hearted person. He shows absolutely no emotion even on leaving his wife who is expecting a baby neither does he reacts when he gets the news of his wife’s miscarriage. He seems to be a ruthless person devoid of any human emotion judging by his remarks, comments and views. And yet on certain situations, we are surprised by his emotional and sentimental outbursts. In Act I we come across a brief scene of tenderness between him and his wife. Later, he feels sad on hearing that Mrs. Tanner had a stroke and becomes sadder when Alison refuses to accompany him to visit the dying woman. On this occasion Jimmy overcomes with so much grief that he throws himself on the bed and buries his face in the bed sheets. We also encounter a tender scene with Helena in Act III where he expresses his appreciation of the way she has been loving him. Then there is the final scene where Jimmy in a pathetic manner laments that everybody wants, “to escape from the pain of being alive” and wants to escape “most of all love”. He speaks of his loneliness and compares himself to the old bear who follows his own breath in the dark forest. Here he expresses his deep-seated desire and need for companionship with some kindred spirit. Helena has already left him, and he appeals to Alison: “I may be a lost cause, but I thought if you loved me, it needn’t matter”. The play ends on a touching though cheerful note with Jimmy’s plight contributing a good deal to the pathos.

Jimmy As A Mouthpiece Of Post-War World

      Jimmy is considered to be the mouthpiece or spokesman of the postwar generation in Britain. This play “Look Back in Anger” was first produced in 1956 when young people in Britain were suffering from the disappointment of the hopes which they had cherished and nursed in the years following the end of World War II (1939-1995). The general mood that prevailed among the people of Britain at that time was of frustration, disillusionment, cynicism, rebelliousness and even despair. The prevailing mood of the play is also no different and through Jimmy and his speeches, this mood of frustration, rebelliousness and disillusionment finds expression. Throughout the play we find Jimmy giving vent to his anger and frustration, attacking people, institutions, social systems, showing his resentment of the disparity of the social classes. He becomes a sort of representative of the younger generation of his time. Because of its realistic theme, the play acquired an immediate appeal for the audience of that time. “Angry young man”—this expression became popular because of the manner in which Osborne had portrayed his young protagonist. Our own reaction depends on our concept of the present day conditions of life. For an optimistic person who considers his future to be bright Jimmy’s character has no relevance, but for a pessimist who suffers from disillusionment and hopelessness, he cannot help but identify himself with Jimmy Porter.

Jimmy A Rebel By Nature His—Revolting Nature

      Jimmy Porter is projected as a rebel and is stuffed with all the qualities that perennial rebels are made of. By his anger he hits back at the British Welfare State in the fifties questioning their moral and spiritual viability. His criticism is directed towards a society which in the name of economic progress, has developed a kind of moral callousness and has approved questionable values and practices. For the first time, the genuine voice of a rebel youth could be heard who dares to challenge the validity of the moral texture and social fabric of post-war Britain. This restless, defiant, pent-up energy represents the true frustrated and humiliated feelings of a large section of people in Britain. Jimmy Porter’s anger and rebel nature is the theme of the play.

Duality in Jimmy’s Character

      Jimmy is the central character of Look Back in Anger and dominates the actions throughout the whole play. Other characters are relevant only in proportion of their relation with Jimmy. Though he is a rebel two distinct and contradictory forces are dominant in his character—a sense of utter futility and uselessness of any kind of struggle, and the vigorous energy exerted by a lively man to forcefully impose his ideas on others. The sense of futility is the result of living in an organized society which hardly leaves any scope to the imagination and initiative of an individual to create something private for himself. The vast and dreadful welfare state machinery seems to force everyone to non-entity who does not conform to its norms. Jimmy moans out in anger “Oh Heavens, how I long for a little human enthusiasm”. Jimmy suffers like a trapped animal striving for a creative life in the monotonous existence of a Midland town.

Jimmy A Neurotic Person

      According to John Mander: Jimmy Porter is a neurotic person, a frustrated artist, a repressed homosexual, a sado-masochist, a self-pitying egotist, and an idealist without a cause. But according to other critics, this is not the appropriate description about this person. He has very rare qualities and he wins our sympathy because of his commendable qualities. Nobody is devoid of anger. His anger has not harmed anybody although he injured the susceptibility of other people, i.e. of his wife, his friend and his mistress. His character is not to be treated as sado-masochistic. He had the spirit of reconciliation in spite of being an egotist. He is not always an impulsive, otherwise the whole play cannot revolve around him. His comments on the society may create a sense of abhorrence for him but is a momentary effect. Some critics consider him to be a very sympathetic lover. He has a profound love for his wife otherwise there would be no reconciliation. The play ends with them in each other’s arms playing their old game of bears and squirrels which is a childish fantasy.

Jimmy’s Concept About Sufferings

      Critic Katherine J. worth believes that Jimmy’s anger is not without reason: “Jimmy’s anger has deep roots”. Jimmy is the kind of person to whom the miseries of the world are his misery and will not let him rest. He is capable of vicarious suffering. He lives in other people’s lives and suffers their pain and agony along with them. He suffers for his friend Hugh’s mother, an elderly lady ‘going through the sordid process of dying’, just like he suffered as a young boy at the age of ten at the bed side of his dying father. He was disturbed by the indifferent attitude of other people and wondered how could they turn away from the realities of life. He recalls his suffering at his father’s bedside in presence of Helena and Alison. He is so obsessed with suffering and inner conflict that Alison cannot help but speak ironically: “Don’t’ take his suffering away from him. He’d be lost without it”. This statement although sarcastically in texture is not without any significance. It befits Jimmy “They all want to escape from the pain of being alive”, he laments. Sometimes he is not better than a sadist. He says that he wants Alison to have a child that dies so that she can understand the pang of suffering. He curses her—“let it grow, let a recognizable human face emerge from that little mass of India rubber and wrinkles”. At the end of the play Alison gets reconciled to her husband only after she has gone through the pain of suffering.

Jimmy’s Comparison With Hamlet

      The story of “Look Back in Anger” has great deal in common with “Hamlet”. The temperament of the heroes in both the plays, their attitude to other people, towards the society and suffering have lot in common comparing both the play. Mary Maccarthy says that Cliff is Jimmy’s Horatio and Jimmy’s treatment of Alison has the traces of brutality that Hamlet showed to Ophelia; brother Nigel is Laertes and Alison’s mother is cast in the role of Polonius.

      Hamlet and Jimmy, both have lot in common. Both of them have declared war on rotten society and have been unfitted by higher education to accept their normal place in the world. They ponder over matters too much and criticize too freely. Like Hamlet, Jimmy criticizes to the extent of brutality. Jimmy becomes cruel and takes pleasure in hurting the feelings of others by his insulting remarks. Both Hamlet and Jimmy suffers from inner conflict, and suffers more because of their inability to act. They want to change the whole social fabric and unable to do so they give vent to their anger by hurling abuses on others. Critics are of the opinion that Jimmy ought to have found a job at a provincial University, instead of torturing himself and his wife by running a sweet stall. Likewise, Hamlet too might have settled down in the court of Denmark, married Ophelia and waited for the succession.

Jimmy’s Concept About Sex

      Alison and Cliff kiss and hug together in Jimmy’s presence, and to everyone’s surprise, he just does not show any reaction. Alison is pregnant, but Cliff is the first person she reveals the secret to, not to her husband as she fears, “he’ll suspect my motives at once.....Jimmy has his private morality”. Alison finds her own moral approach to be paradoxical. It was ironical that Jimmy was annoyed to find out after marriage that Alison was a virgin. Jimmy seems to think that an untouched woman would defile him. Jimmy hated Alison’s middle-class concept of morality.

      Samuel A. Weiss is of the opinion that, “Social clash and battle of sexes become one and inseparable”.

      Alison belongs to the middle class much to the resentment of Jimmy. Her middle-class values and morality are indeed a matter of annoyance for him. He wants Alison to break away from her past and submit herself totally to a new set of values and ideals which are his, failing which the gulf between the couple widens almost threatening their togetherness. In his opinion, she must be with Jimmy or against him. She should not be neutral or sit on the fence. Alison’s neutrality, neither breaking away from her past, not merging with the present irritates Jimmy. Jimmy has an over powering childish desire for love. He says “women are refined butchers they bleed one to death”. He accuses Alison of overwhelming passion and says that she devours him like a huge python.

Previous Post Next Post