Look Back in Anger follows a young husband and wife, Alison and Jimmy Porter, as they plan to navigate class conflict and affect a deteriorating marriage in 1950s England. Alison comes from a standard upper-crust background. Jimmy comes from a labor background, though he’s highly educated. The couple lives with Cliff Lewis, an affable labor man, and Jimmy’s longtime friend. The scene opens on a Sunday morning within the apartment. Alison irons clothes while Cliff and Jimmy read the newspaper.
The play’s first act largely consists of Jimmy’s angry tirades against upper crust complacency and his wife’s lack of “enthusiasm.” Jimmy thinks that suffering is that the only thanks to experiencing true human emotion, which Alison and other upper-crust people are therefore less “alive” than he’s. He also seems to possess some nostalgia for a past age in Britain when the country had more power. Jimmy’s attempts to shock his wife into some display of emotion escalate because the act progresses—he insults her family and complains that each woman is bent destroy men. Cliff, attempting to cheer Jimmy up, begins to banter and roughhouse together with his friend. the 2 falls against Alison’s board, and she or he burns her arm. Jimmy apologizes, but she yells at him to go away, and he exits.
Cliff helps Alison treat the burn, and she or he reveals to him that she is pregnant with Jimmy’s child. She hasn’t told Jimmy yet, because she is afraid that he’ll feel trapped and angry. Cliff comforts Alison and tells her that Jimmy loves her. He kisses her. Jimmy enters while they’re kissing, but doesn’t acknowledge or object (the three sleep in a non-traditional set-up that might are shocking to audiences at the time). Soon after, Cliff leaves to urge some cigarettes, and Alison and Jimmy share a young moment. They play their “bear and squirrel” game, which allows them to flee into affection while pretending to be animals. Then Cliff returns and says that Helena Charles, one among Alison’s upper-crust friends, is on the phone. Jimmy’s mood immediately darkens. When Alison says that Helena wants to remain with them, Jimmy explodes. He says he wishes that Alison would have a baby that might die so that she could experience true suffering.
The second act begins with Helena and Alison sharing the womanly duties of the house while Jimmy plays his trumpet off stage. Alison tells Helena about her first months with Jimmy. They lived together with his labor friend Hugh Tanner and hung out happening “raids” to parties of Alison’s upper-crust friends. She says that she felt like “a hostage from those sections of society that they had declared war on.” Helena asks why they got married, and Alison says that it appeared to be large because Alison’s mother and her father Colonel Redfern disapproved. That made Jimmy want to marry her regardless of what.
Jimmy and Cliff are available to eat. When he hears that Helena and Alison are getting to church together later that day, Jimmy also becomes convinced that Helena is bent take Alison faraway from him. He lets fly a series of outrageous insults against Alison’s mother. Helena tries and fails, to reason with him, and Jimmy asks whether she has ever watched someone die. He tells the story of watching his father die from wounds received fighting within the Spanish war when he was ten years old and claims that this taught him more about life than Helena and Alison know even now. Near the top of the scene, Jimmy leaves to travel get the phone. While he’s gone, Helena tells Alison that she has sent a message to Colonel Redfern asking him to return pick Alison up. Alison doesn’t protest. When Jimmy returns, he says that Hugh’s mum, the laboring woman who set him up in his candy stall and for whom he harbors deep affection, is dying of a stroke. He asks Alison to return to the hospital with him. Instead, she goes to church. Jimmy is left alone on stage.
In the next scene, Colonel Redfern helps Alison pack to go away. He reveals that he thinks he and Alison’s mother reacted too strongly to her marriage with Jimmy, which Jimmy may need been right to be angry with them. He says he thinks that Jimmy might be right that he, Redfern, may be a relic of an old version of England that has ceased to exist. He also says that he and Alison have a bent to remain neutral and not take a robust stand on things. She is surprised to listen to this from him, and as she finishes packing she briefly re-considers her move. Then Helena enters, and Alison decides to travel. She says goodbye to Cliff. Helena stays behind because she features a work meeting the subsequent day. Alison and Colonel Redfern exit, and Cliff, angry that Helena has disrupted their life, leave before Jimmy comes back. Jimmy returns a couple of moments later, furious, having seen Alison leaving together with her father on his way home. Helena gives him a letter that Alison wrote explaining her decision. Jimmy is angry at her polite, restrained language. Helena tells him that Alison goes to possess a baby. He says that he’s not overcome with emotion at this news, and insults Helena, who slaps him. This causes Jimmy to collapse in despair. Then Helena “kisses him passionately,” and therefore the act ends.
The scene opens several months later, looking very almost like the start of Act 1, except that it’s now Helena who is ironing. Jimmy and Cliff joke and discuss newspaper articles. They roughhouse, and Cliff dirties his shirt. Helena leaves to wash it, and while she is off stage, Cliff tells Jimmy that he’s moving out. Jimmy wonders why he always chooses women over male friendship, albeit the value’s Cliff’s company more highly than he values Helena’s. Helena comes back with the shirt, and Cliff leaves to dry it in his room. Helena tells Jimmy that she loves him, and he asks her desperately to never leave him. Then Alison appears at the door, looking sick and disheveled.
The next scene opens a couple of minutes later, with Jimmy playing his trumpet off stage. Alison tells Helena that she isn’t angry together with her, and isn’t trying to interrupt up the new couple. Helena, however, says that Alison’s presence has reminded her that what she is doing is wrong. Alison has also had a miscarriage, and Helena considers this a “judgment” on her relationship. She calls Jimmy back and tells him that she is leaving. Jimmy says that he always knew Helena wasn’t strong enough for true love, which needs “muscle and guts.” Helena leaves.
Alison apologizes, and Jimmy says that she should have sent flowers to Hugh’s mum, and remembers his first meeting together with her when he thought that she had a “wonderful relaxation of spirit.” This clothed to be just complacency, he says. Alison lets out a cry and tells him that the loss of their child has made her understand the depth of emotion that he wanted her to possess all this point. She tells him that she wants to be “corrupt and futile,” and collapses at his feet. Jimmy can’t bear to ascertain her this manner and kneels to assist her. Then, “with a sort of mocking, tender irony,” he launches into their bear and squirrels imaginary game. “Poor squirrels,” he says to Alison, and she or he responds, “poor, poor, bears.”
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