AD's English Literature : Look Back in Anger : Play of Verbal Violence and Abuse, Directed Against WOMEN

Look Back in Anger : Play of Verbal Violence and Abuse, Directed Against WOMEN


If Look Back in Anger is a play of verbal violence and abuse, much of it is directed against WOMEN. ‘Rarely has it thawed hero of any drama, barring of course’ Shaw’s Man and Superman, indulged in such violent excesses against women. Yet there is a difference because while in Shaw’s play the hero ‘tanner also admits the procreative importance of the women, Osborne’s hero porter sees no nobility in a woman.’ But as the play would gradually reveal, jimmy’s attitude towards woman is justified, so that he would ultimately be able to mould at least one woman to the woman of his heart’s desire.

In the very first scene Jimmy describes how every woman thinks herself to be the superior of her male coma- neon so that a man can only be ‘the white woman‘s burden’ choosing the phrase of Kipling ironically. He describes how he had once upon a time lived in a flat beneath ‘a couple of girls’. Jimmy presents the coarseness of these women by speaking of their attack on his sensibility. They are perpetually talking, quarreling, ousting and raising a great racket. When jimmy fails to dampen their enthusiasm with his obscene remarks, he himself loves the flat. He now only wonders about the ‘poor devils’ whom they might have married and driven mad. So disgusted is with woman have married and driven mad. So disgusted is he with woman that he had turned into a misogamist who preaches homosexuality in spite of not practicing himself. He speaks of the intolerable sexual energy of the woman in terms of the crushing coil of the python. He praises all those literary artists who have been homosexual such as the famous painter Michael Angelo and French novelist André Gide.

But it is his own wife Alison who the brunt of Jimmy’s assault against woman. Although at first Alison seems to be a truly tolerant and an almost ideal wife who does not deserve such treatment from the husband, the reality is quite different. As a woman she has not been able to identify herself with her husband. She was a number of the upper class and she has not been able to forget the class distinction between herself and her husband. ‘Although she puts on jimmy’s old shirt as a mark of acceptance the expensive skirt that she wears underneath gives her away. She admits that she a sort of hostage’ simply because she belonged to another class. Even after a long time she has not been able to identify herself with him so that Jimmy accuses her of lack of love and sympathy and even her own father accuses her of ‘sitting on the fence’ rather than joining her husband in the arena.

J. Akingbola (Jimmy) and L. d. Santos (Alison)
The other woman who suffers Jimmy’s wrath is Alison’s friend Helena. It is Helena who at the beginning instigates Alison against her husband and makes her leave him. But it is gradually comes to light that she is herself in love with Jimmy, and after a brief and intense struggle, they begin to live with each other. But this woman, too, proves inadequate. She always works by her ‘book of rules’ while Jimmy is a freethinker who has no use of rules. While he hates the church, Helena must visit the church on religious occasions. They ultimately find themselves incompatible so that Helena leaves him the moment Alison arrives.

But this Alison is no longer an inadequate woman. If earlier Jimmy had declared that he would love to ‘splash about in her tears and sing’ because of her lack of identification today he finds her to be a totally changed woman. She has undergone suffering because of the miscarriage of her child, and has woken up to fact that it is only Jimmy who can provide solace. She has now given up her concepts of the divine right of woman and declares that she is willing to abandon everything else, including her expansive habits, in order to identify herself wholly with his ideals and his class. She decides that she wants to be a ‘lost creature’ like her husband. From now onwards there is no barrier to their living together as husband and wife.

Jimmy’s virulence against woman is therefore less the result of eccentricity then from a gemlike desire to shape the nest adequate mate. Once that is a cheered, the hues band and wife can indulge in their game of ‘bear and squirrel’ and can also stand secure against the entire world.

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