Analysis of John Osborne's "Look Back In Anger": Jimmy’s Newspaper Reading, Animal and the Game in the Play, Feminism, Jimmy a Romantic Hero

Look Back in Anger (1956): Rebellion Against Traditional Mores
John Osborne (1929-1994)

Symbolic Importune of Jimmy’s Newspaper Reading: All three acts open by showing Jimmy reading newspaper and repeatedly surfaces in the conversation. The newspaper helps to create a domestic atmosphere with a ritual, as well as providing the starting point for most of the discussions or speeches about religion and politics. It brings the outside or public world into the private, familiar setting of the play, and its constant presence makes it, in effect, impossible to clearly separate the two worlds ----- one invades and informs the other through the newspaper.

Importance of Animal and the Game in the Play: Through the symbol of animals and the game Jimmy and Alison impersonate them. They have toy bear and squirrel kept upon a chest of drawers, and Alison points them out to Helena who thinks this is proof of Jimmy’s being ‘fey’ or mad. An extension of the game is the comparison of the couple’s home to a zoo or a menagerie. This animal symbol works in two ways ---- first, as discussed above, it offers a refuge from the misery of the couple’s daily married life, and provides the only way for then to communicate with each other. Second, it implies that the only way for then to satisfy marital love in their case, seems to be based on not munch more than the physical attraction between the sexes, which functions at a level below the rational. Though, it is true that ‘bear and squirrel game’ is more complex a pattern to highlight the various relationships and solitude. We would better quote where the play unnaturally closes with a repetition of the game:

Jimmy: ….. There are cruel traps lying about everywhere, just waiting for rather mad                                                   

                      , slightly fanatics very timid little animals. Right? (Allison nods)
                       (Pathetically) poor squirrels !

Alison : Poor bears (she laughs and tenderly says) Oh, poor poor bears ! 

Feminism “Have you ever noticed how noisy women are? Have you? The way they kick the floor about, simply walking over it? Or have you watched them sitting at their dressing tables, dropping their weapons and banging down their bits of boxes and brushes and lipsticks?” Mr. James Porter, age 25

Looking at how women are presented in the play , and at the way in the male characters speak of and react to the female characters are the formation of feminism. Jimmy has often  expressed misogyny , of which he finds himself a sufferer. Jimmy does see personal relationships as offering the only alternative to the lack of causes in public life, but views such relationships as given women a chance to ‘devour’ and to destroy  his (and by implication , all mans’) self-hood and autonomy . This goes hand in hand with his being completely tied to women in the shape of being unable to break away from them sexually or emotionally. Jimmy sees himself as suffering under the system of class which privileges Alison and her family, but does not see Alison’s suffering under the system of patriarchal marriage that privileges him over her . Society’s attitude to women are shown up in the play and both Alison and Helena share a similar pattern of behavior – fascination alternating with resentment and antipathy – with regard to Jimmy . They share a common feminine nature – similar backgrounds and upbringing.

Jimmy a Romantic Hero despite of being “the angry young men” : One of the defining traits of romanticism is its interest in the individual and its tendency to exalt individual experience and expression over the collective or the social. The romantic hero / protagonist , however  inexplicably cruel or wrong his behavior is always presented as driver or compelled by a nature too extreme and forceful for those around him to understand , as consequently is seen as always isolated from his world . Very much of this is true of Jimmy, as least in his own eyes – “Was I really wrong to believe that there’s a – a kind of – burning virility of mind and spirit that look for something as power full as it self? The heaviest, strongest creatures in this world seen to be the lowliest.” (LBA ,Act III , 11)  Futher Helena’s words about him , “I fill he’s still in the middle of the French Revolution” confirms the sense of Jimmy’s perception of himself as a Romantic hero. 

 Also Read @ John Osborne's Jimmy Porter is a Modern Hamlet- A Comparative Analysis

Ref:1. Wikipedia
         2. IGNOU Study Guide
         3. Politics In Drama Artists: Dr. A. L. Avanchou
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