Essay, Research Paper: Look Back In Anger By Osborne

Literature: World War

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The play, A Look Back in Anger, by John Osborne brings the notion of the
"angry man gone mad" to the surface. But what does this play teach us?
Or, does this play teach us anything? At the end of this paper it will be
evident that this play does teach us something, and that is how some people, as
individuals, have their own ways of thinking, and reacting, which are
considerably different from the social norms. Of course the character we will be
analyzing is Jimmy. There are 3 stimuli that correspond to radical reactions by
Jimmy. The first stimulus is love; Jimmy has ways of expressing his love to the
women of his life that are different than the rest of society's. The second
stimulus is the natural aggression towards threats, and most of these threats
are small, that Jimmy expresses with Cliff, and also in Allison's mother, in
particular. The final trigger to Jimmy's radical way of reacting is that of
death. It seems to be an image that haunts him throughout the play and he only
brings it to the surface after the halfway point. This, last, stimuli can be
regarded as an explanation to his radical ways, that give him the image of the
"angry man". However, there is one over-ruling thesis that covers all
three stimuli that is the basis of Jimmy's radical behavior, and that is of
women in general; Jimmy, as will be demonstrated in each section, is very
insecure with the opposite sex, whether it is will girlfriends, wives, or
landlords. On the topic of love, Jimmy has demonstrated his difficulty to
conform to the social norms, in terms of being a gentleman towards women,
especially his own wife, Allison. The first major indication of this problem was
when Allison and him were showing their first mutual signs of affection, but
they were required to result to role playing to fulfill their show of love.
"Jimmy: You're very beautiful. A beautiful, great-eyed squirrel…How I
envy you. Allison: Well, you're a jolly super bear, too. A really
soooooooooooper, marvelous bear. Jimmy: Bears and Squirrels are marvelous"
Jimmy and Allison have proven that they must put on disguises to show their
affection. Allison as a Squirrels, and Jimmy as a bear also demonstrates the way
their perceive each other. A squirrel is small, weak, and helpless, as is
contrary to a bear, that has the image of a vicious and barbaric animal. In this
point of view, Osborne is showing us an analogy of how he perceives their
relationship. Bears and squirrels don't really get along, mainly because they
compete for the same food. In the play we see how Allison and Jimmy are
incompatible, and when they speak of how "bears and squirrels are
marvelous", it just proves to show that they are blind to the fact that
they don't belong together. However, it must be made clear that this is not due
to Allison that they lock horns often, but it at Jimmy's fault; he is seen as
the instigator to every conflict in this play. Not only in terms of love, but
also in regarding women altogether, Jimmy sees women as the enemy. Jimmy has
attacked every woman in this play, physically or verbally, except for one, and
that was Hugh's mother who has dying. (this issue will be addressed in the last
portion of this essay). First, we will look at the situation with Helena; as
first it is evident that they hate each other, but then they kiss and become
lovers. This is not only unusual, but shows the instability and unpredictability
of Jimmy's actions. The issue is that he sees Helena as an enemy that is trying
to convince Allison to leave him; and Jimmy seems correct, because in fact, that
is what happens in the end, but it's quite unpredictable. Jimmy shows his
disgust towards Helena when he says to her: "What are you plotting?"
This is implying that Helena is out to mess his life up, this then leads to a
confrontation that almost gets violent. "Helena: If you come nearer, I will
slap your face. Jimmy: I hope you won't make the mistake of thinking for one
moment that I am a gentleman. Helena: I'm not very likely to do that. Jimmy:
I've no public school scruples about hitting girls. If you slap my face-by God,
I'll lay you out!" This scene describes many things, which are going
through the head of Jimmy; he's a non-conformist to society's customs and
unwritten rules. He even admits to this fact by stating that women with small
arms and physical strength think that they can get away with hitting a man
simply because they are at a physical disadvantage. Meanwhile, in the real
world, men shouldn't hit women. Jimmy is out to prove something in this play,
and basically what he's trying to tell society is that society is moving further
and further away from what it was naturally meant to be. This play was written
in the 1950's, which was when the times were changing drastically with respect
to women's roles in society. This is proven because of the two World Wars, which
where over by 1945, and women began to gain social status. This time frame was
when Jimmy was growing up, therefore he inevitably, saw this change of balance
of power, which he definitely opposed for some unknown reason, as many other men
did. An important part of Jimmy's life that is ignored is of his childhood. We
do not hear of any relationship with Jimmy's parents, we hear that his father
dies when he was ten, and his mother neglected both of them, which could
possibly explain his fear of women, or possibly his father could have been the
same way as he is. This is definitely something that the author should have
added to the play in order to understand what Jimmy's motives are. The second
stimuli we will analyze are that of the aggression towards any competition. This
aggression is closely related to the women of his life, mainly Allison. Cliff,
Helena, and especially Allison's mother are all trying to steal Allison from
him, in his own eyes. This sparks the raging bear attitude in him and actually
causes him to loose his own wife. Primarily, on the situation with the
mother-in-law, Jimmy is the most vicious; this is well demonstrated in his
speech at the dinner table in front of Helena, Cliff, and Alison. "There is
no limit to what the middle-aged mummy will do in the holy crusade against
ruffians like me. Mummy and I took one quick look at each other, and, from then
on, the age of chivalry was dead…she'd bellow like a rhinoceros in
labor-enough to make every male rhino for miles turn white, and pledge himself
to celibacy…(later on in the speech) I said she's an old bitch, and should be
dead!" On the issue of conforming to social rules, Jimmy doesn't score too
high on table etiquette. This attack on Allison's mother can be seen as the
turning point of the play, because after this scene, Helena and Allison make the
decision that she had better go home with her Father; the telegram is sent and
within a day, she is gone. It is normal for men and their in-laws to have some
conflicts; Jimmy takes this situation to a horrible level in wishing death to
her. However, he even mentions that he didn't mind Allison's father. This just
goes to prove that Jimmy is insecure with women in general, otherwise he would
hate his father-in-law too. Women are obviously not compatible with Jimmy at
all, even the landlord, Miss Drury, provides Jimmy with another threat. The
issue in this case is she has control over them, in the fact that she owns the
apartment; Jimmy finds this difficult because he's "outranked" by the
opposite sex. The second person we can look at is Cliff; this is a different
type of aggression that arises. Primarily because this is the only other male
character that Jimmy comes in contact with in the play, and they have never
stopped arguing throughout the play. A few times they even resulted in
wrestling, in once case injuring Allison. This key in this situation is the
communication problem, they ask one question to each other, and it is not
answered until a dozen other questions are asked. The shocking portion of this
relationship between them both is that Jimmy actually trusts Cliff. In countless
scenes, it seems as if Cliff is actually Allison's husband, and Jimmy only
reacts in a very minor fashion; and again, this just fortifies the notion that
Jimmy is insecure when women are regarded, because the only person he trusts is
Cliff. The Third and final stimuli is that of the notion of death, in many of
Jimmy's dialogs, he speaks of death and its' implications. He is obviously
emotionally scarred by his father's death, from when Jimmy was only ten years
old. He testifies that nobody else cared for his father but him; his mother
didn't do much but tend to his physical needs. "I learnt at an early age
what it was to be angry-angry and helpless. And I can never forget it." It
seems as though the anger was towards his mother, and women in general' this
thought in his mind is a recurrent in his speech and we see that he blames
everyone for not caring for the dying. Later on Jimmy's friend, Hugh's mother,
is in a hospital dying, and again we get the same events happen again. This is
special, not only because it involves death, that really triggers Jimmy's
emotions, but because this lady is the only one who he shows any direct
affection for. He declares that he's the only one who loves Hugh's mother, and
he'll be the only one walking behind the coffin on the day of the funeral. The
main significance that must be surfaced from this idea is that when it comes to
death, gender does not matter to Jimmy. The reaction of his father's death, and
Hugh's mother's death are parallel in every single aspect. Therefore, it can be
said that Jimmy's only vehicle to bring him in terms with women is death, and
after the death of Hugh's mother, we see a different Jimmy. He returns to the
home, where Helena tells him that Allison left, and tries to remain the old self
by threatening Helena, but he breaks down; she kisses him and they fall for each
other. At this point in the novel we have hope for Jimmy that he has "seen
the light", but this is not the case. We can see that the author has easily
illustrated this out for us by recreating the same scene as the beginning with
Helena at Allison's initial place. Jimmy and Cliff argue over the same issues,
and Helena is still at the ironing board. This goes to show that people like
Jimmy do not change their ways of thinking overnight, this will take a long time
before Jimmy accepts the social rules. By the end of the play we don't see any
difference because when he returns with Allison, they still resolve to bears and
squirrels to show their affection. In conclusion, the three stimuli have shown
spark anger and passion from within Jimmy. However, the overruling trigger that
sparks anger in Jimmy is the idea of women in general. He is obviously
threatened by women's advancement in society and this is the main problem that
he must overcome in order to become an acceptable person to society as a whole.
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