How does John Osborne present the character of Cliff in Look Back in Anger?

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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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When the character of Cliff is introduced at the beginning of Act I of Look Back in Anger, he is described as "a soothing, natural counterpoint to Jimmy." Like Jimmy, he is a working-class man who tries to better himself by reading serious newspapers, but he lacks Jimmy's anger. Cliff constantly tries to convince Jimmy to treat Alison kindly, and when she burns herself ironing after Jimmy pushes Cliff, it is Cliff who bandages her arm. In Act II, Scene I, Cliff tells Helena he has served as a "no-man's land" between Alison and Jimmy. He has kept the peace between them because he loves both of them.

In addition to serving as a peacemaker, Cliff subtly serves as the voice of conscience in the play. He knows that Helena is trying to break up Jimmy and Alison's marriage because Helena wants to be Jimmy's girlfriend. Cliff also decides to leave the flat once Helena takes up with Jimmy and Alison leaves. Cliff won't stay around because he senses that what Helena has done is immoral. In this way, he represents morality in the play. 

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kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Cliff Lewis, Jimmy's friend and business partner, has been chiefly portrayed as a foil to the angry young man, Jimmy. While Jimmy is mostly cynical and often offensive, Cliff is simple and humane. Yes, Cliff is a buffer in between the aggressive husband and the docile wife. Cliff belongs to "a no man's land" in between two enemy territories as he himself has correctly diagnosed. His sympathetic attachment to Alison serves as an anodyne for her to bear with Jimmy's tirading onslaught to a considerable length of time. Cliff illustrates the theme of friendship/companionship in the play, and Jimmy too acknowledges the immense value of Cliff as a worthy friend.

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