Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Jimmy Porter, a twenty-five-year-old man who lives in Britain’s industrial midlands. An educated, well-read individual, Jimmy works in a factory, tends a sweet-stall he is trying to buy, and issues diatribes about British society, which he feels has denied him opportunity simply because of his working-class background. Jimmy prides himself on his honesty, but he can be cruel, as is seen in his verbal attacks on his wife, Alison, and on his friend Cliff Lewis, who lives with them. Jimmy excuses himself for mistreating Alison by insisting that she is too possessive and that she cannot understand him because she has never suffered, as he suffered when, at the age of ten, he had to watch his father die. Because he insists on complete loyalty, he feels betrayed when his wife does not accompany him to the deathbed of a friend’s mother, yet he does not see anything wrong with his having an affair with Helena, his wife’s friend. The egocentric Jimmy seems incapable of empathizing with his wife, even when she grieves over losing their baby. He takes her back only after she has completely abased herself to him.
Alison Porter, Jimmy’s wife. A woman of upper-middle-class background, she is perceptive enough to understand that her husband resents everything in her that reminds him of the social differences between them. After three years of marriage, she is miserable. The only way that she can...
(The entire section is 698 words.)
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Helena is Alison's friend, a very proper middle-class woman. She is an actress who comes to stay with the Porters while she performs in a play at the local theatre. Jimmy has long despised her, as he considers her a member of the Establishment. When she contacts Alison's father and asks him to take Alison home, Helena seems genuinely concerned about Alison. However, she seduces Jimmy and replaces Alison in the household. When Alison returns, Helena realizes that her affair with Jimmy is wrong and decides to leave.
Cliff is Jimmy's friend and partner in the candy stall business and shares the Porters' flat, although he has his own bedroom across the hall. Cliff is a poorly educated, working class man of Welsh heritage. He is warm, loving, and humorous. He genuinely loves Alison but adjusts when she leaves and Helena moves in. Cliffs first allegiance is to Jimmy. Nevertheless, ultimately he decides to go out on his own.
Alison has been married to Jimmy for three years. She comes from the solid upper-middle-class Establishment. Her father was a colonel in the colonial Service and the family lived very comfortably in India until 1947. Her brother Nigel attended Sandhurst, the British equivalent of West Point, and is a Member of Parliament. She married Jimmy partly as a rebellion against the proper, predictable, stultifying precepts of her class. However, she has been...
(The entire section is 697 words.)