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 survive Jimmy’s constant verbal attacks on her and on her family is to conceal her feelings and remain silent. Although she says that Jimmy is the only man she has ever loved, Alison so yearns for peace that, with the encouragement of her friend...
(The entire section is 698 words.)
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