Look Back in Anger

by John Osborne

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Compare and contrast the characters of Alison and Helena and their relationship with Jimmy Porter in Osborne's Look Back in Anger.

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The premise of the play is that Jimmy is lower-middle-class, both Helena and Alison are upper/middle-class, and most of their problems stem from this difference. Alison is less excitable and doesn't stir up as much trouble as Helena. The two women appear to be aligned in many ways and are supposedly friends, but Alison is more practical and is willing to walk away from Jimmy, whereas Helena seems willing to put up with his poor behavior. Alison betrays Jimmy by leaving him, but Helena betrays Alison by taking up with Jimmy. Where Alison is discouraged by the abuse she endures from Jimmy, it lights a fire in Helena. For example, once Alison has gone home with her father, the fight between Jimmy and Helena crosses the line, and they end up getting romantically involved. When act 3 begins, Helena has taken on Alison's role, and she is only able to see the error of her ways when Alison returns to see Jimmy. Neither of the women is especially important to Jimmy, as he isn't sad to see Helena leave and does not seem especially glad to have Alison return. They are similar in their station in life but different in how they handle Jimmy's behavior.

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Alison and Helena both end up living with Jimmy Porter, Allison as his wife and Helena as his mistress. Allison and Helena are both upper-to-middle class, something that drives Jimmy crazy. In a way, both Alison and Helena rebel against their families by taking up with Jimmy, but Alison, it seems, actually loves him.

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