Describe the relationship between Jimmy and his wife Alison in Look Back in Anger.  

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hannahhunt09 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Look Back in Anger by John Osborne presents the uneven marriage between blue-collar Jimmy and his upper-class wife Alison. Jimmy is hot-tempered and frequently argues with Alison, once even wishing that she would be become pregnant and that the child would die just to hurt her. Alison is pregnant at this time, but has not yet told her husband. Jimmy becomes angry because Alison's friend Helena is coming to visit, then again when Alison and Helena want to go to church. Helena convinces Alison to leave her abusive relationship at the same time Jimmy discovers that his best friend's father is dying. Jimmy forces Alison to make a choice between going to church with Helena and staying with him, but she leaves. Jimmy is unaware until the next day that she has left not only for church, but for good. Helena returns to Jimmy to tell him that Alison is pregnant, but ends up kissing him and becoming close with him. Alison returns when she miscarries to discover Helena and Jimmy's relationship. Jimmy cares little about losing the child. Helena realizes the terrible thing she has done and leaves. Alison fends off Jimmy's anger towards her by insisting that she is finally as broken and miserable as he once wished. Jimmy decides that she is right and treats her lovingly, in a way that was not seen before in the play.


The relationship between these two characters is characterized by an unevenness in their life experiences that cannot be overcome until the end. Jimmy feels that Alison has never experienced the difficulties of life or any tragedy, and Alison is unable to comprehend the reasons for her husband's constant anger. The solution to their difficult marriage is being forced onto more even terms. This is achieved by Alison leaving Jimmy, which makes him realize that he does love her, and then by Alison both losing the baby and seeing her husband's affair with her best friend, which together bring her to a state of anger and misery that Jimmy seemed always to be in. They can finally understand one another's emotions, and the play ends with them playing a silly game, having repaired their marriage through other forms of destruction.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Look Back in Anger, Jimmy Porter really loves his wife Alison. He asked her to marry him because she made him forget that the world wasn't worth liking after becoming bitter and disillusioned following his father's six-month struggle with death, during which time Jimmy sat with him and listened to him talk and talk. After their marriage, Jimmy is still chafing inside, and out loud, against the restrictions and limits and absurdities he sees in the English class system.

It is Alison to whom most of Jimmy's vehemence is directed because Alison is from the upper class (her father didn't give his permission for her marriage) and exemplifies the staid, unemotional, priveleged existence that Jimmy finds so repulsive, which is painfully ironic since he does actually love her and the inner comfort she gives him. Jimmy's monomania is to arouse some form of sincere emotion in Alison so that she can be fully alive, fully human. It's as if his personal suffering is so great that he can't recognize the humanity in anyone who isn't likewise torn by personal anguish and angst.

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Look Back in Anger

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