The ending of Look Back In Anger has generated a good deal of critical controversy over the years. For some critics, the ending feels somehow tacked on; an artificially sentimental final scene in a play which purports to present us with a realistic picture of human relationships.
Alison, the put-upon drudge, has returned to Jimmy after a brief stay with her bourgeois parents. Initially, it's not entirely clear why she's come back; Jimmy's always treated Alison with such utter contempt, routinely putting her down in front of Cliff and Helena. Yet here she is, a somewhat sheepish figure, thoroughly apologetic for having taken off. She literally falls at Jimmy's feet, grovelling, and begs for forgiveness. All in all, it's a pretty unedifying spectacle. It could seem that poor Alison is in the grip of Stockholm Syndrome.
There is every suggestion here that the reconciliation between Alison and Jimmy is not set to endure. After all, we only have to cast our minds back to the previous scene when Jimmy and Helena exchanged such seemingly genuine, passionate words of love. And that didn't last very long. Perhaps there is some genuine love between Alison and Jimmy, but if so, it's of the warped variety.
This play (which is supposedly realistic) ends with Alison and Jimmy retreating into their own little fantasy world; a bear and a squirrel living together in a cave, all nice and cosy, feasting on nuts and honey. Ultimately, they cannot handle life in the real world. Despite Jimmy's caustic tongue and rebellious manner, he's as vulnerable to life's "cruel steel traps" as Alison. They need each other.
For good or ill, their respective fates are now forever entwined. And as Alison has lost their baby, there's nothing else to keep them together but the own little world they've constructed for themselves to keep out the harshness and sterility of a post-war Britain, in which neither truly belongs.
But as they now play their little game with some degree of irony, perhaps there's a hint that they'll be able to face the future with a greater degree of confidence than was previously the case. It is just a hint, though, and the ending's ambiguity vitiates any neat resolution. It also guards against simplistic interpretations that suggest an unforgivable lapse into sentimentality.
According to this reading, there's no real sense of exuberance in the final scene; just a general air of solemnity as two deeply fallible human beings leave us with the faint hope, but no more, of happier times to come.