What is Jimmy's atitude toward women in Look Back in Anger, and is Jimmy an anti-woman sexist?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A contemporary reading of Look Back in Anger includes a reading of sexism in which Jimmy's anger and hatred is directed at women in general. The examples in the play that are taken to represent a greater sexism on Jimmy's part are his relationships with Alison and then Helena, the most striking point of which is that after a time, Helena stands silently and emotionally passively at the ironing board on Sunday night just like Alison used to do.

However when the play was first performed in 1955, the emphasis wasn't on sexism but on class identity and limitations. The similarity between Helena and Alison is that they are both from the upper class and are both religious with "establishment" church affiliations. Jimmy's great invective is against the complacent, unthinking privilege given to and assumed by the upper classes who have no need to think or be intelligent, as Nigel represents, or feel, as Alison and Helena represent.  When Jimmy's treatment of Alison and Helena are seen from a 1950s perspective as representative of Jimmy's hatred of a class division that defrauds individuals--on both sides of the class divide--of their humanity, the undertones of sexism take a secondary position.

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Look Back in Anger

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