Look Back in Anger

by John Osborne

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Act 3, Scene 1 Summary

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It’s several months later, and Helena’s effects have taken the place of Alison’s around the flat. Jimmy and Cliff are seated in their armchairs, reading newspapers, while Helena irons in the kitchen area. The two men are having a near-perfect facsimile of their earlier argument about newspapers.

As usual, Jimmy embarks on a discursive rant about the many ways in which his friends, his family, and society at large have disappointed him. Eventually, he remarks that someone must be sticking pins into a wax replica of him to cause pain, insisting with certainty that it must be Alison’s mother.

The three of them chat and bicker, and Jimmy speaks to Helena in much the same way he used to speak to Alison. Helena is still getting used to this behavior, alternately nonplussed and unsure how to react in the face of Jimmy’s volatility. The conversation shifts back and forth between whimsy and tension, and eventually Cliff and Jimmy start reciting traditional comic routines. This leads to a dance and soon escalates to a scuffle. Helena exits.

As they recover, Cliff tells Jimmy that he plans to move out. It’s not the same, he remarks, living with Helena. Jimmy agrees but asserts that it’s never the same—one day is different from the next, one meal different from the last, one woman different from another. Cliff reiterates that he’s ready for a change and that Helena is taking care of both of them. It’s time for him to find a nice girl to take care of him, too, he speculates. Jimmy suggests that maybe Helena can set him up with one of her posh friends—someone with “with lots of money, and no brains,” he adds.

Jimmy begins a long rant about women, and what he thinks they extract from men, and how young men don’t die for honorable causes anymore—women just bleed them to death. Helena reenters during this monologue, handing Cliff the shirt she was washing for him. Cliff thanks her and exits.

Helena joins Jimmy at the armchair. He tells her she’s a worthy opponent, and she tells him she loves him. They talk romantically for a little while and start preparing to go out for the evening. Suddenly, Alison enters. Jimmy, shocked, turns to Helena, tells her a friend is here to see her, and leaves. The two women stare at each other, and the curtain lowers.

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Act 2, Scene 2 Summary


Act 3, Scene 2 Summary