Look Back in Anger

by John Osborne

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Act 3, Scene 2 Summary

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Last Updated November 8, 2022.

The curtain rises on Alison and Helena, and the sound of Jimmy’s jazz trumpet is heard from offstage.

Alison apologizes to Helena for coming back, insisting that it was cruel and unfair of her to do so. She isn’t sure why she came back, she tells her friend—she barely believed the flat could still be there after her time away. Helena tells Alison she’s done nothing wrong, insisting that she herself is the one who has transgressed. Alison is Jimmy’s wife, after all.

As the two women talk, both deferent to each other, Alison tells Helena she feels ashamed and embarrassed to have returned, and Helena tells Alison that her love for Jimmy is sincere. Together, they speculate that the problem with Jimmy is that he was born in the wrong time.

Helena tells Alison that as of this moment, her relationship with Jimmy is over. She had known what she was doing was wrong, but seeing Alison has cemented it irrevocably. Not to make room for Alison to come back, she notes—Alison should do as she pleases—but because she no longer wants to participate in such a transgression.

Their conversation turns to Alison’s pregnancy, revealing that she lost the baby. Helena tells Alison she thought it felt like a judgment on their relationship, and Alison rejects this assertion. Helena reiterates that she’s leaving, and Alison tells her she shouldn’t. Jimmy needs her, she argues. As they talk, the trumpet gets louder and Helena becomes increasingly frustrated by the noise. She yells at Jimmy to stop, but he doesn’t.

Jimmy enters and learns for the first time that Alison had a miscarriage. Helena asks Jimmy what that means to him, and he responds that it’s not his first loss. Alison, under her breath, retorts that it was hers.

Helena goes downstairs to pack her things, announcing that she intends to catch the 7:15 train back to London. Jimmy and Alison, left alone, argue for a moment and then begin to tenderly reminisce. Jimmy says he knows he’s a lost cause, but he thought if she loved him it wouldn’t matter in the end.

Alison starts to cry and tells him how hard the miscarriage has been on her. She’s crawling in the mud at last, she tells him. She collapses, and he pulls her up. The two talk about squirrels and bears, living in a cave together, and embrace.

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Act 3, Scene 1 Summary