Look Back In Anger, By John Osborne

1065 words - 4 pages

One of the major themes that permeates throughout John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger is the ideology of inequality among social classes. Osborne expresses these views on social class through the character of Jimmy— a hot headed, angry young man who vents about the injustices of class struggle. Jimmy holds much contempt for his wife Alison's entire past, which reveals his utmost hatred of the classes above him. Jimmy sees class-based entitlement as the basis of all that's wrong with the world, and his struggle is portrayed through his feverous verbal rebellion against the principles ingrained in current society. Ultimately, Jimmy can be viewed as a kind of “spokesperson” for the lower class, despite the fact that he never takes any physical action to carry out the ideas he proclaims throughout the play.
Jimmy's use of the word "pusillanimous" is also a symbolic “weapon” which he uses to rile up his housemates and seek a reaction out of them. The fact that the word pusillanimous is derived from Latin is symbolic of Jimmy’s superiority of intellect compared to Alison, Cliff and Helena. Moreover, Jimmy’s continued use of the word also expresses his need to assert that his intelligence is superior, which enables him to elevate himself above other people. Because Jimmy does not have the financial means to look down upon the masses, like the richer classes, Jimmy capitalizes on his one form of social capital that he has— his eloquence and advanced vocabulary. In Act I Scene I, Jimmy tries to excise some emotion out of his housemates by attacking their lack of interest in what is happening in the world. He claims “Why do I spend ninepence on that damned paper every week? No one reads it except me. No one can be bothered. No one can raise themselves out of their delicious sloth. You two will drive me around the bend soon— I know it, as sure as I am sitting here” (Osborne 15). By pompously flaunting his intelligence to people like Cliff who never received a full education, Jimmy hopes to anger his housemates and channel some sort of emotion out of them. To Jimmy, this anger is the only form of passion he gets from his housemates, and thus allows him to escape from the monotony of his fleeting life. However, while Jimmy takes a sense of enjoyment out of stepping on peoples’ toes, it has had the complete opposite effect on those that he lives with pushing away his wife and leaving Cliff in a state of complete apathy. Ironically, one must be easygoing in order to be able to withstand living with Jimmy, but it is this very characteristic that gets Jimmy riled up and on the attack.
Another interesting dynamic in the play is the confusing and complicated relationship between Alison, Jimmy, and Cliff. Alison's relationship with Cliff appears to be stronger than her relationship with her husband Jimmy; despite the fact that their relationship is purely platonic, Cliff acts more lovingly toward Alison than Jimmy does. It seems as though Alison looks to Cliff...

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