Look Back in Anger by John Osborne Summary & Analysis for JAMB 2024-2025

Look Back in Anger by John Osborne Summary


Look Back in Anger by John Osborne Summary & Analysis, Comprehensive Chapter by Chapter Summary, Background, Plot, Major Events, Settings, Theme, Major Characters Summary and Analysis for JAMB UTME, NECO and WAEC Literature Students.

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John James Osborne was an English playwright, screenwriter and actor. He is known for his excoriating prose and intense critical stance towards established social and political norms. However, the success of his 1956 play “Look Back in Anger” transformed English theatre as it ushered in a new movement in British drama and made him known as the first of the “Angry Young Men”.

John James Osborne, (born December 12, 1929, London, England-died December 24, 1994, Shropshire.

Look Back in Anger by John Osborne Background, Plot, Major Events, Settings, Theme, Major Characters Summary & Analysis


John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (1956) is a realist play that focuses on the life and marital struggles of an intelligent, educated but disaffected working class young man, Jimmy Porter, and his equally competent yet impassive upper—middle-class wife, Alison.

The play is also considered to be the autobiographical piece of Osborne’s unhappy marital life with his wife.

The play received mixed reviews from the English theatre critics when it opened on May 8,1956, yet its success was the fact that it won a rave review from the Times which in turn helps to establish the play’s notoriety and eventually builds its audience.

Look Back in Anger was Osborne’s first successful outing as a playwright. He however, drew inspiration from his personal life and failing marriage with Pamela Lane while writing.

The play spawned the iconic motif term “angry young men” to describe Osborne and those of his generation who employed the harshness of realism in the theatre in contrast to the more escapist theatre that characterized the previous generation. It is this harsh realism in the play Look Back in Anger that led to its being considered as the first known examples of kitchen sink drama in theatre.

Look Back in Anger has it credit of turning Osborne from a struggling playwright into a wealthy and famous personality, and also won him the Evening Standard Drama Award as the most promising playwright of 1956.The play was adapted into a motion picture of the same name.


John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger is written in three Acts, four scenes. The play focuses on a love triangle between an angry working-class, university educated young man, Jimmy Porter, his competent yet impassive upper-middIe-class wife Alison and his wife best friend, Helena.

In the play, Alison and Jimmy Porter, attempt to navigate class conflict and deal with a deteriorating marriage in 19505 England. Alison comes from a traditional upper-class background while Jimmy comes from a working-class background, though he is highly educated. The couple lives with Cliff Lewis, an affable working-class man and Jimmy’s longtime friend. Although, Jimmy had more education than cliff. Act 1 opens on a Sunday morning in the attic apartment of Jimmy and Alison Porter. Alison is seen ironing clothes in a corner of the room while Cliff and Jimmy read the newspaper.

The play’s first act largely consists of Jimmy’s angry tirades against upper class complacency and his wife’s lack of “enthusiasm.” Jimmy who thinks that suffering is the only way to experience true human emotion, and that Alison and other upper-class people are therefore less “alive” than he is. Further actions in the act are the fact that Jimmy being a hot-tempered young man, tries to provoke his wife Alison, by making fun of her family, he complains about Alison’s brother, a member of parliament. Also, He seems to have some nostalgia for a past age in Britain when the country had more power. In that light, he attempts to shock his wife into some display of emotion which escalate as the act progresses-he insults her family and complains that all women are out to destroy men. Cliff, on the other hand, attempts to cheer Jimmy up and make peace, begins to banter and roughhouse with his friend. The two falls against Alison’s ironing board, and she burns her arm. Jimmy apologizes, but she yells at him to leave, and he exits.

Cliff helps Alison treat the burn; she then reveals to him that she is pregnant with Jimmy’s child. She hasn’t told Jimmy yet, because she is afraid that he’ll feel trapped and angry. Cliff comforts Alison, and tells her that Jimmy loves her. He kisses her. Jimmy enters while they are kissing, but doesn’t acknowledge or object (the three live in a non-traditional set-up that would have been shocking to audiences at the time). Soon after, Cliff leaves to get some cigarettes,jimmy apologizes for the burn and say it was not intentional, they both share a tender moment. They played their “bear and squirrel ”
game, which allows them to escape into affection while pretending to be animals. After some time, Cliff returns and says that Helena Charles, one of Alison’s upper-class friends, is on the phone. Jimmy’s mood immediately darkens. When Alison says that Helena wants to stay with them, Jimmy explodes and wishes that Alison would have a baby that would die so that she could experience true suffering like he does.

The second act begins two weeks later with Helena and Alison sharing the womanly duties of the home while Jimmy plays his trumpet off stage that Alison surely detests.

She reveals Jimmy’s interest in Jazz band and may probably quit his sweet-stall business to start a new one. Alison tells Helena about her first months with Jimmy. How they lived with his other workin —class friend Hugh Tanner in Poplar. She tells of how she and Hugh dislike each other on sight and Jimmy knows about it. She recounts how they spent time going on “raids” to parties of Alison’s upper—class friends. She says that she felt like “a hostage from those sections of society they had declared war on.” {page 54} Helena asks why they got married, and Alison says that, there seems to be six different answers to that question but largely because ‘Alisons mother and her father Colonel Redfern disapproved it and Jimmy was in love with her which ultimately made Jimmy want to marry her at all cost. Also, during their discussion, Alison reveals how Hugh and Jimmy parted, how Hugh left the country to China and feels Hugh’s mother blames her for how things come along between Hugh and Jimmy.

After some time, Jimmy and Cliff in to return eat. As soon has Jimmy learnt from his wife that she is going to church with her friend Helena, he began to his anti-religion’s rant and insults Alison’s family again. Helena becomes furious and threatened to slap him. In response to her threat, Jimmy recounts how he watched his father die as a young man for twelve months, his father die from wounds received fighting in the Spanish Civil war when he was ten years old, and claims that the incident taught him more about life than Helena and Alison know even now that he would not hesitate to retaliate if she slaps him.

Towards the end of scene, Jimmy leaves to go get the telephone. While he’s gone, Helena tells Alison that she has sent a message to Colonel Redfern, Alison’s father, asking him to come pick Alison up.

Alison doesn’t protest, which implies that she wants to leave too. Whenjimmy returns, he says that Hugh’s mum, the working-class woman who set him up in his candy stall and for whom he harbors deep affection, is dying of a stroke. He asks Alison to come to the hospital with him. Instead, she leaves with Helena to church and left Jimmy alone on stage. Jimmy feels betrayed and becomes convinced
that Helena is out to take Alison away from him. {pg 71}

In Act II, Scene 2, Colonel Redfern helps Alison pack to leave, in process of packing, He reveals that he thinks he and Alison’s mother reacted too strongly to her marriage with Jimmy, and that Jimmy might have been right to be angry with them. He says he thinks that Jimmy could be right that he, Redfern, is a relic of an old version of England that has ceased to exist. He also says that he and Alison have a tendency to stay neutral and not take a strong stand on things. Alison is surprised to hear this from him, and as she finishes packing, she briefly re-considers her move. Then Helena enters, and Alison decides to go. She says goodbye to Cliff. Helena stays behind because she has a work meeting the following day. Alison and Colonel Redfern exit, and Cliff, angry that Helena has disrupted their life, leaves before Jimmy comes back Jimmy returns a few moments later, furious, having seen Alison leaving with her father on his way home. Helena gives him a letter that Alison wrote explaining her decision. Jimmy becomes more furious at her polite, restrained language. Helena tells him that Alison is going to have a baby. He says that he is not overcome with emotion at this news, and insults Helena, who slaps him. This causes Jimmy to collapse in despair. Then Helena “kisses him passionately,” and the act ends.

Act three, scene one opens several months later, looking very similar to the beginning of the play in Act 1, except that, Helena is now the one by the ironing board. Jimmy and Cliffjoke and discuss newspaper articles. They roughhouse, and Cliff dirties his shirt.

Helena leaves to clean it, and while she is off stage, Cliff tells Jimmy that he is moving out. Jimmy wonders why he always chooses women over male friendship, even though he value’s Cliff’s company highly than he values Helena’s. Helena comes back with the shirt, and Cliff leaves to dry it in his room. Helena tells Jimmy that she loves him, and he asks her desperately to never leave him. Then Alison appears at the door, looking sick and disheveled.

The next scene opens a few minutes later, with Jimmy playing his trumpet off stage. Alison tells Helena that she is not angry with her, and is not trying to break up the new couple. Helena, however, says that Alison’s presence has reminded her that has been wrong all the while. Alison reveals that she had miscarriage, and Helena considers this a “judgment” on her relationship. She calls Jimmy back, and tells him that she is leaving. Jimmy says that he always knew Helena wasn’t strong enough for true love, which requires “muscle and guts.” Helena leaves.

Alison apologizes, and Jimmy says that she should have sent flowers to Hugh’s mum, and remembers his first meeting with her, when he thought that she had a “wonderful relaxation of spirit.” This turned out to be just complacency, he says. Alison lets out a cry, and tells him that the loss of their child has made her understand the depth of emotion that he wanted her to have all the while. She tells him that she wants to be “corrupt and futile,” and collapses at his feet. Jimmy can’t bear to see her this way, and kneels to help her. Then, “with a kind of mocking, tender irony,” he launches into their bear and squirrel
imaginary game. “Poor squirrels,” he says to Alison, and she responds, “poor, poor, bears.”



Act 1 opens in Porters’ one—room flat at Midland town. It was Sunday evening in April. At the rise of the curtain,jimmy porter and cliff are seen reading the Sunday papers and besides them and between them, is ajungle of newspapers and weeklies. Also, standing below the food cupboard of the apartment is Alison who is attempting to do the week’s ironing and pays little or no attention to Jimmy and Cliff conversations.

In furtherance, their expository dialogue makes It become apparent that there is a huge social gulf between Jimmy and Alison. Her family belong to the upper-middle-class military, while Jimmy belongs to working class. This makes it very difficult for him to get the approval of Alison’s parents in marrying her that He had to fight hard against her family’s disapproval to win her.

“Alison’s mummy and I took one look at each other, and from then on the age of chivalry was dead,” He explains. It was also revealed that the sole family income is derived from a sweet stall in the local market-an enterprise that is surely well beneath Jimmy’s education, let alone Alison’s “station in life”.

As Action progresses, Jimmy becomes more and more abusive towards Alison’s family, he talked about her brother who is in the parliament, he rants and transferred his contempt for Alison’s family onto her, calling her “pusillanimous” and generally belittling her to Cliff. In order to bring peace, cliff who tries to stop jimmy from using more excoriating words on Alison engaged him in physical horseplay resulting in the ironing board overturning and Alison’s arm getting burned. Jimmy apologizes for the out turn event as it was not intentional but Alison yells at him and he exits to play his trumpet off stage.

Alison, alone with Cliff, confides that she’s pregnant and can’t quite bring herself to tell Jimmy that he might feel trapped and angry about the pregnancy. Cliff urges her to tell him and kisses her. Soon after, Cliff leaves to get some cigarettes after jimmy had return, he apologizes for the burn and says it was not intentional, they both share a tender moment. They played their “bear and squirrel” After some time, Cliff returns and says that Helena Charles, one of Alison’s upper-class friends, is on the phone. Jimmy’s mood immediately darkens. When Alison says that Helena wants to stay with them, Jimmy explodes and wishes that Alison would have a baby that would die so that she could experience true suffering like he does. Jimmy despises Helena even more than Alison. He flies into a rage and rants till he exits.


Act 2 opens on another Sunday afternoon, it was two weeks since Helena has arrived and been staying at the Porters’ apartment. The scene opens with Helena and Alison making lunch. In the process, they both engage in some crucial discussions that enlightened the audience how Alison feels about her husband, or how she had tried to feel the way he goes about things, how they met and all she had to endure during the early days of their marriage. From having to live off in Hugh’s flat in Poplar after their marriage and had no money. She speaks about how she and Hugh dislike each other and how she felt like a hostage from those sections of society they had declared war on.“ {page 54}. When Helena asked why they got married anyways, Alison says that, there seems to be six different answers to that question but largely because Alison’s mother and her father Colonel Redfern disapproved it and Jimmy was in love with her which ultimately made Jimmy want to marry her at all cost. She describes Jimmy to Helena as a “knight in shining armor”. She also reveals how Jimmy and Hugh’s relationship hit the rock on Hugh’s decision to leave the country to China for greener pasture that which Jimmy disapprove of him because of the fact that he would be leaving his mom, Mrs. Tanner all by herself.

After a while, Cliff and Jimmy enter simultaneously, but of course, the tirade continues. He played joke and intentional viciousness of his attacks where on Helena. But suddenly digress to feed his curiosity about Alison’s preparation at the mirror. He asked if she was going out and when he learnt that she was going to church, Jimmy’s sense of betrayal peaks and began to rant. This time, it was directed and intentionally towards his wife and her mother. He calls her an old bitch and should be dead. Cliff tries to get Jimmy back off from the tirade,but Jimmy affirm that he couldn’t provoke Alison even if he dropped dead. After many incredible outbursts of insults towards Alison, Jimmy leaves to receive an urgent phone call, Helena announces that she has forced the issue. She has sent a telegram to Alison’s parents asking them to come and “rescue” her. Alison is stunned but agrees that she will go with her father. When jimmy returns from receiving the call, he says that the call was from Hugh’s mum, who had been ill and had a stroke.

As jimmy prepares to leave to London where Hugh’s mom is, he then asked Alison if she’s coming to London with him, but Alison turns away in rejection to his request rather she picks up the prayer book and left for church with Helena. Jimmy felt miserable and betrayed. He falls onto bed covering his face.


Act two, scene two opens in the following evening where colonel Redfern; a large handsome man of about sixty years of age as described comes to pick her daughter to take her back to her family home as requested from the telegram, he received from her friend Helena. Colonel is portrayed as quite a sympathetic character, albeit totally out of touch with the modern world, as he himself admits. “You’re hurt because everything’s changed”, Alison tells him, “and Jimmy’s hurt because everything’s stayed the same”.

Helena arrives to say goodbye, intending to leave very soon herself. Alison is surprised that Helena is staying on for another day, but she leaves, giving Cliff a note for Jimmy.

Cliff in turn hands it to Helena and leaves, saying “I hope he rams it up your nostrils”.

Almost immediately, Jimmy bursts in. His contempt at finding a “goodbye” note makes him turn on Helena again, warning her to keep out of his way until she leaves. Helena tells him that Alison is expecting a baby, and Jimmy admits grudgingly that he‘s taken aback However, his tirade continues which leads them first, to physical blows, and then as the Act 2, scene two curtain falls, Jimmy and Helena seen are kissing passionately and falling on the bed.


Act 3 opens as a deliberate replay of Act 1, but this time with Helena at the ironing- board wearing Jimmy’s red shirt as seen in Act 1. Months have passed. Jimmy is notably more pleasant to Helena than he was to Alison in Act 1. She actually laughs at his jokes, and the three of them (Jimmy, Cliff, and Helena) get into a music hall comedy routine that obviously is not improvised. Cliff announces that he’s decided to leave the Porters apartment, that he is tired of the sweet stall and that he would not be such a burden on Helena if he left. Jimmy takes the news casually and tells him if luck shines on him, he might find some girls with lots of money to take care of him. Afterward, Jimmy confesses how much of his friendship means to him than what he shares with Helena.

After a moment of intimacy between Jimmy and Helena after Cliff exits the scene, Jimmy leaves the room to get ready for a final night out for the three of them, he opens the door to find Alison, looking like death. He snaps over his shoulder “Friend of yours to see you” and he goes out quickly while the two women were left looking at each other as the curtain falls.


Few moment later, the scene opens with sound that comes from Jimmy’s Jazz trumpet. Helena is standing at the table pouring tea while Alison is seen seated in an armchair from where she noticed that Jimmy still smokes the pipe. She recounts how a man sat behind her at the movies smoking the same pipe and makes her thought lingered on Jimmy, she claimed to hate him smoke the pipe then but now has come to get used to it. Helena offers her a cup of tea, she takes it and thanked her.

Alison explains to Helena that she lost the baby which fulfills one of Jimmy’s cruelest speeches in Act 1 expressed the wish that Alison would conceive a child and lose it). The two women reconcile, but Helena realizes that what she’s done is immoral and she in turn decides to leave. She summons Jimmy to hear her decision and he lets her go with a sarcastic farewell.

The play ends with a sentimental reconciliation between Jimmy and Alison. They revive the old game they used to play, pretending to be bears and squirrels, and seem to be in a state of truce.


Theme of Class and Education

The theme of Class and Education is explored in Osborne’s Look Back in Anger through the relationship between Jimmy and Alison Porter. One would recall that the play was published in the Post-World War II period in England, in 1956. But prior to that, the world of British theater that had previously been a polite, upper class environment, but Osborne “Look Back in Anger” brought a new angry energy and a previously unencountered point-of-view to the stage that startled many theatergoers.

This new class mobility and new reality is created in the play through the aforementioned characters. In the play, Jimmy Porter comes from a working-class background, but highly educated and his wife Alison belongs to the upper-class. But with Jimmy’s level of education can only run a sweet stall. Although, He has in some ways left his background behind, but he also doesn’t feel fully comfortable and hasn’t been accepted into the upper classes.

Osborne uses the relationship between Alison and Jimmy to explore the class tension in the play. The struggle between them portrays that both classes have failed to blend.

Alison, in her words to Helena feels in the early days of their marriage Jimmy and his friend Hugh used her as a “hostage,” as they spend time going to upper class parties to “plunder” food and drink She also tells her father that Jimmy married her out of revenge against the upper classes she belongs.

Even when Jimmy and Alison made up at the end, there are certainty that the divisions between them run too deep to fully heal. They might fall back into the cycle of anger and fighting that they enact throughout the play.

Theme of Love and Innocence

The theme of love and Innocence as portrayed in John Osborne’s Look back in anger, through its main character, Jimmy, undermines the traditional love story. Jimmy who believes that love is pain and his anger towards the society overshadowed his feelings for his wife that he is never moved at the show of love and affection Cliff shows to her. Cliff on the other hand is a gentle sort of fondness that doesn’t correspond to Jimmy’s brand of passionate, angry feeling.

When Cliff left him, we saw that he begs Helena not to leave him and when she decides to leave on moral ground, we saw that Jimmy responded with scorn. Love, he says, takes strength and guts. It’s not soft and gentle. To some extent, Jimmy’s definition of love has to do with the class tensions between him and Alison. He recalled how he watched his dying father for several months from wounds he sustained from the war. This reflects the loss of innocence in him during the post-world war which affects even a fundamental part of a domestic lives, like love and marriage become very difficult to express a simple pleasure, because the world surrounding him is so difficult and complex. Alison confirms it, when she tells her father that Jimmy married her out of sense of revenge against the upper classes. To her, asking her to leave her background, is some sort of laid out a challenge she might not rise to.

It is however clear that Jimmy and Alison’s relationship isn’t characterized by much tenderness. They only manage to find some when they play their animal game. Through the bear and squirrel game, they are able to express more affection for each other, reach some level of innocence, but only in a dehumanized state, when they leave their intellects behind.

Theme of Suffering and Anger vs. Self- satisfaction

Through the actions of Jimmy constantly berates his wife in the play, Osborne was able to exploit the theme of suffering and anger in contrast with complacency that is associated with the upper-class. Jimmy is of the opinion that lower class people, who have suffered as he has, have more insight on the world that upper class people lack He is seen throughout the play accusing and angrily scold Alison for lack “enthusiasm” and “curiosity, “even if he drops dead. He suggests that her complacency makes her less human, less connected to life than he is that wishes that Alison could have a child that would die in her hand for her to experience how he feels. He sees the suffering and anger as an important part of his identity that Alison had to admit and says no one should take his suffering away from because he would be lost without it.

In the end, Alison finally experiences the suffering that Jimmy thinks she has been lacking: she loses their child to a miscarriage. This, she believes, forces her to experience the fire of emotion that Jimmy had always wished she had. She breaks down and tells him that she wants to be “corrupt and futile,”

Theme of Disillusionment and Nostalgia

“Look Back in Anger” being an archetypical play of the “angry young men” movement in British theater, which was marked by working class authors writing plays about their disillusionment with British society. In Osborne’s play, we see this in Jimmy’s sense of political emptiness. Jimmy complains that, in the Britain of the 19505, “there aren’t any good, brave causes left.” Helena observes that he was born in the wrong time- “he thinks he’s still in the middle of the French Revolution.” Jimmy’s angry fervor is out of place in modern society, and this leaves him feeling useless and adrift. Other characters also feel a sense of nostalgia for the past, but for different reasons: they long for an era characterized by a leisurely life for rich Britons and greater worldwide power for the British Empire. Importantly, the theme of nostalgia revolves around Alison’s father, Colonel Redfern, who had served in the British army in colonial India. Jimmy says that Colonel Redfern is nostalgic for the “Edwardian” past – early 20th century England, before World War I, when things were supposedly simpler and more peaceful. Even his daughter admits that he is angry because everything has change, he seems to have loss touch with the current reality.

In the end, the play argues that the characters’ disillusionment is legitimate. Post-war Britain was marked by a stagnant economy and declining world power, partly due to the fact that it no longer had many lucrative colonies around the world (India, where Colonel Redfern served, gained its independence in 1947). The play argues that these factors have left the country’s young people adrift and disempowered. Jimmy’s anger is thereforejustified. Both Jimmy and Colonel Redfern, from their different places in society, have nostalgia for a time when Britain was more powerful on the world stage. Look Back in Anger voices a revolutionary social critique of class conditions in England, it stops short of criticizing Britain’s exploitation of its colonies. Instead, it argues that the decline of the empire has led to the disenfranchisement of the men of Osborne’s generation, and gives those disenfranchised citizens a strong and angry voice in Jimmy Porter.

Theme of Gender and Muddled Gender Role

Facts have it that during World War II, many British women had stepped into new roles in the labor force. But when the war ended, most were expected to move back into their traditional roles in the household, but still held jobs outside the home which was a conflicted view of gender. It is in this light, that Look back in anger takes a conflicted view on the dynamic shift in gender role. While Jimmy’s angry, destructive, and typically masculine energy drives much of the action and dialogue, the women are given agency, and female characters act in their own interests, independently of men (most notably,
both Alison and Helena leave Jimmy).

Also, femininity in the play is highly associated with upper class-ness, and masculinity with lower class-ness. This leads to clashes between the genders that also have an economic dimension.

To further complicate the gender dynamics, women, are portrayed as having a destructive power over men. Jimmy says he’s thankful that there aren’t more female surgeons, because they’d flip men’s guts out of their bodies as carelessly as they toss their makeup instruments down on the table. In addition, he likens Alison’s sexual passion to a python that eats its prey whole. At the end of the play, he says that he and Cliff will both inevitably be “butchered by women.”

The theme of muddled gender roles on the other hand in the play add to the sense of realism that made it such a sensation when it was first performed. Characters defy social convention. Alison disobeys her parents to marry Jimmy. Helena slaps Jimmy at the very start of their affair, and later walks out on him. An unmarried man (Cliff) lives with a married couple. He flirts with Alison, but Jimmy doesn’t particularly mind. The fluid and shifting gender roles in the play reflect the more fluid realities of post-War British society, portrayed for the first time in the traditionally staid and upper-class medium of theater.

Theme of Alienation and Loneliness

In Look Back in Anger, the theme of Alienation and loneliness is explored in the character of jimmy porter. He became antisocial because circumstances around him could not reconcile him to upper class. He is educated, yet underemployed and earns a living from running a sweet stale along side with his friend cliff Lewis. We learnt through his wife Alison that he tried other venture of livelihood but he couldn’t stick to any of them. His constant tirade towards his wife can be blamed on the obvious dissatisfactions he gets from the society that makes him alienate himself. In his words, feels Britain has
lost its soul, and they are living in an American Age that seems to have left him behind. In conclusion, Jimmy feels alienated from his wife who belongs to the upper-class background. We see this as he regularly berates his wife and treats her with scorn.


Jimmy Porter

Jimmy is the main character in Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger” and he represents the phenomenon of the “angry young man” in the play.

Jimmy who is about twenty-five years of age is described as a tall, thin, with a “disconcerting mixture of sincerity and cheerful malice, of tenderness and freebooting cruelty.” He is full of contempt and usually found spouting tirades against the complacency of the British upper classes, and especially against his wife Alison and then his lover Helena. Although, he belongs to the working class but he is highly educated, like his friend and roommate Cliff, but he has an ambivalent relationship with his
educated status, seeing himself mostly as a working-class man and yet frustrated that his education can do nothing to affect his class status. Further exposé about his is the fact he is able to “alienates the sensitive and insensitive alike,” and his “blistering honesty, or apparent honesty…makes few friends.” Jimmy is a frustrated character, railing against his feelings of alienation and uselessness in post-war England.

Alison Porter

Alison Porter is the upper-class wife of Jimmy Porter. She had been married to jimmy for three years. She who is solely from the upper-middle class establishment is drawn to Jimmy’s energy, but also exhausted by their constant fighting. Jimmy constantly accuses her of being too complacent and lacking “enthusiasm,” that even her father, Colonel Redfern, agrees that she has a tendency towards too much neutrality. She believes Jimmy had married her out of revenge towards the system he and his friends fight. In the play, Alison is portrayed has been stuck in between her upper-class upbringing and the working-class world of her husband that she eventually leaves when her friend, Helena telegrammed her parents to come pick here. We see that she didn’t object and agrees to leave but returns to him later in the play after she loses their child to a miscarriage. This suffering changes her, and causes her to commit more fully to the intense emotion inherent in Jimmy’s world.

Cliff Lewis

Cliff, who is the same age as Jimmy but has a physical contrast to Jimmy. He unlike Jimmy is short, dark and big boned. He is kind and more subtle towards Alison compare to other friends of Jimmy, Hugh Tanner, whom Alison hates passionately. Cliff Lewis also belongs to working-class background; he is educated but not as intellectually sound as Jimmy. He is a good friend and roommate to both Jimmy and Alison. He lives with the couple, and helps to keep them together. Cliff eventually decides to leave to pursue his own life, rather than staying in Jimmy’s apartment at the end of the play.

Helena Charles

She is a best of Alison Porter and also belong to the upper class yet holds on to its customary traditions. She stays up with the Porters while acting in a play and she is need of accommodations. However, she ends up having an affair with Jimmy after Alison leaves him. She is described as having a “sense of matriarchal authority” that “makes most men who meet her anxious.” Helena has a strong code of middle-class morals that eventually force her to leave Jimmy.

Colonel Redfern

Alison’s father, a former colonel in the British army stationed in the English colony of India (before 1947, when India still was a colony of England). He is “gentle” and “kindly,” but also “brought up to command respect.” After leaving his post in India, “he is often slightly withdrawn and uneasy” because he lives “in a world where his authority has lately become less and less unquestionable.” According to Jimmy in many of his tirade, he says that the Colonel is stuck in a past version of England, and the Colonel himself agrees with this when Alison told him what Jimmy thinks of him and other members of
her family. When the Colonel comes to help Alison pack to leave Jimmy, he shows himself to be self-aware and incisive, commenting that both he and Alison like to stay neutral and avoid showing emotion, to their detriment.

Hugh Tanner

He is Jimmy’s friend, who took Alison and Jimmy into his apartment in the early months of their marriage. He was Jimmy’s partner when they went on “raids” against Alison’s upper-class friends at fancy parties, and Jimmy saw him as a co-conspirator in the class struggle. Then Hugh decided to leave for China to write a novel, and Jimmy felt betrayed. This reveals Jimmy’s deep traditional values (he was angry that Hugh abandoned his mother, Mrs. Tanner) and his sense of patriotism.

Mrs. Tanner

She is the mother of Hugh Tanner. She helps set Jimmy up with his sweet stall. Jimmy loves her, and Alison thinks this isjust because she is lower class and “ignorant.” In the middle of the play, Jimmy learns that Hugh’s mum has had a stroke, and Jimmy goes to visit her in the hospital. In one of his few expressions of true vulnerability, he asks Alison to come with him. She refuses, and leaves him shortly thereafter. Jimmy is offended that Alison seems to see Hugh’s mum only in terms of her class, and not as a person. He thinks that society in general ignores the humanity of working-class people, and that Alison’s and other’s treatment of Hugh’s mum is a prime example.

Other Characters


Webster was the only friend of Alison whom Jimmy thinks has value because he speaks
his language but in another dialect. We learnt that webster plays the banjo which
interest and equate his interests in playing the trumpet, thus his conclusion that he speaks his language in another dialect.


Madeline was mention in Alison and Cliff discussion in the presence of Jimmy. She was Jimmy’s first love and she was said to be ten years older than he is. However, Jimmy sees her energy as some of which Alison lacks.


Nigel is Alison’s brother and a politician. Jimmy in one of his tirades towards Alison’s family refer to him as vague as he can without been visible.

Alisson’s Mother

Its was glaring that Jimmy strongly harbors hatred towards Alison’s mother because she equally disapproves of his marriage to Alison. However, we learnt during Alison’s conversation with her father that she vehemently disapproved of their marriage because want to protect Alison but however, colonel Redfern thinks she act too far in her actions.

Miss Drury

Miss Drury is the Porter’s landlord. Jimmy thinks she is a thief and Alison is worried that she ‘ll evicts them for being too rowdy and noisy, especially form those that comes from Jimmy’s trumpet.

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